Mavericks Big Wave Surf Contest In Half Moon Bay
Up the Pacific coastline from Santa Cruz, California, is a reef know as Mavericks, where legendary Waimea size waves are produced.
Jeff Clark was the first to conquer these world class waves, and organized the Mavericks Big Wave event in 1999. Every winter since the most accomplished big waver riders from around the world have surfed this Mt. Everest of big wave competitions.
Last year the event money purse reached an all time high of $150,000 for first place. Because weather is critical, conditions have to be just right to hold the event. Surfers stand by for a 24-hour notice during the official waiting period from November 1 through March 31. Once the waves begin to crest over 25 feet tall, the contest is on.
Mavericks waves begin thousands of miles away in the Gulf of Alaska. This North Pacific wave factory serves up 50 foot tall angry green faced monsters. These waves are so vicious they register on the UC Berkeley seismograph.
Just getting out to these waves is no small feat. Surfers must paddle over 45 minutes and navigate through the land of the lost boulder field. Upon reaching the reef surfers having to resist strong currents to maintain their line ups. The surfers line up reference points on the shoreline to triangulate their position in open water.
The worst thing that can happen at Mavericks is getting caught inside the break. That’s when someone yells “inside” which means a sneaker set came out of nowhere. Waves come in sets and there’s about 20 seconds between waves on average. The surfers have to overcome these concentric bands of energy and get back outside the break point.
Riding these giant waves is entirely different than any normal kind of surf because there’s such a big burst of energy. This abruptly shaped reef instantly forces deep ocean water into a monstrous wall of ocean.
Finding the wave’s critical mass is key for getting big points in this contest. Critical mass is the wave’s top center, the ideal place to drop in and steal some wrath before the Gods come crashing down.
Like Bruce Lee said, don’t focus on the finger or you will miss all that celestial beauty!