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the roots of mavericks round 1 heat groups

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2012 mavericks invitationaL

profiLes BY sports Writer and BodY surfing god, Bruce Jenkins photos courtesY mavericks invitationaL

matt amBrose: At 40, and still charging, Ambrose represents the

heart and soul of Mavericks. He was there from the beginning, part of Jeff Clark’s original, Pacifica-based crew in the early 1990s, and if you want to know who rides the deepest, just find out where Ambrose has positioned himself. Grant Washburn likes to joke that if there were no official contest, “We’d just hold the Matt Ambrose Challenge. Whoever gets the biggest, nastiest wave — an Ambrose wave — would win.” Once known as an underground warrior, Ambrose became an established name after reaching the finals in four consecutive Mavericks contests between 2000 and 2006.

rYan augenstein: Other Santa Cruz surfers get more publicity, but Augenstein can match Mavericks water time with any of them. A wellestablished lifeguard in his home area, Augenstein got his first contest invite in 2005 and made a big impression, reaching the semifinals. And he’s drawn respect this winter by surfing one of the shortest boards (8foot-4) ever ridden by the Mavericks regulars. In a recent interview with Surfing magazine, Augenstein described his relationship with Mavericks as “a pre-arranged marriage. We were born to dance together.”

grant (tWiggY) Baker: Mavericks is all about the drop, and this unassuming South African — winner of the 2006 contest — has become the master. In the words of fellow competitor Mark Healey, “Twiggy’s timing, when he’s paddling into big waves, is probably better than anyone else I’ve seen. He has a knack for putting himself as deep as possible and still making it.” One of the few surfers to dedicate his life to surfing big waves worldwide, Baker is a constant factor in the annual Billabong XXL big-wave awards, earning the 2010 Ride of the Year (from the Mavericks contest) and winning for Biggest Wave and Best Overall Performance in 2009. Twiggy shared the experience of a lifetime with Greg Long, Mike Parsons and Brad Gerlach in January of ’08, venturing out to Cortes Bank (off the California coast) to tow-surf waves still widely recognized as the largest ever ridden. “To me, he’s the favorite,” says Shane Dorian. “Between his wave selection, aggressive approach and technical ability at Mavericks, he’s who I would put my money on.” chris Bertish: There hasn’t been a more popular contest winner, anywhere, than Bertish at Mavericks in 2010. The 37-year-old South African is one of the most stoked, enthusiastic big-wave surfers on the planet, and he pulled out the victory after a frantic, 36-hour adventure to get to Half Moon Bay on time. He arrived to discover that his board didn’t finish the journey, and the set waves were huge: 50-60 feet on the face, the largest ever for a paddle-in surf contest. Riding a board borrowed from Mavericks pioneer Clark, Bertish called it “an honor and a privilege” to be invited, describing the day as “scary beautiful.” Although the Mavericks contest was not held last winter, Bertish had some more West Coast success by finishing second in giant surf at the Nelscott Reef (Oregon) contest.

round 1 heats



Bios of the

heat 1

heat 3

heat 2

heat 4

carlos burle shane desmond tyler smith ben wilikinson chris bertish ken collins nathan fletcher matt ambrose grant 'twiggy' baker mark healey anthony tashnick ryan seelbach

dave wassel rusty long shawn dollar ryan augenstein jamie sterling zach wormhoudt shane dorian grant washburn alex martins kelly slater greg long peter mel

carLos BurLe: Finished fifth in 2010 and showed more brazen courage than anyone in the final, taking a couple of mid-face wipeouts on waves most surfers wouldn’t have gone near. But that’s been the M.O. of this dedicated Brazilian for years, and he reached a career peak that winter by taking the overall first place in the Big Wave World Tour, a five-venue event organized by Mavericks head judge Gary Linden. Burle has caught some of the biggest tow-in waves on record, including a kelpridden monster at Ghost Tree that earned him 2009 Billabong XXL award nominations for Monster Tube and Ride of the Year. He also won Biggest Wave honors in 2002 for a Mavericks wave measured at 68 feet on the face. Highly respected in Hawaii, Burle is on the Eddie Aikau contest’s main list for the fifth straight winter. Grant Baker calls him “the most intelligent person I have surfed big waves with. He makes no mistakes and still surfs the biggest waves of any day.” kennY (skindog) coLLins: Whether it’s tow-surfing or paddling,

Collins tends to stand out on the most fearsome days at Mavericks. He pioneered the Northern California tow-in movement with Santa Cruz partner Peter Mel in the late 1990s and was part of a titanic semifinal in the 2000 contest that will go down with the most memorable heats in surfing history. In the summer of ’06, he came out of a massive tube at Puerto Escondido — one of the most sensational performances ever witnessed at the famed Mexico break — to win both Ride of the Year and Monster Tube in the XXL awards. He also staged a spirited run to reach the finals of the 2010 Mavericks contest. But Collins’ big-wave resolve was tested last March, when his good friend Sion Milosky died during a free-surf session at Mavericks. Collins endured the horror of viewing Milosky’s body on the beach that afternoon, and it was only this September that he felt prepared to surf another big-wave season.

shane desmond: Undoubtedly the most respected backside surfer

in Mavericks history, having ridden the place with fearless abandon since the mid-1990s. Some say only a crazy man would consistently surf Mavericks with his back to the wave, but Desmond — a low-key bartender for years in his native Santa Cruz -- has proven to be an extremely smart, calculating performer. He won the 2005 XXL Paddle-In award for an astounding ride during the Mavericks contest, and he staged a dynamic performance two winters ago to finish second behind Chris Bertish. Hardly a big-wave specialist, Shane is an accomplished contest surfer on longboards when the waves drop to more normal levels.

shaWn doLLar: In the break between the semifinals and finals of

the 2010 contest, a few non-invited surfers hit the water. One of the day’s biggest sets blackened the horizon, and Dollar — a longtime Mavericks regular from Santa Cruz — successfully negotiated a 60-foot drop that earned him Monster Paddle honors in the Billabong XXL awards. “Don’t know his name? You will soon,” wrote Surfing magazine. Now a main-list entrant for the first time, Dollar says, “Mavericks is the place where it all matters. The wave is so good, so challenging for paddling, and we haven’t seen its full potential yet. I love and fear that wave. It’s my obsession.”

shane dorian: Widely considered the best big-wave surfer in the

world, Dorian has been at the forefront of paddle-in progression, winning the Billabong 2011 Monster Paddle and Monster Tube awards for a “Jaws” (Maui) wave judged to be 57 feet on the face. This will be Dorian’s first Mavericks contest. He hadn’t surfed the place until February of 2010, and over the course of two days, the native Hawaiian experienced everything it has to offer. In the early-morning hours before the contest, Dorian took off on a massive wave, disappeared inside the barrel, and came out — something that rarely happens at Mavericks. The following day, with the surf just as large, Dorian endured a two-wave hold-down that kept him underwater so long, “I really felt like I wasn’t going to make it.” Badly shaken, and thinking about his family back home in Hawaii, Dorian did a lot of soul-searching before settling his mind and resuming his quest for big waves. He also spent months developing the latest in life vests: the Billabong V1, equipped with an inflatable air bag on the back of his wetsuit. “Just pull the ripcord and it rockets you to the top,” Dorian said after testing it in life-threatening conditions. Not that it’s anywhere near that easy. Wary of his project falling into inexperienced hands, Dorian and Billabong collaborated to make the new vest available only to elite big-wave riders.

nathan fLetcher: No visiting surfer has a more intense relationship with Mavericks than Fletcher, the man who discovered Sion Milosky’s lifeless body floating in the water last March during a ground-breaking session in wave faces up to 50 feet. The two Hawaii-based surfers were close friends and traveling partners, and Milosky’s death left Fletcher badly shaken. The youngest son in the noted Fletcher family from Southern California, Nathan shied away from surfing in his youth, only to emerge as a stunningly talented, fearless rider. He’s been a Mavericks standout on huge days, including the storied November ’08 swell described as the best ever for paddle-in conditions, and he staged a sensational early-round performance at the January ’08 Backdoor Shootout in Hawaii on one of the biggest Pipeline days ever ridden in a contest. “He has a natural talent that exceeds any of the top guys,” claimed Grant Baker, and Hawaiian underground standout Dustin Barca said Fletcher is “my favorite person to watch surf. Dances to his own beat.”



rustY Long: It’s not easy being Greg Long’s brother, especially if you want to ride big waves, but Rusty pulls it off with aplomb. His low-key approach has kept him somewhat off the radar, and he isn’t quite as well-traveled as Greg, but he is widely recognized as a major player in any conditions. Rusty was nominated for the 2007 XXL Ride of the Year for a wave he scored at Puerto Escondido (Mexico) — and he was paddlesurfing that day, while most everyone else was towing. When it comes to Mavericks, “My relationship with the wave has been a good one over the years,” he says. “I always to be tactical and pick off waves that I will really remember. I always listen to my instincts about when to surf there, too. Some days I don’t feel it, some days I really do.” He was definitely feeling it on the day of the 2010 contest, boldly pulling into the barrel of a 50foot face during the early-morning free-surf. That mind-blowing sight, as much as anything, earned him a spot in this year’s event.

aLeX martins: Originally from Brazil, Martins moved to Northern

California and established residence near Ocean Beach, so he could surf that punishing beachbreak with regularity. But that was just the start. Graduating to the Mavericks lineup, Martins has become one of the most dedicated, respected surfers in the lineup — and he was right there on Oct. 12, the first big day of the current season, catching his share. He had three separate photographs nominated for the 2009 Billabong Monster Paddle award, all from a November session at Mavericks. And he drew a similar nomination in 2010 for a wave at the Mavericks contest, where he reached the semifinals.

peter meL: It finally happened. Mel, one of the most respected bigmark heaLeY: Yet another reason why this year’s field is considered

the strongest ever. A living legend in Hawaii for his big-wave surfing and free-diving expeditions — along with a generous, humble nature — Healey has made a lasting commitment to Mavericks. “A true waterman,” says Greg Long. “He has taken some of the heaviest floggings and ridden some of the most terrifying waves in the past few years.” Healey won the Monster Tube award in the 2009 Billabong XXL contest, at a mysterious spot identified only as “the Pacific Northwest,” and as Dorian put it, “I honestly think Healey is mentally prepared to paddle into waves that no one wants.” Even more impressively, he’s doing it backside. “I feel like I’ve got a lot to learn at Mavericks,” he says. “Even though I’ve been going there for three or four years, it’s a new relationship. I don’t feel like I’ve got it figured out.”

greg Long: This Southern California-based surfer has racked up a staggering list of big-wave accomplishments. At Mavericks, he finished second in the 2005 event and took first prize in 2008, memorably sharing his winnings with the other five surfers from the final. In December of ’07, he surfed a single swell in Hawaii, Northern California and Todos Santos (Mexico) over the course of 72 hours, a feat of titanic endurance. In December of 2009, he became the first Californian to win the prestigious Eddie Aikau contest, held in all-time conditions at Waimea Bay. He has won Billabong awards for Biggest Wave (Dungeons, South Africa, 2006), Biggest Paddle-In (Todos Santos, 2008), Best Overall Performance (2007-08 winter) and Ride of the Year (Dungeons, 2009). “I may be biased, because we travel together,” said Baker, “but if you can show me anyone with a higher big-wave count over the past few years, I’ll eat my words.”

wave surfers of the modern era, finally broke through with a victory at Pico Alto, Peru, in August as the annual Big Wave World Tour made its second stop. Mel gave credit to his Santa Cruz mentor, the legendary Richard Schmidt, “who came to Peru in the early ’80s and told me about this great big wave. I have dreamed about surfing Pico Alto. I feel really proud to have won here.” Mel still has unfinished business at Mavericks, however. For nearly a decade, he was the hands-down choice as Mavericks most talented, influential surfer. He helped launch the Northern California tow-in movement and ranks with Schmidt as the best-known Northern California surfers in Hawaiian events (especially the Aikau contest) over the years. But he still hasn’t won at Mavericks, having fallen victim to bad luck, bad timing, and (in his opinion) perhaps a dubious judging call or two. If for nothing beyond his peace of mind, Mel needs this trophy.

rYan seeLBach: Out of San Francisco, where he hones his bigwater skills at the challenging Ocean Beach, Seelbach is no stranger to Mavericks chaos. He managed to advance out of his first heat in the 2005 contest despite having to retrieve his lost board from the distant lagoon. He missed much of the ’06 winter after breaking his foot during a tow-in session. But he has become a highly esteemed regular, reaching the semifinals four years ago and again in 2010, and he was a standout during the epic December ’07 tow-in sessions that marked some of the biggest waves ever ridden at Mavericks. He ranks right near the top of all entrants when it comes to high-performance surfing in waves of all sizes.



keLLY sLater: As if it wasn’t enough to lure Dorian and Healey into the mix, here comes the 11-time world tour champion and, in most experts’ opinion, the greatest surfer who ever lived. You can read all about his tour exploits elsewhere; not everyone realizes that Slater has been a dedicated big-wave surfer since his early days on the North Shore, often paddling to the outer reefs for epic, unheralded sessions with the locals. He’ll surf giant Pipeline or Cloudbreak with the best of them. He has excelled at Teahupo’o (Tahiti), the world’s most dangerous break. He won the Eddie Aikau event in 2002 and nearly did it again two years ago, losing narrowly to Greg Long after a series of masterful takeoffs at Waimea Bay. Slater has only surfed Mavericks twice in the past, including the 2000 contest, when he stunned everyone — including himself — by finishing second to Virostko. Some felt the judges wrongly advanced Slater into the finals at the expense of Jay Moriarity, and even now, Slater speaks of his good fortune that day. He was truly humbled and awestruck by Mavericks and the people who surf it. For Slater, that is quite a rare occurrence. tYLer smith: Here’s just one example of the type of surfer who would draw Slater’s respect, a man with a long and successful commitment to Mavericks and all big surf in Northern California. A few winters back, people saw photos and videos of Smith riding the surrealistically large “Ghost Tree” break, in Monterey, and wondered, “Who is this guy?” They have found the answer in Mavericks contests, where the Santa Cruzbased Smith finished third in 2005 (sliding into the main draw as an alternate and surfing his way into the final), second in the 2006 event and fourth in 2008. Over the course of those three contests, he was the only surfer to reach all three finals. And he did it all surfing backside.

Jamie sterLing: Bouncing back from a dislocated shoulder that

sidelined him for several months in 2010, Sterling won last year’s Big Wave World Tour — a worldwide circuit created by Mavericks head judge Gary Linden — on the strength of three solid performances: fourth place at Punta de Lobos, Chile, winning the Pico Alto (Peru) contest, then finishing third at Oregon’s Nelscott Reef. None of this is surprising to anyone who has followed Sterling’s career, back to the days when he broke into the big-wave hierarchy as a North Shore teenager. In the 2006 Billabong XXL awards, he was honored for Best Overall Performance. He finished an impressive third in the 2008 Mavericks contest, after dominating his first two heats, and he won the Jay Moriarity Award that day for the spirit best exemplifying the late, great Santa Cruz surfer.

anthonY tashnick: A legend at 16, when he stepped up to ride

what many called the “wave of the winter” at Mavericks in 2001, Tashnick is now a mainstay in the world of big-wave riding. The latest in a long line of chargers from the West Side of Santa Cruz, Tashnick won the 2005 Mavericks contest in such dominant fashion, there was no question who would take home the trophy. Well-traveled in his thirst for big waves, Tashnick has made the alternate list of the prestigious Eddie Aikau contest five straight years. He finished third and won the Gnarliest Drop award at the 2010 Mavericks contest — quite a distinction, considering the historic size — and was a finalist at the Pico Alto contest in August of that year.

the aLternates 1. Josh LoYa (santa cruZ) 2. tYLer foX (santa cruZ) 3. coLin dWYer (pacifica)

4. nic LamB (santa cruZ) 5. daniLo couto (BraZiL) 6. derek dunfee (san diego) 7. Ben andreWs (san francisco) 8. andreW marr (south africa)

grant WashBurn: From his filmmaking to his work on the book “Inside Mavericks” to his constant presence in the lineup, Washburn is probably the leading spokesman on Mavericks. He has no problem surfing it alone, in contrary winds, in fearsome conditions that would scare most people away. It is widely believed that Washburn puts in more Mavericks time than anyone, and not since Greg Noll has any big-wave rider been so doubly proficient at performance and documentation. Grant has produced two surf films, and with a massive personal collection of big-wave footage and interviews, he has much more in store. Always a standout at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach and the Red Bull/ South Africa contest, Washburn was a Mavericks finalist in 2004, 2006 and 2008. After negotiating the swirl of lawsuits and political chaos at the organizational level for years, Washburn has stepped aside as a contest executive and is now concentrating strictly on the waves.

dave WasseL: Mavericks locals welcomed this longtime underground

charger from Hawaii, where he serves as a North Shore lifeguard and ranks among the most respected members of the Pipeline crew. His first-ever wave at Mavericks five years ago, a bomb from well outside the bowl, nearly gained him the XXL Paddle-In award. He now makes Mavericks a priority, surfing with distinction during the epic November ’08 swell, making the semifinals three years ago after gaining entry as an alternate, and finishing a solid fourth in the life-threatening conditions of 2010. “You can’t compare this place to Hawaii,” he says. “It’s got cold water, giant sharks, giant waves and giant rocks. It’s like nothing else.” What separates Wassel from most Hawaii-based surfers is that he keeps coming back, as if drawn by magnetic force. Deeply appreciated by the Mavericks regulars, Wassel won the Jay Moriarity Award at the 2010 event.

Ben WiLkinson: Selected by Jeff Clark as the contest director's choice, this Australian hellman earned his spot by devoting much of his travel time to Mavericks'. He tends to leave a big impression each time. He took a horrendous wipeout on November 2, 2010, earning him a Billabong nomination for Wipeout of the Year, but he has become best known for handling the Mavericks' drop and taking on the biggest days without fear. Wilkinson also spends a good deal of winter in Hawaii, and he is an alternate on the Eddie Aikau list for the first time.

Zach Wormhoudt: Another key member of the West Side crew

from Santa Cruz, Wormhoudt got some long-overdue recognition in 2004, when he won the Billabong XXL Award for the biggest paddle-in wave of the winter. He is among the most accomplished tow-surfers in the world, earning a Biggest Wave nomination in the 2009 XXL awards for a ride at Nelscott Reef. But he is most true to his paddling and is among the most consistently solid performers in the history of the Mavericks contest, having finished eighth in 1999, fifth in 2000 and fourth in 2005. Zach and his brother, Jake, represent Old Mavericks in the most positive sense, having ridden the place responsibly, time and again, and lived to tell about it.

9. travis paYne (pacifica) 10. ion Banner (haLf moon BaY) 11. kohL christensen (haWaii) 12. shaWn rhodes (pacifica) 13. mike gerhardt (santa cruZ)

14. garret mcnamara (haWaii) 15. russeL smith (santa cruZ) 16. Jamie mitcheL (austraLia) 17. John BoWLing (san francisco) 18. frank soLamon (south africa)


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Mavericks ericks

building a foundation


for By Michael Wallace Special to the Review


Surf season is in full swing on the coast. Indian summer traded blows with Old Man winter and came out a loser in a battle that makes winners of opportunistic surfers. Onshore winds begin to clock around from the south in advance of storm fronts. They switch to the northwest and finally swing to the northeast or, more rarely, due east — in piercing blue offshore perfection that mends tortured lumps of water into shapely waves. On perfect days, the shroud of summer fog lifts and reveals the Coastside in all her glory. Surfers greet this familiar seasonal change with great anticipation, but the vibe seems just a little more electric this year. Hollywood has made itself at home this fall as a battalion of moving vans set up camp at various locations along the coast to film “Of Men and Mavericks,” the movie paying homage to Mavericks surf legend Jay Moriarity. The World Surfing Tour also decided to pay a visit, stopping over “Somewhere in San Francisco” en route from Portugal to Hawaii. The tour spent just enough time in local waters to crown Kelly Slater with his 11th championship. Yet with all the celebrities under foot the past couple months, the real star has yet to show up after skipping town last year. We’re all waiting for the Mavericks Big Wave Invitational 2011/12. While “The Jay at Mavericks” never happened last year, Moriarity’s outgoing spirit will still be in ample evidence. A new local grassroots organization has taken shape with the community and surfers as the driving force behind the event. A five-member board has been put in place for the contest. It’s composed of a group of surfers, local businessmen and civic leaders to ensure that the event stays true to its new manifesto. Reappointed as contest director, Jeff Clark aims to “get back to a great event showcasing the world’s best big wave surfers.”

Chief among them will be Slater himself. He is keen to rise to the challenge of the infamous break off of Pillar Point. Kelly took second place back in 2000 behind eventual threetime winner Darryl “Flea” Virostko, narrowly edging Moriarity in an earlier heat that many thought the young Santa Cruz charger had won. The rest of the invitee list of 24 surfers will likely remain essentially the same as that decided by peer vote of the athletes themselves last year. (see Bruce Jenkins’ revealing profiles elsewhere in the magazine). A fresh heat draw is planned at the opening ceremonies of the first big swell during the Jan. 1 to March 31 contest window. The caliber of international big wave athlete is such that there will be not one easy heat. Even the alternates are a veritable “Who’s Who” of hellmen. Talk is that Flea will be on water patrol this year. Australian Ben Wilkinson has been plucked from the alternate list to fill a spot. He’s a veteran of the break and knows the dangers well after a memorable wipeout here last year. Board member Brian Overfelt is the owner of Old Princeton Landing and a community activist. That informs his perspective on the contest’s mandate and structure. A 20-person panel reports to the board, and members are delegated responsibilities ranging from rescue to beach marshal. The aim is to build a stable structure for years to come based on Mike Wallace has surfed for more than two decades on the East and West Coasts, Hawaii, Europe and Northern California. Currently residing in Moss Beach with his family of four, Wallace has been spearheading an effort by The Surfrider Foundation to reopen Martin’s Beach to the public. He helps coach the Half Moon Bay High School and Cunha Intermediate School surf teams, and in his spare time is dedicated to surf journalism and surfboard design under his “Iconoclast” label.

three central pillars: “community, athletes and environment.” Coordination with more than 14 government agencies, ranging from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, may ultimately be assigned to an event planning company. “It is important to water the roots of the local business community, which is always at the front of my mind on any decision the board makes,” Overfelt said. In terms of tourism, contest day is one of the biggest of the year for Half Moon Bay and surrounding communities, and planners say it’s important that the stakeholders on the coast benefit from the contest. Overfelt foresees a day when local pride in the event runs deep and everyone celebrates it, rather than ducking and running for cover when the show comes to town. Plans are evolving for a Mavericks festival after the contest, which may take place in the Oceano Hotel and Spa parking lot to help minimize environmental damage to the sensitive cliffs of the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Access to the bluffs will be severely curtailed after previous rock slides. Organizers want to keep spectators safe after some were flushed into the harbor during the epic 2009/2010 event won by Chris Bertish. In the past, land-based judges, photographers and journalists have been granted access to the U.S. Air Force radar station at Pillar Point, but the new commander has been tightening security rather than offering access to witness the extraordinary natural events at the base of its cliffs. After recent productive meetings, however, the Air Force may relent on access and even provide “air support” for the event, allowing some contest apparatus, including judges, photographers and officials. Clark has always been in sync with Mavericks and a little of his luck could well be in order when picking a contest day. Forecaster Mark Sponsler of Stormsurf, on whom savvy surfers rely, doesn't like the way the weather gods are conspiring this season. He foresees fewer contestable days for the Invitational. He sees high pressure taking firm control of the North Pacific amid remnants of what was a moderate-plus inactive La Niña weather pattern that is expected to hold well into the spring. There will be storms. In fact, there could be short periods of intense activity, but that will be the exception rather than the rule. Overall, there is a refreshing sense of earnestness, renewal and hope about the new contest organization, and Overfelt emphasizes that the board has gravitated toward volunteers with a genuine love for the sport of big wave surfing and the community. Indeed, pending a key long-term sponsorship deal or two, start-up funding is tight and the new group is leery of making big promises. It will take a lot of hard work, coordination and a little luck to pull it off and, as usual, Mother Nature will not be rushed by any official timetable.

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Big waves require big planning


n a foggy Sunday morning this summer, all factions of the local surf community came together in surfer Tim West’s El Granada living room to sort out their differences. The result was a new panel of local surf enthusiasts ready to organize the 2011-2012 Mavericks Invitational. “If this group can’t do it, nobody can,” said Rocky Raynor, who sits on the board of Mavericks Invitational Inc., the group organizing this year’s big wave surf contest. Raynor hadn’t planned to attend the summer meeting, but after running an early morning surf practice with Half Moon Bay Surf Club, he made his way over to West’s house. Raynor helped launch the event in 1998 by investing in Jeff Clark’s dream to hold a surf contest. Things turned sour when Quiksilver got the lion’s share of sponsorship credit and Raynor walked away from contest organizing — until that summertime, living room gathering. The meeting debunked many of Raynor’s misconceptions about the local surf community. “There were a lot of personalities in the room that I’ve had difficulties with,” he said. “But in that group (we) threw (our) daggers out the door and were there for a common cause.” That was enough to bring Raynor back into the mix as one of five board members overseeing the event. Others include community liaison Brian Overfelt, big-wave surfer Ken Collins, and Jeff and Cassandra Clark. “Mavericks Invitational Inc. is committed to revitalizing the legendary surf contest at Mavericks and ensuring its existence for years to come,” according to an official description of the event. “Considering its unique nature and controversial history, Mavericks Invitational Inc. is prepared to make significant changes in the way the contest is produced in order to create a safe, sustainable and iconic sporting event.” While organizers seemed at peace in the days before the contest window opened Jan. 1, the contest history resembles the tumult of the big waves themselves. — Lily Bixler

contest timeline the earLY daYs Clark founded Mavericks Surf Contest in 1998 with local funding and Quiksilver sponsorship. In 2003, he partnered with Evolve Sports and together they founded Mavericks Surf Ventures to run the contest. cLark Leaves MSV terminated Clark as contest director in 2009, and Clark stepped down from the board of directors. MSV co-founder and CEO Keir Beadling took over for the 2009-2010 season. The contest, on Feb. 14, 2010 was hampered by a massive wave that unexpectedly rolled ashore, surprising viewers and sending a few to the hospital. Meanwhile, Clark and Beadling were embroiled in a legal battle. Clark successfully sued MSV on the grounds that the company and its directors breached their contract, withheld payments on those contracts and failed to meet fiduciary duties to shareholders. after the storm In 2010-2011, Beadling took on a group of local surf enthusiasts led by Kelly Clark and longtime contest invitee Grant Washburn in a battle for the soul of the contest. The groups were forced to vie for a single permit. The harbor district ultimately handed that to a mostly local band of surfers calling itself Half Moon Bay Surf Group. Partnering with Barracuda Networks and dedicating the contest to the memory of late surfer Jay Moriarity, it seemed like the contest would be a success. The waves never came, however, and the contest window ended. The group had to tighten its rules about spectators on the beach and figure out a way to close down Princeton roads so thousands of visitors wouldn’t charge the delicate cliffs and beach. coming together In early June 2011, Clark announced he was trying to take back the contest. In a letter to harbor commissioners dated July 27, he notes his plans to move ahead with an event using his own organizers and sponsors. He would call his organization Mavericks Surf Company LLC. The drama hit a crescendo at a June harbor district meeting when Clark went up against Mavericks Family LLC, a local surf group led by Clark’s ex-wife Katherine Kelly Clark. After weeks of uncertainty about whether the community would put their differences aside, the once antagonistic factions converged. In September, San Mateo County Harbor District granted the combined group a permit to hold the contest. the peopLe organiZing the contest The company, Mavericks Invitational Inc., is led by a five-member Board of Directors and has a team of logistics and operations personnel to manage the contest and Mavericks Surf Festival, a new venue for contest viewing, booths and the awards ceremony. The board consists of: Jeff cLark: Big wave legend and Mavericks pioneer, surfboard shaper and owner of Mavericks Surf Shop located in Pillar Point Harbor, overlooking Mavericks. ken “skindog” coLLins: Longtime Mavericks surfer and competitor in the contest, with more than 20 years of experience in the big-wave community, including honors as the Billabong XXL Award for Ride of the Year and Monster Tube. He is the Northern California sales representative for Volcom and in 2011 launched a website called that is dedicated to the art of big-wave riding. rockY raYnor: President and CEO of Ultra-Flex Inc., since 1982, with a strong commitment to the Half Moon Bay community. Rocky is currently the volunteer vice president of the Boys & Girls Club of the Coastside and head coach of the Half Moon Bay Middle School Surf Club. cassandra cLark: President of Mavericks Surf Company, which operates Mavericks Surf Shop, and communications director for Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, with extensive experience in event management, business management and leadership. Former instructor at California State University, East Bay, past president and board member of the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce. Brian overfeLt: Manager and working owner of Old Princeton Landing and co-owner of Princeton Yarns, event photographer for the Big Wave World Tour, longtime Mavericks photographer and community leader. Brian led a successful effort to get the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge Pillar Point Harbor and nourish local beaches.

Thank You, Half Moon Thank Bay!

You, Half Moon Bay!

Shot on location at Poplar Beach, Half Moon Bay, 2011. Gerard Butler as Frosty Hesson and Jonny WestonGerard as JayButler Moriarity. Shot on location at Poplar Beach, Half Moon Bay, 2011. as Frosty Hesson and Jonny Weston as Jay Moriarity.

The OF MEN AND filmmakers,filmmakers, The OF MAVERICKS’ MEN AND MAVERICKS’ cast and crew like towould thanklike youtofor castwould and crew thank you for welcoming welcoming us into yourus community, and for into your community, and for playing suchplaying an integral roleintegral in our role in our such an The OF MEN AND MAVERICKS’ filmmakers, production’sproduction’s success. success. cast and crew would like to thank you for We wish you a very happy holiday season. welcoming us into your community, and forWe wish you a very happy holiday season. Live Like Jay. Live Like Jay. playing such an integral role in our Gerard Butler as Frosty Hesson and Jonny Weston as Jay Moriarity.

Shot on location at Poplar Beach, Half Moon Bay, 2011.

production’s success. We wish you a very happy holiday season. The OF MEN AND MAVERICKS filmmakers, cast and crew would Live Likelike Jay. to thank you for welcoming us into your community, and Gerard Butler as Frosty Hesson and Jonny Weston as Jay Moriarity.

Shot on location at Poplar Beach, Half Moon Bay, 2011.

The OF MEN AND MAVERICKS’ filmmakers, for playing such an integral role in our production’s success. Live Like thank you for cast and crew would like welcoming us into your community, and for playing such an integral role in our production’s success. We wish you a very happy holiday season. Live Like Jay.

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In years past, spectators crowded the bluffs overlooking Mavericks for a glimpse of the action a half-mile to the west. That has never worked well. The bluffs are environmentally sensitive and some spectators have been injured by unexpected waves and rocks falling from the bluffs. This year organizers are adamant that the bluffs and beaches will be closed to spectators. Instead, they urge fans to pay for the Mavericks Invitational Festival. They plan a live stream of the contest, music, food vendors and more on the grounds of the Oceano Hotel and Spa in Princeton. The cost is $25 in advance or $40 on the day of the contest. Prices go up from there for VIP treatment. See to order tickets.

Another good question. Public transportation is limited on the coast. There is some bus service and you can find schedules at If you are close enough to bike along Highway 1 or the Coastal Trail, that may be your best option. Paid parking will be available for $10 a car at the Half Moon Bay Airport and the entrance to the lot is off of Capistrano Road. Beyond that, your options are extremely limited. The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office plans to ban parking on Highway 1 in the vicinity of the harbor and spectators will not be able to park in Princeton. In fact, some streets in the area will be closed. We’re told to expect law enforcement to monitor parking in El Granada and access may be limited to residents.


Organizers say tickets are non-refundable. If there is no contest, your ticket will grant you access to a festival to be held on the final day of the contest window, March 31. Organizers are planning a first-ever Mavericks Awards, which would be presented to those who have shined throughout the big-wave season. Again, visit for more details.

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Good question. No one knows. That depends on Mother Nature and some years there is no contest at all because the right waves never materialize. Contest organizers monitor the weather closely and will give contestants and the rest of us 24 to 48 hours notice when the right swell is approaching. Organizers expect to begin the first heat at 8 a.m. on the contest day. Follow the Review on Twitter, @hmbreview, for the latest. Also keep an eye on and



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Mavericks Invitational Special Section  

Mavericks Invitational Special Section published by the Half Moon Bay Review. Contestants, event history, and details of the event

Mavericks Invitational Special Section  

Mavericks Invitational Special Section published by the Half Moon Bay Review. Contestants, event history, and details of the event