13 February 2010

Mavericks Contest '10

I woke up too early on contest day, too excited to sleep longer, but I needed an early start anyway to get into Half Moon Bay ahead of the crowds. I picked up my press badge at a hotel on the way to the break. (Yes, this little ol' blog transforms me into grrrl reporter, respected member of the media. But more on that later.)

Including the hotel stop, it took the better part of half an hour to walk from my car through the closed streets of Princeton-by-the-Sea, past Jeff Clark's surf shop, and along the muddy dirt road to the beach fronting Mavericks.
Just inside the breakwall, the area in front of the scoreboard and stage was a wet and muddy sandpit.
All this would soon be gone.
With the first heat about to start, one guy had just returned from a free surf session.
Luke arrived before dawn to claim a prime viewing spot on the bluff. I clambered up the slippery slope to find him, using my hands in the damp dirt for the last twenty feet to keep from sliding back down the hill. (Along with thousands of spectators, just doing my part to assist natural erosion.)  At the top, the bluff edge was five people deep, and it took me fifteen minutes to locate Luke. He had a DSLR with telephoto lens; photos are here.
I smiled sweetly and wormed my way into a small space behind Luke's chair, making sure to clear it with the folks behind. One nice thing about being short is that I rarely block anyone's view. I stayed a respectable distance from the cliff edge, as it was a long way down.
The bluff was a great vantage point, well worth Luke getting up at 4 am to secure. Binoculars were essential.
The view from the top.
Look at the height of that spray!
Riding the beast.
The tide was rising to a 6-foot high mid-morning, and we watched from above as waves surged multiple times over the breakwall, wondering why people weren't being kept back from the danger zone. Later we heard that more than a dozen people had been knocked down and injured by a large wave (video). Tents were pushed over, and hot dogs floated in the surge.
The aftermath of the flood. Ironically, the red sign warns about rogue waves. It seems this was much bigger news nationally than the contest itself, as my East Coast relatives heard about it and called to make sure I was OK.
Eventually I had to find a Porta Potty which required a trip down the hill. Unfortunately for me (but luckily for the environment) none were located near the water, so I had to walk to the end of the dirt road, past ambulances ferrying out the injured.
Business completed, I tried to return to the bluff by way of the beach, but was stopped by the police, who were not letting anyone back in. As with airport security, the authorities were making a show of protecting the public too late. They should have kept people from the beach and breakwall through the high tide, which carried obvious risks that were borne out by a woman's broken leg and scores of other injuries and damage. But now the tide had turned and the main danger of rogue waves was past; they needed only to keep the public a safe distance from the waterline. Not one to willingly to submit to stupidity, I tried another access point via the dirt parking lot where a lonely volunteer blocked the way. He saw my press badge and waved me through. Halfway down the dirt road I was stopped again by a horse officer, who saw my badge but demanded to know who I worked for before he would authorize me to pass. I contemplated upgrading my blog to "Surfergrrrl Magazine" to seem more credible, but "I'm with the media" was good enough for him. Ha! That little piece of plastic did come in handy. And yet, I saw that the blockade was quite porous, as a bunch of people sans badges were able to slip through to the beach too.

Contestants get jetski rides to the break, half a mile offshore.
Non-contestants, like this woman, have to paddle out on their own. It didn't look easy to get a big wave gun through the sizeable whitewater. I've been trying to get in touch with some of the women who ride mountains, and I'd heard that Maya Gabeira was coming to Mavericks with a photographer. I hoped to somehow find her, or perhaps get to talk to contestant and finalist Carlos Burle, her big-wave surfing buddy from Brazil. But that seemed impossible on the day, especially when I saw women heading for the break. D'oh! Of course, she came to surf, not to watch.

More freesurfers heading out as the contest wound down. Unfortunately the early heats had better waves.
Some equipment didn't make it through the finals.
I think this is Alex Martins, a local surfer from San Francisco.
Another woman on her way to surf Mavericks after the contest, maybe Savannah Shaughnessy, a 20-year-old big wave charger from Santa Cruz. By the finals, they had opened the road to the beach again, and a newly-arrived woman behind me mentioned that her daughter Savannah was out in the water. Hopefully next time the contest organizers will invite women to compete, instead of de facto insisting that the surfers must have balls literally as well as figuratively. 
The results.


  1. Excellent report. Thanks. We caught a bit of it on the web. Some nasty wipeouts but you would expect that.

  2. So part of the media now. Good on ya girl! Great report thanks for that!

  3. I believe you are referring to Alex Martins, our favorite OB-based repair guy and hard charger!


  4. D'oh! Thanks for the correction, OTF.

  5. Great windup - so sorry we didn't catch you there!