Now I know this is a snowboard blog and I’ve only surfed once in my life, but after my brother in Santa Cruz (who has a cool photo blog of his own) sent me a link to these photos, I knew I had to post them. If you’re not familiar with Mavericks, it’s a world famous break located just north of Half Moon Bay, California. Once a year if conditions are right they hold a big wave contest (to put it mildly) that apparently this year put Hawaii to shame.
By all accounts Saturday’s conditions produced the biggest waves ever in a paddle in contest with some estimating faces as big as 60 feet. I always consider surfing to be a cousin of snowboarding with water substituting for snow but except for when it avalanches, snow banks 5 stories high don’t sneak up from behind and come crashing down on you on a regular basis. I don’t know if you’ve ever been washing machined by a big wave, but it only took one North Shore experience for me to develop a very healthy respect for the incredible power of the ocean.
The winner of the contest, Chris Bertish of South Africa found out the contest was being held Thursday, jumped on the first plane out and three flights and 36 hours later finally landed in San Francisco after midnight Saturday – the morning of the contest - to quickly discover that in the time honored tradition of all airlines, the thing he needed the most, his boards, did not arrive with him. So not only did he endure a nasty case of jet lag, he had to borrow boards from of all people, local legend Jeff Clark, the former contest director and original discoverer of Mavericks who recently filed suit against the current contest promoters – lots of great twists and turns in this story. And if you did happen to see some coverage of the race there’s a good chance it was this video of a rogue wave breaking over the viewing gallery. Here’s another angle from a cell phone video of the wave (and you’ll notice that the viewer thought turning the phone would turn the picture – no such luck). But if you actually want to watch the contest you can see the whole thing on Ustream.
While the wipeout of some spectators on the beach looked a little scary, the photos of surfers getting eaten by waves are positively terrifying. You can see all the ones included in this blog plus many, many more at the San Francisco Chronicle’s website coverage of the event along with a print piece by sportswriter Bruce Jenkins. There are also several galleries full of photos at the official Mavericks website along with a cool point of view video shot from a surfboard earlier this year at Mavericks. The Mercury News also put together this nice slide show along with a great article talking about the day from a surfers point of view. This kind of spectacle obviously attracts a lot of photographers but you better have a long lens or a place on a boat as the wave breaks about a half mile from shore. In the end though, it all seems worth if it plays out right for you like it did for the surfers in these photos below…