Updated: Jan 15
Ready to drop into Mavericks? Mavericks is one of the most feared surf breaks in the world. Its sheer power is capable of killing the most experienced surfer within seconds. It is truly magnificent when the bathymetry, swell and wind direction all line up.
Epic days are far and few, but when they happen, Maverick's roar will wake you from slumber. Photos and video may look amazing, but seeing these giant waves in person will take your breath away.
What Is Mavericks Surfing?
North of Half Moon Bay is a peninsula named Pillar Point. This area is home to an air force station and steep cliffs with a narrow beach at the bottom. Just offshore is a stretch of ocean known as Mavericks that, with the right conditions, produces some of the best and biggest waves in California. This is due to an underwater rock ledge that acts as a ramp for incoming waves. Winter storms in the Pacific Ocean produce some of the best waves at Mavericks. These waves are some of the trickiest to surf, but the reward is a truly spectacular experience.
Some of the great big wave surfers to compete include Peter Mel and Darryl "Flea" Virostko.
The “Day of Days” at Mavericks
As all things 2020 have been trending, so was the winter forecast for the big-wave season ahead. Surfers anticipated less-than-good conditions courtesy of La Niña weather patterns impacting the Northern Hemisphere, generally resulting in less swell and colder water.
However, on Dec. 8, and seemingly out of nowhere, Mavericks awakened from a lengthy slumber and began firing on all cylinders.
Located just outside of Half Moon Bay, CA, the storied wave has a reputation for consequence that precedes it. But despite its distinction, the spot is finicky and typically only works during a big swell coming from the west to west-northwest, with minimal wind.
According to Kai Lenny, recent men's winner of the WSL's XXL Biggest Wave Award, the swell was coming from a different direction than normal. Lenny, who flew in from Maui for the conditions, says the swell was filling in from the north, causing the waves to break over the reef—a spot that hadn't yielded such ideal conditions in a decade. Additionally, the sun was out and the wind remained light, maxing out around 1.5 mph in the afternoon, allowing for surfable 30- to 50-foot faces all day.
My Epic Day at Mavericks - 8th December 2020 - Ravenskyes Through a first time visitor's eyes
I went to Mavericks on Tuesday, December 8th, 2020. I had heard on the news a couple of days before that there would be big waves on the coast. It was time for another adventure, so I immediately looked up to see where I could find the biggest waves. I found Mavericks. The history of Mavericks was intriguing to me as well as the stories of the big wave surfers who surfed it. I watched a few videos and could feel the excitement rushing through me. I decided Tuesday would be the day I would do the 1hr drive over to Half Moon Bay from Campbell, California.
Growing up in Bermuda, I had always been fascinated by the big waves hurricanes would bring to the little island. I would always go to the beach just before every storm to watch the waves crashing into the shore. There was such force. As the waves crashed, they sounded like a deep rumbling of thunder. Those waves didn't even hold a candle to Mavericks.
I drove to Carol and Pat's house in Half Moon Bay. Carol was working but said her husband Pat had some spare time and wanted to go out to see Mavericks as well. Pat has surfed the area for years and has a bunch of surfboards in the backyard. We drove out to Pillars Point. It was a little tricky finding parking, but that was due to only two small public car parks available. We managed to find a spot and walked down a side road and along the beach to get to Mavericks' Beach.
I could see people on the hill looking out over the ocean. The crashing waves were so powerful, when they connected to land, you could feel the boom going through your body. We couldn't see very much from ground level, so we tried making our way up the hill. It is a little steep, and unless you have proper hiking shoes, you will slip in the loose dirt. My Sketcher walking sneakers did not cut it. I struggled about 1/4 of the way up before I sat down. I was up about 20ft and sat down on the edge of the cliff. The problem was I wasn't facing the waves. I couldn't take photos without putting myself in a bit of harm's way. My feet kept slipping, so we decided to go back down. I so wanted to get to the top of the hill and felt frustrated. I kept looking for other ways to get up there as we walked back along the beach.
For what I assumed to be the very best view, the hill area where people were standing is surrounded by a tall fence with barbed wire at the top. The fence is guarding the Air Force Tracking Station, so there is no trespassing on the inside of the fence. The only way to get around is to go around the three fence ends, which are almost hanging off the hill around 80ft high above the bay. I didn't see anyone making their way around, so I ruled it out.
We were far away, but my little camera pumped out its lens as far as it could to give me halfway decent video. I couldn't seem to get any quality photos. I had seen a few people carrying around cameras that they could shoot the moon with and decided the next time I came back, I would bring back one of those.
The sun was glistening on the waves. My video was going to be quite artistic. I could barely see through the viewfinder the ant surfers surfing the Empire State Building waves. I managed to follow a few of the surfers as they rode the waves inward. It was incredible to stand and watch these monster waves roll in. It was like a symphony of turmoil. The waves looked like a horses' wispy manes flying behind an avalanche. The sounds of the crashing waves echo still in my head.
Pat needed to leave, so I was left to continue my adventure solo. I walked towards the top of "The Hill," but again, I didn't see anyone going around the barbed wire fence, so I headed back down to Maverick's Beach. I walked as far as I could go along the beach before pulling out my camera to attempt a few good shots. The waves were rolling in fast and furious, and I couldn't see anyone surfing from the low angle I had. The waves are quite a distance out to sea, and the surfers don't surf all the way into the beach. Again, my camera can't shoot the moon, so I moved on. I was determined to get to the top of the hill, where I could see photographers and videographers.
I could now see people climbing around the fences, so I almost jogged along the beach to get to a backward point where I could get to the first fence. I'm not scared of heights, so that wasn't an issue. There was a couple a short distance in front of me. He laughed at her because she was pretty scared of climbing around the three points where you need to climb around. He did have a hold on her to ensure her safety. I didn't have anyone, and I didn't think it was that dangerous. It was just an 80ft drop if I tripped or lost my balance. I was after the shot of the day, and nothing was going to stop me!
After 20mins, I was at the edge of the cliff looking out over the ocean. There were around 20 people spread out and wearing masks due to covid. I couldn't get into a spot where I could get a good shot. The professionals were at an advantage, and I certainly wasn't going to ask them to move or let me squeeze in. I appreciated the view and how everyone was buzzing that it was such an epic day. I wished it hadn't been my first time looking out to Mavericks as it really would have given that extra appreciation for how rare of a day I was witnessing.
I can't wait to go back to Half Moon Bay and see Mavericks again. The biggest names in Big Wave surfing were there. I feel so privileged to have been part of such a HUGE day. I will go back and hopefully, someday, I will be able to go on one of the boats with a very experienced captain to get some epic shots. Here is a short 3min video I took of Mavericks. I added a bit of slower inspirational music as I wasn't close enough for a more upbeat tempo. You can see around 3/4 of the way through surfers were clicking one after another.
Instagram and social media are great ways to follow Mavericks and Big Wave Surfers. These waves and rides are truly spectacular!
For best view, click on a photo to enlarge and then flip through the photos. Simply X out when you are done. You will be able to see who posted the photo, who took the photo, and who the surfer was in the photo.
The History of Mavericks
Mavericks was made famous by Jeff Clark but he wasn't the one who founded it.
Source from Jeff Clark on his website Mavericks Surf Company. For the full history and story line visit his website https://maverickssurfcompany.com/thewave
Alex Matienzo, Jim Thompson and Dick Knottmeyer surfed off Pillar Point, which was the only spot protected from northwest wind. They surfed inside the rocks about 100 yards off the beach on mellow long board waves that rolled onto the shore. They named the spot after Matienzo's roommate's German Shepherd, Maverick, who would swim out to them each time they went out. The crew would eventually take him back to the beach and tie him up on the fender of their car, at a time when cars could drive out to the point, to keep him out of the water.
First time Jeff Clark surfed "Mavericks" as it was known then, inside the reef within 100 yards of shore. He was with Walt Von Hoffe, his little league sponsor, and friend. It was the same spot that Alex named after the dog, Maverick.
Jeff's first solo session at Mavericks; he was 17 years old and a senior at Half Moon Bay High School. Thus began his lifetime obsession with this magical wave, what he referred to as his "sanctuary." Years later Alex Matienzo came into Jeff's surf shop and asked why he called his surf shop Mavericks. Jeff told him that his little league coach called the spot inside the reef Mavericks, and he had called it Mavericks since he was 10 years old. Alex told Jeff, "You're the reason they still call it Mavericks." Later, Alex presented Jeff with a painting of the big waves on the outer reef, with an image of the dog Maverick.
JANUARY 22, 1990
Jeff Clark convinced Santa Cruz surfers Tom Powers and Dave Schmidt to paddle out at Mavericks on the biggest day he had seen. Dave and Tom caught their first waves at Mavericks that day and returned to Santa Cruz with stories of the most perfect big wave they had ever seen, and everything changed—Mavericks was no longer a myth.
The next season, everyone who was or wanted to be a big wave rider came to Mavericks: the Santa Cruz contingent (Tom Powers, Richard Schmidt, Dave Schmidt, Vince Collier, Bud Miller, Vince Broglio, Nacho Lopez, Shawn Barron, Marcel Soros, Rick "Frosty" Hesson, and Anthony Ruffo); the Ocean Beach crew (Dr. Mark Renneker, John Raymond and Grant Washburn); the guys from Pacifica (Jim Kibblewhite, Shawn Rhodes, Matt Ambrose, Greg Savin, Brent Heckerman, and Rod Walsh); plus some local Half Moon Bay boys (Jim Tjogas, Darren Bingham, Alan Nelson, Tony Canadas, Mike Kimsey and Ion Banner).
JANUARY 1, 1992
Videographer Gary Mederios released the first Mavericks film, Waves of Adventure in the Red Triangle. Other filmmakers followed including Grant Washburn, Steve Spaulding, Eric Nelson, Dave Alexander, Pete Baranzon and Curt Meyers. The publicity inspired more surfers to attempt Mavericks, including Frosty's protégé Jay Moriarty, Darryl "Flea" Virostko, Peter Mel, Zack and Jake Wormhoudt, and more Santa Cruz kids. While Peter Davi, Don Curry and Armond trekked up from Carmel to take their chances.
Peter Mel - Big Wave Surfer See what it is like from a surfer's point of view with this Red Bull series "Peaking". Get an inside view of what it takes, and what to expect, to ride the waves at Mavericks. https://www.redbull.com/us-en/episodes/peter-mel-peaking-s01-e12
16-year-old Jay Moriarity surfed Mavericks. Jeff watched his first session and noticed he had great instincts and skill. The week of December 24th brought a massive swell, and Jay paddled right into the bowl attempting a bomb of a wave. The bottom dropped out and it became the most famous wipeout ever at Mavericks. The iron cross photo made the cover of Surfer Magazine and the New York Times. His life was later depicted in the Holywood film Chasing Mavericks.
DECEMBER 23, 1994
Mark Foo, Ken Bradshaw and Brock Little came from Hawaii to surf Mavericks while Mike Parsons and Evan Slater traveled from Southern California. This amazing convergence of big wave surfers ended most tragically: Mark Foo had drowned while surfing at Mavericks. Shaken by this devastating loss, Jeff Clark gathered a few friends started the Mavericks Water Patrol.
FEBRUARY 13, 2010
During the seventh Mavericks Surf Contest, the swell direction and size converged putting so much pressure on the beach that three sets came over the harbor wall and into the harbor. The final set was the biggest and a massive wall of water plowed through the viewing area causing several major injuries, knocking down the awards stage, and the Sheriff Deputies cleared the beach. This was the last time the public was allowed to view the contest from the beach. Since that time, beach and cliff erosion has been so extensive that there is no safe viewing area from land.
The World Surf League, always looking to add more to their quiver of events, acquired the rights to the permit and contest at Mavericks. Since that time, no event has taken place at the break, yet the allure of the beast continues to draw men and women from all over the world. The waves are best viewed on non-contest days, when the waves are breaking and hundreds flock to test their skills, and the beaches and bluffs are open to the public (these areas are closed on contest days due to the significant danger of large crowds on a tiny to non-existent beach and eroding cliffs during a high surf advisory).
While Jeff continues to surf and perform water rescue in big wave spots around the world, he is inspired by his three children and two grandchildren. He shares his motivational life lessons with fans and audiences across the country and through all industries. Jeff remains as stoked as a grom to paddle out in any surf anywhere from two to twenty feet. He has found his wave.
"It's a culmination of your life of surfing when you turn and paddle in at Mavericks." Jeff Clark
Mavericks Surf Awards - A new way
Dec 1st, 2020 – April 15th, 2021
Our mission is to celebrate Mavericks and the BRAVE men and women who DARE TO surf it.
The Mavericks Awards is a new way to celebrate Mavericks. A performance based video contest that lasts all season long.
Surfers and photographers submit their best surf content of made waves at Mavericks and winners are selected for 5 categories.
MAVERICKS RIDE OF THE YEAR
PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR - MALE
PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR - FEMALE
Did you know?
Mavericks has been portrayed in several movies and documentaries, including "Year of the Drag In," "Maverick's: High Noon at Low Tide," "100 Ft. Wednesday," "Down the Line," "Heavy Water," "Twenty Feet Under," "Maverick's," "Whipped," "Discovering Mavericks" and "Chasing Mavericks.
One person who was out on the water on December 8th was Kai Lenny. He is currently one of the world's best big wave surfers and is taking things to a new level.
Born: October 8, 1992 (age 28); Paia, Hawaii
Residence: Maui, Hawaii
Winner of the Men's Best Overall Performance for the 2020 Red Bull Big Wave Awards.
World Surfing League
By Ben Mondy
Next and Level. Those are two words that describe Kai Lenny's performances over the last week of big wave surfing at Jaws and Mavericks.
That description has come from some of the world's best big wave surfers who have witnessed Kai's performances. Albee Layer, Grant "Twiggy" Baker, Lucas Chumbo, Jamie Mitchell, and Kyle Thierman were just some of the elite crew who recognized that, right now, Lenny is operating at a different level to his peers.
Source: World Surfing League https://www.worldsurfleague.com/posts/461077/kai-lenny-just-raised-the-bar-once-again-and-hes-only-getting-started
On December 8th Lenny surfed for 12 hours, stopping for just 15 minutes to refuel with a burrito.
"When those days come around it's almost impossible for me to not want to maximize it because I know how quickly it will go by," says Lenny. "I'd rather push myself as hard as I possibly can and then rest later."
When the next big swell will hit Mavericks is anyone's guess. Although the early December conditions for the books only held for two days, many called that Big Tuesday a "career day," agreeing they scored some of their lives' best waves.
Source: Surfer https://www.surfer.com/
You can watch Kai Lenny's series on Red Bull TV - the app or website - "Life of Kai," https://www.redbull.com/us-en/shows/life-of-kai
Here's a little video that Kai Lenny took on his GoPro. He took it on the 8th December. You can follow him on YouTube for more exciting video. Watch around the 2:50 mark on the video! He makes it look so easy! True talent.
Best day in 10 years at Mavericks
I realize this blog is quite long so if you're still with me, pat yourself on the back! I was going to end here but realize I am missing the youngest generation of Maverick Big Wave Riders. Definitely worth mentioning is the name Luca Padau. Luca is currently 19 years old and is a Half Moon Bay local. He grew up watching Mavericks and was only 13yrs old when he first surfed Mavericks. At the age of 16, he was one of the youngest surfers to ever make the roster for the famed Mavericks competition. Luca has a YouTube series, “Perspective”, produced and edited by his brother, Dom. Here's the first episode. Go to YouTube to see more episodes. They are just short 2-5min long clips.
I hope this gives you a great insight to Mavericks and the people who have surfed Mavericks. Big wave surfing is truly spectacular to watch. You really get an appreciation for mother nature and the force that she delivers.
If you have any questions please write them in the comment section below or email me at email@example.com
Our next blog will be out on the 1st February 2021. If you liked this blog please click the heart and show some love. You are welcome to leave a comment. In fact it's encouraged! You can also subscribe to our blog and you'll receive and email when a new blog is posted. Thanks.
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