Rachel’s Mavericks Experience

Rachel F. went to Mavericks this year to give us the low down on the event.  We are so lucky to have some eyes and ears on the ground at events like these (Next up is the X Games!).  Here’s Rachel’s Mavericks experience.  Enjoy!  –CLST

The Mavericks Invitational 

It’s been 3 years since the Mavericks Invitational has been held, and finally the stars aligned for a large swell to move towards the legendary break for the contest to get the green light. I can’t believe that I actually live in San Francisco and it only takes 45 minutes to get to this massive surf spot. I’ve seen photos, and I’ve heard stories of Mavericks, and now I finally get to experience it in person!

If you haven’t heard of Mavericks or don’t know its mystique, here’s a little refresher course.

Mavericks 101

Mavericks was named after local Half Moon Bay Surfer Jeff Clark’s dog, Maverick, or if you will, the independent surfers who search their entire lives for that epic ride. And, Jeff Clark is just that, a Maverick. He rode this NorCal Big Wave by himself for decades before anyone else knew what was going on outside his back door.


Crazy stuff right? At Mavericks, a little mistake can result in big consequences.

The real secret to this spot is the underwater geology, which is the shallow reef a mile off shore.

From Surfline.com:

“The harder the wind blows in a storm (wind speed) over a longer period of time (wind duration) over a longer distance of ocean (wind fetch) the more energy that will be transferred into the ocean resulting in larger waves and a longer swell period”.

Mavericks could be pumping with large swells while nearby beach breaks are much smaller and vice versa. The direction the swell is coming determines how or if Mavericks will break.

“Swells approaching Mavericks from the North Pacific will first pass over the        continental shelf offshore and the distribution of swell energy along the coast will       be determined by the swell interaction with the topography of the ocean floor.           Swell energy will always turn toward shallow water (refraction) and swell             direction and swell period will be contributing factors of how much the swell will refract”.

The best swells for Mavericks are those that are very large with long swell periods over 16 seconds.

“Longer period swells have more wave energy extending deeper below the surface            of the water so they will feel the irregularities of the ocean floor more that the         short period swells. This “extra feel” will result in greater wave focusing and      refraction toward shallower water and will also grow into larger breaking surf             with the extra wave energy being pushed upward by the ocean floor”.


Saturday January 19, 2013 – The Day Before the Contest

Knowing full well that the beggining of the swell would be arriving on Saturday, and unable to control our excitement to see some of the best surfers kill it from the Pillar Point Bluffs, my boyfriend, Mike, and I drove down to Half Moon Bay Saturday afternoon. Since the beach and the bluffs were to be closed on contest day, we wanted to experience Mavericks as it had been for the past couple of decades. The waves weren’t as ginormous as I had always ima

ined them to be, but they were still impressive enough to sit there for a couple hours and watch the best of the best free surf into the sunset.




There’s a whole community and local scene of surfers who surf Mavericks whenever it’s breaking and not just because it’s a contest day or because the pros are in town. This devoted crew of guys and gals usually get this spot all to themselves. But today, there was definitely a mix of local and pro surfers out at Mavericks enjoying the near perfect conditions. It was sunny, warm, and glassy with an off shore breeze. The swell was definitely coming in slowly because of the substantial lulls between each set, but when the waves broke they were clean 12-15 footers, which are actually on the smaller side for Mavericks. We weren’t fooled by the pleasant conditions because we’ve heard it’s on the small days when the most damage has been done, which one surfer displayed by his snapped board as he was getting dropped off by the jet ski at the beach. Overheard in the parking lot, a local surfer was talking about how he caught 5 waves in 5 hours, which sounds brutal to me knowing how cold that water is. He also mentioned that the day was a dream until the circus showed up, which I can only imagine!

Sunday January 20, 2013 –  Contest is a GO

On Sunday, Mother Nature decided to grace us with her presence in the form of a beautiful day rather than a massive powerful swell. The waves did show, but they were definitely not as big or as powerful as predicted.

This year the Mavericks Invitational took place in the parking lot of the Oceano Hotel and Spa. Usually the contest is held at Pillar Point, but the last time the contest ran about 15 people were injured because a rogue wave decided to bust up the party.

First heat was in the water at 8 AM, so Mike and I ventured back down to Half Moon Bay around 7 AM, hoping to miss the masses making their pilgrimage down the coast.

We were definitely a little skeptical about watching a surf contest from a parking lot when the contest was happening 100 feet away, but we were also super stoked to witness Mavericks at its best.

I’m glad we purchased the $10 festival tickets online since it was such a mess to get into the event. I’ve been to a number of surfing contests and this was the first time I’ve had to shell out money to gain entry.

Anticipation and excitement was high once we walked in and got settled. I had no problem basking in the sun watching some surfing, especially since one of the waves caught in the first heat by Mark Healey was the elusive left barrel, shown below, which I predicted Shane Dorian to do in my previous post, but he withdrew from the contest due to a shoulder injury. Nonetheless, Healey put on a good show trying to catch as many left barrels as he could.



Here’s Mike enjoying Mavericks from the sunny festival parking lot

And here is the festival big screen he’s watching. That’s our buddy Pro Surfer/Mavericks Alternate Frank Solomon being interviewed on the left:


We were really happy to be there and honored to be apart of this day, but to be honest the event was a bit of a downer in all aspects.  The waves weren’t producing, and there were 30-minute lulls in-between each set. It was hot and there wasn’t much shade or water for the fans that had made the trek. There could have been more food, TV screens, bands, and interesting local artists showing there stuff to make it feel like more of a Celebration of Surfing. Also a big problem was the webcast, which kept freezing. I really do appreciate what Jeff Clark and the Festival producers were trying to accomplish but it kind of hit a flat note. We ended up catching the second half of the 49ers Game and the Contest Finals at the Half Moon Bay Brewery.


In the end, long time Mavericks Legend, and Santa Cruz local, Peter Mel picked up his first win at the legendary contest. Since the waves weren’t up to par, Mel ended up splitting the prize money with the rest of the competitors.

Overall we had a great day but I do have some suggestions for the next time the Contest is ON:

My two cents for the next Maverick’s Invitational & Festival:

  1. There needs to be a better flow to the event, so there isn’t a bottle neck of people every where you go.
  2. There should be more food trucks and food vendors. Half Moon Bay restaurants should have had the ability to showcase their food.
  3. There needs to be water stations to fill up re-usable bottles.
  4. A little bit more local flare, artists, bands, vendors, through out the event, instead of just  one band at the end.
  5. There should be a fun host or MC at the festival to keep the fans interested when there is a lull in surfing excitement.
  6. There definitely needs to be cooler designed t-shirts and gear.
  7. Giveaways for fan appreciation and participation.
  8. They need to show the wave scores so the fans feel like there is a meaning to the contest.
  9. More Big screens and louder announcers is a must so fans can watch and listen from different parts of the festival.
  10. There should be easier access to the beer garden.
  11.  And the festival should not be in a parking lot, but somewhere where fans can actually see the water, and feel like they are not cattle but enjoying a surfing event in a surfing town.

30,000 people flocked to Half Moon Bay, and everyone was excited to catch a glimpse of the big wave contest. Knowing now that there is a demand, I believe the Festival will only get bigger and better.

Having said all this, whatever Mavericks was this year we experienced it.

Next Post: The X Games

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