Monday, February 15, 2010

Missed Maverick's this weekend? Here's a report from the world's biggest wave contest!

Where in the world are the biggest waves? 

Surfers claim some of the biggest waves ever rolled through Northern California's Pillar Point area on Saturday, February 13, 2010,  the day that an elite group of surfers decided to hold the infamous Maverick's surf contest. This was the first time the contest had been held in two years and a $150,000 prize purse, the biggest ever, was at stake for the world's best surfers who were invited to join the competition.

 I could have jumped in my car and driven from Santa Cruz about an hour north to Pillar Point, a little north of Half Moon Bay. Instead, I asked my well-traveled friend and neighbor, Shannon Armstrong, to describe her experience watching the monster waves that towered 40 to 50 feet tall.

Here's a photo, below,  from the New York Times' Bay Area slide show.

After I told Shannon that I joined 54,000 others viewing Maverick's live online, she said:

"You definitely would have a better view of the surfers riding the waves and the standings by watching the internet stream at home. But there's nothing like the perspective of seeing the enormity of the wave from sea level and seeing how small the surfers are in comparison.
Mavericks was awesome!"

Here's the rest of Shannon Armstrong's report from that epic afternoon of surfing big waves:

Getting there
We parked about 5 miles from the action and rode our bikes to the view point, whizzing past the cars inching their way toward Pillar Point. Fire engines and ambulances were leaving the scene when we arrived (carting off the 15 people injured earlier by the high tide rogue wave that swept onto the beach). It was packed, but we were still able to weave our bikes through the pedestrians.

Viewing spots
You could view from up top the bluff, but we heard you could only see the surefers waiting for the waves on the backside and then missed all the action once they took off. So we hoofed it over to the announcer stand on the beach where people had been swept away earlier. Thank god we weren't there then!

We arrived around 1:30 p.m. - just in time to see the finalists set out from the beach. About 10 police  were guarding the barricades they'd put up to keep people off the beach below the cliff, even though it was now low tide and no real danger of being swept away.

There was no announcing we could hear and luckily we brought binoculars. It was bright, warm and sunny enough to need sunblock (it was so foggy the entire drive  up that we could barely even see the shore!)

The waves were HUGE
I overheard one pro surfer saying that this was the best Mavs contest ever! These mountains of water kept rolling toward us, stopped by a barrier of craggy rocks that looked like an eagle taking flight. People lined the beach and up the cliff, peering at the surfers bobbing above the wave as it broke in front of us. We always knew when someone caught one because there would be cheers from the viewers on the cliff. It was thrilling to see someone have the guts to fly down the face of the monster wave.

It was interesting to see how locals paddled out to the wave. I'm certain I would have perished in the 45-minute paddle to  the wave, should I ever lose my head and decide it seemed like a good idea to paddle out and give it a go.

Best of all
we were right there as the pros came to shore after the contest to see all their broken boards, exhausted bodies & big smiles when congratulating each other on a great day on the wave. The winner was Chris Bertish, a mid-thirties (one of the younger contestants, I think) humble south african with short sandy curls and a bit of blood on his chin, drawing attention to the fat lip he got when the wave pushed his board into his face on one ride. He was taking pictures with a bunch of people & doing interviews & only after he walked back to talk to his buddies in the roped off area did he realize he'd won. He said "nobody told me!" It was fun seeing his reaction when he found out. It was already posted to the internet...he was the last to know!

The cherry on top 
was riding a spectacular bike path along the ocean bluff back to our car...all 5 miles. Some high clouds were rolling in and the wind was cool, but the sunset colors were beautiful. We stopped on a cliff bench to enjoy it for a bit.

Yes, the New York Times Bay Area edition covered it here:

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