Mavericks, California facts for kids
Mavericks is a surfing location in northern California about 2 miles (3 km) from shore outside Pillar Point Harbor, just north of the town of Half Moon Bay at the village of Princeton-by-the-Sea. After a strong winter storm in the northern Pacific Ocean, waves can routinely crest at over 25 feet (8 m) and top out at over 60 feet (18 m). Routinely, waves that break can be recorded on seismometers. The break is caused by an unusually shaped underwater rock formation.
Mavericks is a winter destination for some of the world's best big wave surfers. Very few riders become big wave surfers, and of those, only a select few are willing to risk their lives under the hazardous, sometimes deadly, conditions at Mavericks. An invitation-only contest is held there most winters, when the waves come.
Origin of the name
In early March 1967, Alex Matienzo, Jim Thompson, and Dick Knottmeyer surfed the distant waves of Pillar Point. With them was Matienzo's roommate's white-haired German Shepherd, Maverick, who was accustomed to swimming with his owner and Matienzo while they were surfing. The three surfers left Maverick on shore, but he swam out to them. Finding the conditions unsafe for the dog, Matienzo tied him up before rejoining the others. The riders had limited success that day as they surfed overhead peaks about 1/4 mile from shore, just along the rocks that are visible from shore; they deemed the bigger outside waves too dangerous. The surfers named the location after Maverick, who seemed to have gotten the most pleasure from the experience.
Sea-floor maps released by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2007 revealed the mechanisms behind Mavericks' waves. A long, sloping ramp leads to the surface. The ramp slows the propagation of the wave over it. The wave over the deep troughs on each side of the ramp continues at full speed forming two angles in the wavefront centered over the boundaries between the ramp and the troughs. The result of this is a U-shaped or V-shaped wavefront on the ramp that contains the wave energy from the full width of the ramp. This U-shaped or V-shaped wave then collapses into a small area at the top center of the ramp with tremendous force.
The left at Mavericks is rarely ridden, as the wave tends to be unreliable. It can be a much faster ride than the right, shooting riders down a quicker pipe barrel. Surfline says the left is "a short-lived explosion of hell and spitfire."
Jeff Clark grew up in Half Moon Bay, watching Mavericks from Half Moon Bay High School and Pillar Point. At that time the location was thought too dangerous to surf. He conceived the possibility of riding Hawaii-sized waves in Northern California. In 1975 at age 17 and with the waves topping out at 20–24 feet (6–7 m), Clark paddled out alone to face the break. He caught multiple left-breaking waves, thereby becoming the first documented person to tackle Mavericks head-on.
Other than a few of Clark's friends who had paddled out and saw Mavericks themselves, no big wave surfers believed in its existence. Popular opinion held that there simply were no large waves in California.
Dave Schmidt (brother of big wave legend Richard Schmidt) and Tom Powers, both from Santa Cruz, were two of the next people to surf at Mavericks, surfing with Clark on January 22, 1990. John Raymond, from Pacifica, Johathan Galili, from Tel Aviv, Israel, and Mark Renneker, from San Francisco, surfed Mavericks a few days later.
In 1990, a photo of Mavericks taken by Clark's friend Steve Tadin was published in Surfer magazine. This triggered interest in Mavericks. More photos of Mavericks appeared in surfing magazines, and before long, filmmaker Gary Medeiros released a movie, Waves of Adventure in the Red Triangle. As news of Mavericks spread, many big-wave surfers came and surfed there.
Death of Mark Foo
On December 23, 1994, during a week of huge swells, notable Hawaiian big-wave riders Mark Foo, Ken Bradshaw, Brock Little, Mike Parsons, and Evan Slater visited Mavericks. In the late morning, Foo rode on a late takeoff into an 18-foot (5 m) wave, caught the edge of his surfboard on the surface, and fell forward into a wipe out near the bottom of the wave. A few hours later, a fellow surfer traveling back to shore on a boat noticed a body in the water, which was identified as Foo. The only visible injury was a small cut on the forehead. Many surfers believe that the fall knocked the wind out of Foo and he was tied down by his leash to a rock formation.
News of Foo's death traveled quickly to the far reaches of the surfing community. The accident afforded Mavericks greater notoriety and prompted the formation of the Mavericks Water Patrol by Frank Quirarte and Clark. The accident also triggered a continuing discourse around the safe use of surfboard leashes while surfing extreme waves. Many believed that Foo's surfboard leash may have contributed to his death. Leash proponents defend it as a useful convenience and as insurance against losing the surfboard, a form of flotation device, a means for a fallen surfer to find the surface by following the leash cord to the buoyant board. Opponents argue that a leash can cause the rider to collide with his board in a wipe out and that the leash can also loop around the surfer's arms, legs or the neck when underwater. Quick-release velcro leashes have since become standard surfing equipment to address some of these risks.
Death of Sion Milosky
Sion Milosky, an accomplished big-wave surfer, died at Mavericks on March 16, 2011. Milosky, 35, of Kalaheo, Kauai, Hawaii, apparently drowned after enduring a two-wave hold down around 6:30 PM. Twenty minutes after the incident, Nathan Fletcher found Milosky's body floating at the Pillar Point Harbor mouth.
Milosky had been named the North Shore Underground Surfer of the Year in February 2011. He used some of his $25,000 prize to travel to Half Moon Bay to catch one of the last big swells of the season at Mavericks.
Invitational Surfing Contest
The first surfing contest at Mavericks, now known as Titans of Mavericks, was held in 1999, and has been held nine times through 2014. The organizers invite 24 big wave surfers annually to compete in the one-day event, but it is only held if wave conditions are favorable during the competition season (currently November 1-March 31).
Darryl Virostko ("Flea") won the initial contest in 1999, while Richard Schmidt, Ross Clarke-Jones and Peter Mel took second, third and fourth places, respectively. The following year put Virostko, Kelly Slater, Tony Ray, Peter Mel, Zach Wormhoudt, and Matt Ambrose in first through sixth places. In 2004, Virostko, Ambrose, Evan Slater, Anthony Tashnick, Mel and Grant Washburn placed in spots first through sixth. Tashnick came first in 2005. In 2006, Grant Baker, from South Africa, won first place, with Tyler Smith and Brock Little in second and third. The 2007 contest was called off because unusually mild weather resulted in no days with suitable waves by the end of March, the usual cutoff time for holding the competition. In 2008, Greg Long was crowned Mavericks Champion, Baker won second and Jamie Sterling won third place, followed by Smith in fourth, Washburn in fifth and Evan Slater in sixth. The contest was canceled again in 2009. In 2010 South Africa's Chris Bertish took first place; winning a surfing prize purse of US$150 000, sponsored by Moose Guen, Jane Sunderland and Barracuda Networks.
In the fall of 2010 a group of surfers, community leaders and contest organizers formed the Half Moon Bay Surf Group, Inc., with the aim of controlling the contest. In October, the San Mateo Harbor Commission granted them the permit and official planning of the inaugural “The Jay at Maverick’s Big Wave Invitational" (as it was then called) began. Invited competitors included 11-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater and 23 others. However, the contest was not held due to lack of waves in 2011 and 2012. The most recent contests were held in 2013 (won by Peter Mel) and 2014 (won by Grant Baker). The newly branded "Titans of Mavericks" contest is now governed by five prestigious Mavericks riders known as the "Committee 5" . The most recent Mavericks Surf contest was held on February 12, 2016.
AT&T Park in San Francisco hosts live broadcasts of the event on its giant (110 foot wide) video display.
In October 2006, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary proposed banning personal watercraft from Mavericks, which led to disputes within the sport.
Mavericks Contest Results
The following is a list of past Mavericks invitational competitions and winners.
|Season(s)||Date Held||Champion||2nd Place||3rd Place||4th Place||5th Place||6th Place|
|1998-1999||February 17, 1999||Darryl Virostko||Richard Schmidt||Ross Clarke-Jones||Peter Mel|
|1999-2000||March 3, 2000||Darryl Virostko||Kelly Slater||Tony Ray||Peter Mel||Zach Wormhoudt||Matt Ambrose|
|2000-2003||No contest held|
|2003-2004||February 7, 2004||Darryl Virostko||Matt Ambrose||Evan Slater||Anthony Tashnick||Peter Mel||Grant Washburn|
|2004-2005||March 2, 2005||Anthony Tashnick||Greg Long||Tyler Smith||Zach Wormhoudt||Shane Desmond||Matt Ambrose|
|2005-2006||February 8, 2006||Grant Baker||Tyler Smith||Brock Little||Matt Ambrose||Grant Washburn||Evan Slater|
|2006-2007||No contest held|
|2007-2008||January 12, 2008||Greg Long||Grant Baker||Jamie Sterling||Tyler Smith||Grant Washburn||Evan Slater|
|2008-2009||No contest held|
|2009-2010||February 13, 2010||Chris Bertish||Shane Desmond||Anthony Tashnick||Dave Wessel||Carlos Brule||Kenny Collins|
|2010-2012||No contest held|
|2012-2013||January 20, 2013||Peter Mel||Zach Wormhoudt||Greg Long||Alex Martins||Mark Healey||Shawn Dollar|
|2013-2014||January 24, 2014||Grant Baker||Shane Dorian||Ryan Augenstein||Tyler Fox||Greg Long||Anthony Tashnick|
|2014-2015||No contest held|
|2015-2016||February 12, 2016||Nic Lamb||Travis Payne||Greg Long||Tyler Fox||Jaime Mitchell||Carlos Brule|
Mavericks, California Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.