10 February 2016

The Mavericks is On

not Half Moon Bay....but close
The Mavericks surf competition near Half Moon Bay, CA is a go. The call went out a few days ago giving 24 of the best big wave surfers in the world 48 hours to get on over to California.  It only happens one day a year when the conditions are perfect. If those conditions do not appear between November 1, and the end of March, there is no contest.
     Waves get big…really big, during the winter months off of Pillar Point. Owing to its unique position on the Northern California coast and the sea floor below it, when a big winter storm hits, waves off the Mavericks surf break can reach 60 feet. It is not for the feint of surfer; it’s quite the treacherous ride. Not only that, it’s damned cold.

     I didn’t grow up at the ocean’s edge, (otherwise I would have been a real surfer girl), but I did brave the frigid summer waters of Stinson Beach on weekends in my youth. No one had wetsuits back in the day, and I had always believed that gradually numbing first your toes, then your legs, then your waist, and then finally just diving into the ice-water was what all ocean swimming was like. Boy, was I ever in for a shock the first time I waded out into the ocean in Southern California; it was bathtub warm!

     And even though surfing was never to be a part of my life, I have always loved it. There is nothing more beautiful than the ocean and the sound of its waves hitting the shore. Riding those puppies has to be one spectacular adventure.

     The surfing scene in Half Moon Bay started back in the 60’s when a few guys went out into the waters off Pillar Point. They could see the huge surf break farther out, but stuck to the smaller swells closer to shore. However, they did name the break after one guy’s dog, Maverick, who liked to follow the boys out into the surf. The waves they rode were plenty big enough, but nothing like the ones a half mile out. It took a surf-crazed teenager to paddle all the way out to ride the monster waves.

     Jeff Clark, at 17, was the first to give it a go back in 1975. And it wasn’t until the 90’s that he’d convinced other surfers to join him.  

     I’m not quite sure when I first heard of the Mavericks – I do know that it must have been before it became the huge event it is today. Although the first competition was held in 1999, I’ve never made the hour and a half drive down there. For one thing, many of those years I wasn’t in the area. Maybe more importantly, hanging out on the Northern Californian coast in the winter is not anything I would categorize as entertainment. It’s freezing cold. But being a surfer-gal-in-my-dreams, I had always longed to see the guys ride the big waves.

     And then out of nowhere, this week we got hit with a week of spring/summer weather in the middle of the winter. Next, the Pacific Ocean throws up a mighty storm and the folks out at Mavericks Control put out the call. The game is on.

     That was my signal that it was also a go for me; I'd just grit my teeth and battle the Friday morning traffic down to Half Moon Bay. I quickly went about researching where exactly I needed to go. And just as quickly found out that this year there is nowhere to go. It seems too many people had been doing too much damage to the ecological balance of the Point. Additionally, there were those folks who got too close to the waves and almost died on land a few years ago. (That would be hard to live down.)

     Not ready to give up on my mission, I searched around a bit more. I had to make sure that there was really no viewing point for the completion. How did I find out? Called Jeff Clark’s Surf shop, of course. The nice lady who answered assured me that it would not be worth the drive. There is absolutely no access this year. And there never again will be.

     I have missed my chance. I should have braved the elements a few years back. There’s nothing to do now but go back to dreaming about that surf shack I have always wanted. It would be a small shop on a rustic beach. I would sell surf clothes and jewelry that I design and make. I still have the clothing designs in my head and samples of the necklaces, bracelets and earrings I have made over the years from shells and found objects picked up along the shores of beaches around the world.

                          As Brad said to Pia, “There’s hope for you yet, girl-dude.”