Maverick’s or Mavericks is a surfing location in Northern California, USA. It is located approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) from shore in Pillar Point Harbor just north 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 (8m) and top out at over 80 feet (24.4 m). 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 the hazardous conditions at Maverick’s. An invitation-only contest is held there every winter, depending on wave conditions.
Video of Mavericks
History of Mavericks
In early March 1961, three surfers, Alex Matienzo, Jim Thompson, and Dick Knottmeyer, decided to try the distant waves off Pillar Point. With them was a white-haired German Shepherd named Maverick, owned by a roommate of Matienzo. Maverick was used to swimming out with his owner, or with Matienzo, while they were out surfing.
The trio left Maverick on shore but he swam out and caught up with them. Finding the conditions too unsafe for the dog, Matienzo paddled back and tied Maverick to the car bumper before rejoining the others. The riders had limited success that day, surfing overhead peaks about 1/4 mile from shore, just along the rocks that are visible from shore. They deemed conditions for surfing the bigger outside waves too dangerous.
They decided to name the point after Maverick, who seemed to have gotten the most out of the experience. It became known as “Maverick’s Point”, and later simply “Maverick’s”.
Jeff Clark, having grown up in Half Moon Bay, watched Maverick’s from an early age from the campus of Half Moon Bay High School and on the rugged coastal shores of Pillar Point. At that time the location was deemed too dangerous to surf. He spent time watching the break, and conceived the possibility of riding Hawaii-sized waves in Northern California. One day in 1975, at the age of 17 and with the waves topping out at 20 to 24 feet (7.3 m), Clark paddled out alone to face Maverick’s. He was successful, catching a number of left-breaking waves, thereby becoming the first person (documented) to tackle Maverick’s head-on.
Other than a few close friends who had paddled out and seen Maverick’s themselves, no big wave surfers believed in its existence. The popular opinion of the time was that there simply were no large, Hawaii-sized waves in California.
Two of the next people to surf at Maverick’s, on January 22, 1990 and in the company of Clark, were Dave Schmidt (brother of big wave legend Richard Schmidt) and Tom Powers, both from Santa Cruz. John Raymond, from Pacifica, Johathan Galili, from Tel Aviv and Mark Renneker, from San Francisco, surfed Maverick’s a few days later.
The next major event occurred on December 23, 1994. During a week of huge swells Mark Foo, Ken Bradshaw, Brock Little, Mike Parsons, and Evan Slater came on an overnight flight from Oahu, Hawaii’s north shore to surf Maverick’s. Such was a major event in the history of Maverick’s – for reputable Hawaiian big-wave riders to travel to the U.S. mainland to sample the waves of this little-known big wave riding beach. However, the occasion is remembered for its deadly outcome. The popular and famed Hawaiian big-wave rider Mark Foo died while surfing Maverick’s with the other Hawaiian visitors and local riders.
Foo’s fatal ride occurred in late morning of the first day (December 23, 1994) of riding when (as revealed later on video film), on a late takeoff into an 18-foot (5.5 m) wave, Foo caught the edge of his surfboard on the surface and fell forward into a wipeout near the bottom of the wave. Foo may have been knocked unconscious by his surfboard in the thrashing whitewater of the ‘wipe out,’ been tangled in his ‘leash,’ (a cord that attaches to the board and extends to an ankle strap on the surfer’s leg), the leash may have been caught in the rock under the surface of the water, or Foo may have gotten confused in the darkness underwater and failed to float or swim in the correct direction to the surface for air. After a short period of time, fellow surfers became aware that they hadn’t seen Foo riding waves any more, and began urgently searching for him and his surfboard all around the Maverick’s beach, nearby parking lots, and surfing water. A few hours later Foo’s body was found washed toward the shore, floating just under the water surface with a piece of his surfboard still attached by the leash to his ankle. News of Foo’s death traveled quickly to the far reaches of the surfing sport around the globe. Newspapers and watersports magazines covered the loss. Citizens of the Hawaiian Islands (Foo’s home) and the surfing world mourned his death. The accident gave Maverick’s deadly surf a new warranted but unwanted notoriety but also prompted the formation of the Maverick’s Water Patrol by Frank Quirarte and Jeff Clark to protect big-wave surfers when they are performing in the dangerous winter surf.
In the surfing sport, Mark Foo’s death has brought about a continuing discourse regarding the safe use on extreme waves of surfboard ‘leashes.’ Many in the surfing sport believe that Foo’s surfboard leash may have caused or contributed to his death. The leash proponents defend the leash as a useful convenience and as insurance against losing the surfboard, a form of flotation device, in case of a wipe out, and the leash is a means for the fallen surfer to find one’s way to the surface air by following the leash cord to the floating surfboard. Opponents argue that a leash can cause the surfrider to collide with his board in a wipe out, causing head injuries, and that the leash can also loop around arms, legs or the surfer’s neck when underwater, and thus dangerously restrict movement to safety or strangle the surfer.
Sion Milosky, an accomplished big-wave surfer, died on March 16, 2011 while surfing.
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 was named the North Shore Underground Surfer of the Year in February, 2011. He used some of the prize of $25,000 in travel funds to fly to Half Moon Bay to catch one of the last big swells of the season at Maverick’s. He is survived by his wife and two daughters and the Sion Milosky Memorial Fund was set up at the Bank of Hawaii.
The first big-wave surfing contest at Maverick’s was held in 1999. The competition resulted in Darryl Virostko (“Flea”), Richard Schmidt, Ross Clarke-Jones, and Peter Mel taking first, second, third, and fourth places, respectively. The second competition was held the following year and put Darryl Virostko, Kelly Slater, Tony Ray, Peter Mel, Zach Wormhoudt, and Matt Ambrose in first through sixth places. In 2004, with Darryl Virostko, Matt Ambrose, Evan Slater, Anthony Tashnick, Peter Mel, and Grant Washburn placing in spots first through sixth. The 2005 winner was Anthony Tashnick. In 2006, Grant Baker, from South Africa, won first place, with Tyler Smith (Santa Cruz) and Brock Little (Hawai’i) in second and third places. The 2007 contest was called off by organizers 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, from San Clemente, was crowned Maverick’s Champion, Grant Baker (South Africa) won second place and Jamie Sterling (Hawai’i) won third place, followed by Tyler Smith in fourth, Grant Washburn in fifth, and Evan Slater in sixth.
In October 2006, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary proposed barring personal watercraft from Maverick’s, which led to disputes within the sport.
In the Fall of 2010 a group of surfers, community leaders and contest organizers joined together to form the Half Moon Bay Surf Group Inc with the aim of regaining control of the contest over former event management. In October, the San Mateo Harbor Commission granted the permit to hold the contest to HMB Surf Group and official planning of the inaugural “The Jay at Maverick’s Big Wave Invitational” began. The inaugural contest has the support of leading high tech company, Barracuda Networks Inc., which signed on as the premier sponsor of “The Jay at Maverick’s Big Wave Invitational” for the next three seasons.
Competitor lineup for the first “The Jay at Maverick’s Big Wave Invitational” includes 11-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater and 23 of the world’s greatest Big Wave Surfers.
A long ramp slopes up toward the surface at Mavericks
Sea-floor maps released by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2007 revealed why Mavericks’ waves form where they do. A long, sloping ramp leads up to the surface under the wavebreak. The presence of this ramp slows the propagation of the wave over it. The wave over the deep water troughs on each side of the ramp continues at full speed forming two angles in the wavefront centered over each of the boundaries between the ramp and the two 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.
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