Friday, February 19, 2010


i don't remember who came up w/the bit back when we were little surf-rats but it went something like this: as we were traveling around, looking for great surf spots, we'd see some incredible break, up against a jetty or near some river mouth. no one was out surfing what were clearly incredibly breaking perfect waves. wtf?, we'd all ask as we paddled out into the water. in our little scenario, we'd imagine locals looking out from their sun-decks or cars or where ever & them sceaming, "my god, stop them, don't they know about shark pit or the whirlpool or the crushing rocks or the rip tide suck?" we'd all laugh. myth & story telling have been used throughout history to bind anxieties. i don't think philip & i ever paddled out somewhere where others weren't already out if we hadn't been there before. there was alabama point & destin jetty & the jacksonville jetty & the south ft pierce jetty(known as sharkpit) & a few others. none of these breaks featured 15ft waves. for the most part, 15ft waves weren't a part of our surfing experience. thank god.

i mention all this because the great origin story of mavericks kind of works off this teenaged scenario that used to break us up. for years & years, locals watched mavericks break, in awe of the size & violence of the break. no one anywhere on the continental usa was surfing a wave like mavericks. it was pretty much common knowledge you wouldn't last 15minutes out there. however, it was a sight to see.

for years, it remained that way. finally, one day:

"Jeff Clark, having grown up near Half Moon Bay, learned about Maverick's at an early age. 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, with the waves topping out at 10 to 12 feet, Clark paddled out alone to face Maverick's. He was successful, catching a number of left-breaking waves, thereby becoming one of the very first persons (documented) to tackle Maverick's head-on.

For the next 15 years, Clark continued surfing Maverick's alone. It was Clark's secret winter 'giant north shore-sized surf' surfing spot. Other than a few close friends who had paddled out and seen Maverick's themselves, no one believed in its existence. The popular opinion of the time was that there simply were no large, Hawaii-sized waves in California.

the rest, for the most part, is history. mavericks is now surfed by anyone & everyone who has the nerve to paddle out there. of course, they're doing that w/companions. unlike(& because of) clark, no one is paddling out there alone anymore. of course, surfing isn't immune to cruel ironies & clark is now barred from participating in or consulting on the big money($50,000 first prize)maverick's surf contest that they try to hold each year, depending on conditions. clark is locked up in a legal battle w/the organization that controls the contest.

the contest hadn't been held the last two winters due to lack of ideal conditions but they finally called for one last weekend. it was held in less that ideal conditions but the waves were big. i mean, really big. i mean, huge: 50ft faces. that's something i can't even conceive. i surfed steamer's lane at santa cruz & the faces were probably 12-15 ft. i was scared shitless. i surfed the outside sandbar in p'cola during storms when the faces were probably 10-12 ft. i was scared shitless then too. don't get me wrong: i loved surfing & would probably still be trying to do it if it weren't for foot operations & broken ribs & a necrotic hip but i was never a fan of big waves. we didn't have leashes back when i started in p'cola, so if you lost your board on a wave, you had to swim ALL the way to shore(say, 150 yards)in rough water & strong currents. big waves usually excited sharks too. nothing ended a good surf buzz more than seeing a 10ft hammerhead gliding through a big swell. it just seemed to me that big waves presented more possibilities for a fun time to end badly. i mean, broken bones, concussion, free-bleeding badly. take for example this poor fellow:

i can tell you from experience you would NOT want to be where he was last weekend. i believe he was spitting up blood when they fished him from the cold north cali waters. that's just par for the course at maverick's. most everyone got beat up during the contest & kept on surfing. as i recall, back in p'cola philip broke ribs, split his skull open, & received various cuts & slashes & sandbar rubs. george had his front two teeth knocked out as did todd hugues. fate can intervene in small surf too. we knew that. no doubt, it's what inspired our little "myth" of horrific perfection way back when & why the origin story of mavericks is so appealing even now.

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