As the official waiting period for this years Mavericks surf contest begins, we ask ourselves whether the wave has just got too big. We are not talking about its physical size (though many would say it is!), but rather the commercial pressures that have been put on making a once-a-year wave a year round money spinner.
Since it was first surfed by Jeff Clark some 35 years ago, the wave half a mile off the coast of San Francisco has become the stuff of legend. It wasnt until 1999 however that the first annual contest was held. Ten years on and Mavericks is the richest big wave contest on earth, with $150 000 total prize money. This success comes at a price however. In June this year Jeff left Mavericks Surf Ventures, who run the annual contest, amid reports that the spirit of Mavericks and the big wave surfing community that built up around it were being compromised by marketing and commercial greed. This came to a head last year when apparently perfect 40-foot waves and blue skies arrived but the event did not go ahead due to a lack of sponsors. When sponsors were finally agreed, the surf just wasnt there, proving once and for all that the waves wait for no man.
A year later and the wait is on again, hopefully this time with everything lined up to take advantage of the swell when it arrives, which could be a matter of days away looking at the latest reports. During the waiting period, which lasts from Nov 1st to March 31st, 24 invitees are on standby for the perfect storm, which will send waves 30-40ft high spinning into the bay. When the moment comes the surfers will be there within 24 hours, ready to line up for the dubious but highly watchable pleasure of taking on one of the worlds heaviest waves in incredibly strong currents over a perilously shallow reef.
The original spirit of Mavericks’may have been lost, but you can be sure that Mother Nature doesnt really care about that. We will be sure to let you know when the green light is given.