The Big Wave World Tour rolled into Half Moon Bay, California on January 10th. This event is California’s most prestigious surf contest, known as “The Mavericks Invitational.” This particular location is unlike any other surfing destination because of the size and ferocity of the waves. The event will proceed only if Mother Nature cooperates and brings in the swells to generate the waves. On Wednesday, the 8th, the decision was made and by Friday, twenty four surfers were ready to go.
Just looking out at the twenty to forty foot waves that were rolling in made me nervous. Imagine, making the decision to stand up on your board at the crest and point your board down the face. These surfers will hit speeds of twenty five to thirty five miles per hour. To make the wave even more menacing is the chop and bounce you can endure caused by the deep trenches and fingers within the reef.
Right behind you is a wall of water and foam that is violent and fearsome. Eventually, also all of the surfers will take a pounding and pummeling by the waves which is an inevitable part of this contest. As one surfer mentioned, “This is not about the money and winning, this is about surviving. There is no amount of money that will make you run into the highway and get hit by a truck.”
Why they do it or how do they psyche themselves into doing it, is different for all of them. In my humble opinion, I believe it is about challenging yourself both physically and mentally. These surfers are tremendous athletes with great agility, strength and incredible stamina. You have to have the utmost confidence in your ability and your equipment to even consider riding these monster waves.
The competition itself is comprised of twenty four of the best big wave surfers in the world. The group is placed into four sets of six surfers who compete in forty five minute heats. The best three of each heat move on the semifinals, then the final six compete in the finals. This makes for a long day of competition that starts in early morning and ends in the afternoon. After seven hours, a winner is announced and the legend of Mavericks carries on.
This year, Grant ‘Twiggy” Baker from South Africa was declared the winner by catching and riding enough big waves to earn the purse. The competition was grand and a site to behold to see these guys as a brotherhood Furthermore, they do something that no other sport on earth can claim. Riding big waves is unpredictable since no waves are alike and you put your life on the line every time you ride down the face. Just surviving at Mavericks is a victory for all.
Images courtesy of: Shalom Jacobwitz, Ezra Shaw Getty Images and Risberg AP