The Mavericks surf contest has had a few major wipeouts in the last few years, but it looks like the contest is back on its board and trying for another set of waves.
Tonight the San Mateo County Harbor District is expected to approve a permit application by a newly formed organization, Mavericks Invitational Inc., to organize and operate this year’s big-wave surf contest near Half Moon Bay. The new group is a combined effort of two separate parties that had earlier planned to submit competing applications.
Just who operates the big wave contest has been a matter of considerable contention in recent years. The contest has been held at the massive break dubbed Mavericks off of Pillar Point every year that major waves allow since 1999. For the first several years of its existence, the event was led by Jeff Clark, the man credited with popularizing the wave.
But in 2009, a former business partner of Clarks created a competing organization that wrested control of the event permit. However, that year’s contest, held in February 2010, received some unwanted attention when a rogue wave slammed a beach where the public had gathered to watch the event, injuring more than a dozen spectators. The next year, the event again changed hands. However, the contest never occurred, because the ocean never cooperated with providing appropriately large or sustained waves.
The new permitting group includes Clark, his wife, and several other surfing community leaders who are hoping to finally make peace among those who have fought over the right to organize the race.
The vision this year is somewhat different than prior years as well: the public will be required to stay away from the bluffs and beach where there have been safety concerns before. Instead, they will be encouraged to gather at a “Surf Festival,” to be held in a large lot behind the Oceana Hotel, where large screens will show the in-water action, alongside vendors.
Harbor District General Manager Peter Grenell said that most of the staff’s questions about the plan had been answered, and unless more questions arose in the meeting, he anticipated the permit would be approved by the district commission.