A wave of anticipation for contest 

While big-wave riders gear up to face the infamous swells of the Mavericks Surf Contest, county officials are hoping to ease the potential bummer of gridlock, habitat destruction and spectator injuries at Princeton-by-the-Sea.

Mavericks organizers announced Monday that the official contest window will open several weeks earlier than previous years due to a storm season holding excellent early potential for producing 30- to 40-foot waves. Some time during the window — Dec. 7 through March 31 — contestants and spectators will be notified that the perfect conditions have arrived and will have 24 hours to report to the beach.

Although conditions never surfaced last year and the contest was called off, things are looking decidedly better this year.

"It’s hard to predict the future, but it bodes well that there have already been a couple of good swells out there," said Keir Beadling, CEO of Mavericks Surf Ventures Inc.

With 40,000 people expected to descend upon the coast, contest organizers, county leaders and public-safety officials are trying to minimize the impacts on traffic and delicate habitat.

Rich Gordon, who represents the area on the county’s Board of Supervisors, said he doesn’t want to see a repeat of two years ago, when a spectator was seriously injured after a fall from the bluffs.

"We would prefer to keep people off the bluffs. It’s sensitive habitat and, candidly, since this event occurs a mile offshore, there’s not much you can see from the shorelines. Your better bet would be to watch this on one of the TV screens we set up," he said.

Organizers have set up a live webcast event at San Francisco’s AT&T Park, and fans can also view the event live on the contest’s Web site.

Those dri ving to the event will be directed to park at the Half Moon Bay Airport, where they will be shuttled to the event.

Also this year, much of Princeton-by-the-Sea will be closed to nonlocal traffic the day of the event, Gordon said.

Charise Hale McHugh, president and CEO of the Half Moon Bay-Coastside Chamber and Visitors’ Bureau, estimated the event will bring more than $1 million to the area.

Gordon said the event is a mixed blessing for people living on the coast.

"I think folks appreciate that it puts their community on the map, but I think they appreciate that it puts it on the map for only one day," he said.

HOW TO WATCH THE SURFING

» At contest Web site www.maverickssurf.com; Sign up for "it's On!" SMS campaign (cell phone text alert when contest's green light is given)

» Through live webcast on www.maverickssurf.com

» At viewing event at San Francisco's AT&T Park (tickets available on contest Web site)

» On the beach at Princeton-by-the-Sea (bluffs area restricted to visitors)

tbarak@examiner.com  

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