Maverick’s 2011-12 Contest Preview: Watering the Roots of Maverick’s

Maverick’s 2011-12 Contest Preview: Watering the Roots of Maverick’s

Thank you to Half Moon Bay Review for permission to reprint this article by our man In the Green Room.

Watering the Roots of Maverick’s
In the Green Room with Mike Wallace
Surf season has been in full swing on the coast as the Indian summer trades blows with Old Man winter in a losing battle in which surfers are the opportunistic beneficiaries.  Onshore wind flows begin to clock around from the south in advance of storm fronts, and then switch to the northwest in their wake. Finally they swing to the northeast or, more rarely, due east – in piercing blue offshore perfection that mends tortured lumps of water into shapely waves, the shroud of summer fog lifts and reveals the coastside in all her glory.
This familiar seasonal change is met with great anticipation by surfers around these parts, but the vibe seems just a little more electric this year. Hollywood has made itself at home this fall as a battalion of moving vans sets up camp at various locations along the coast for “Of Men and Mavericks,” the movie paying homage to Maverick’s surf legend Jay Moriarity. Producer and star Gerard Butler got a firsthand welcome to the break with a legit 2-wave hold-down and flush through the rocks. The World Surfing Tour also decided to pay a visit, stopping over “Somewhere in San Francisco” en route from Portugal to Hawaii, spending just enough time to crown Ke11y Slater with his 11th championship…twice.
Yet with all the celebrities under foot the past couple months, the real star has yet to show up after skipping town last year – the Maverick’s Invitational 2011/12. While “The Jay at Mavericks” never ran, Jay’s outgoing spirit will still be in ample evidence, as a new local grass roots organization takes shape with the community and surfers as the driving force behind the event. A five-member board has been put in place for the contest composed of a group of surfers, local businessmen and leaders to ensure that the event stays true to its new manifesto. Reappointed as Contest Director, Jeff Clark aims to “get back to a great event showcasing the world’s best big wave surfers.”
Slater is negotiating with his sponsors to again challenge the infamous break. Kelly took second place back in 2000 behind eventual three-time winner Darryl “Flea” Virostko when his sponsor Quiksilver was still lending its name to the event, narrowly pipping Jay Moriarity in an earlier heat that many thought the young Santa Cruz charger had won. The rest of the Invitee list of 24 surfers will likely remain essentially the same one that was decided by peer vote of the athletes themselves last year (see Bruce Jenkins’ revealing profiles). The caliber of international big wave athlete is such that there will be not one easy heat, though there was a fresh heat draw at the opening ceremonies on January 6 a week into the revised January 1- March 31 contest window. Even the alternates list reads like a veritable “Who’s Who” of hell men. Talk is that Flea will be on water patrol this year — replaced by Ben Wilkinson. Josh Loya is first alternate, with Tyler Fox and Colin Dwyer next in line.
Board member Brian Overfelt is the owner of Old Princeton Landing and a community activist, which informs his perspective on the contest’s mandate and structure. A 20-person panel reports to the board, delegated responsibilities ranging from rescue to beach marshals. The aim is to build a stable structure for years to come based on three central pillars: “community, athletes and environment.”  Tight coordination with over 14 government agencies, ranging from the Sheriff to the NOAA, has gone exceptionally well, but may ultimately be assigned to an event planning company in the future.
As Brian puts it, “It is important to water the roots of the local business community, which is always at the front of my mind on any decision the board makes.” In terms of tourism, contest day is one of the biggest of the year for Half Moon Bay and it’s important that the stakeholders in the community benefit from the contest. He foresees a day when local pride in the event runs deep and everyone celebrates it, rather than ducking and running for cover when the show comes to town.  Indeed, all will be welcome to a Maverick’s Festival during the contest, which will take place in the Oceano parking lot to help minimize environmental damage to the sensitive cliffs of the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Details about tickets are available on: http://mavericksinvitational.com/
Access to the bluffs will be severely curtailed after previous incidents of rock slides and spectators being flushed into the harbor during the epic 2009/2010 event won by Chris Bertish.  Land-based judges, photographers and journalists have in the past been granted access to the Air Force radar station at Pillar Point, but the new commander has been tightening security rather than offering access to witness the extraordinary natural events at the base of its cliffs. After recent productive meetings, however, the Air Force may relent on access and even provide “air support” for the event, allowing in some contest apparatus including judging, photography and officiating.
Jeff Clark has always been in sync with Maverick’s and a little Clark luck could well be in order when cherry picking a contest day, requiring full use of the tighter contest window. Mark Sponsler of Stormsurf forecasting doesn’t like the way the weather gods are conspiring this season, which has already slashed viable days for the Invitational.  He accurately anticipated “high pressure taking firm control of the North Pacific amid remnants of what was a moderate-plus inactive La Nina weather pattern that he expects to hold well into the spring of 2012. That is not to say there will be no storms, in fact there could be short periods of intense activity when the ‘Active Phase’ gets an opportunity to come to fruition, but that will be the exception rather than the rule.”
Yet there is a refreshing sense of earnestness, renewal and hope about the new contest organization and Overfelt emphasizes that the board has gravitated toward volunteers with a genuine love for the sport of big wave surfing and the community. Indeed, pending a key long-term sponsorship deal or two, which are expected to be imminent, start-up funding is tight and the new group is leery of making big promises and coming up short. It will take a lot of hard work, coordination and a little luck to pull it off and, as usual, Mother Nature will not be rushed by any official time table.
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Mike Wallace has surfed for over two decades on the East and West Coasts, Hawaii, Europe and NorCal. Currently a resident of Moss Beach with his family of four, Mike has been spearheading an effort by The Surfrider Foundation to reopen Martin’s Beach to the public. He helps coach the HMB High and Cunha Intermediate School Surf Teams, and in his spare time is dedicated to surf journalism and surfboard design under his “Iconoclast” label.

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