MAVERICKS (KPIX 5) — While the official Mavericks big wave contest was postponed, the lure of a memorable ride at the legendary surf break with sets of 30-foot waves thundering toward the beach attracted dozens of surfers Monday.
The National Weather Service issued a high surf advisory for the Northern California coast until 9 p.m., predicting the biggest waves in nearly 2 years. While forecasters warned of the possibility of 50-foot waves, the storm front was churning up a steady diet of 25-to-30-foot breakers.
The surf was powerful. The waves pounded the coast, breaking windows at Pacifica’s Moonraker restaurant nestled on Rockaway Beach and eroding the cliffs under coastside homes and buildings.
The threat of massive waves forced the World Surfing League to postpone the official contest until at least early January. Big Wave Tour Commissioner Mike Parsons said there was still a three-month window to hold the contest.
“We will not be running the Mavericks Challenge this week and will wait for more optimum conditions. The wind is good and conditions will be clean, but the swell will be dropping through the day on Thursday and we won’t have the consistency we need to run an excellent event. With three months left in the waiting period, we are confident that we’ll have better opportunities to run this event this season. January is typically the best month for Mavericks so we’ll be watching things closely and hoping for a great finish to the season.”
But on Monday helicopter cameras captured dozens of surfers and their support teams in the water and challenging the massive 25-30 foot waves.
The Mavericks competition consistently dances on the razor’s edge between what’s daring and what’s downright dangerous. The organizers of the event said early on that the massive walls of water expected to pound the coast Monday were too big to be surfed safely.
“It’s a gladiator pit. It’s massive waves that normal people wouldn’t want any part of. And not only that, you’ve got this group of guys who want to surf it with style and grace. It’s like dancing on water,” said tormsurf.com lead forecaster Mark Sponsler.
The promise and spectacle of big waves drew crowds of the curious to the coast.
“Anything that’s out of the ordinary particularly if it’s dangerous, it attracts people,” said Larry Wyman, a beachgoer.
“We really haven’t had competitions with the really big waves in the last few years. There’s been some nice days, some decent waves. But none of the really large waves—the 40-footers,” said Bill Hogan.
“That’s the thin margin they working where they’re doing this dance between looking graceful and almost dying at the same time,” Sponsler added.