Despite a large crowd, long lines, and a shoddy stream on the Jumbotron, Mavericks surf compeition could be considered a success. Rumors of postponement dotted the early morning heats after it was mentioned that some surfers were angry that the contest was still on, given the mediocrity of early sets. As the day grew longer, the waves grew bigger and the contest squeaked by as legitimate, even with Kelly Slater and Shane Dorian, widely considered the best big wave surfer in the world, pulling out at the last minute due to a technicality and an injury, respectively.
Though we couldn't hear the play-by-play of the contest, their footage was clear enough that we could see some nice rides being had on the not-so-monstrous waves. Don't get me wrong -- 25 foot waves sound terrifying to the average human. But the legend of Mavericks calls for four or five stories of deadly whitewater being tamed by a group of daring men in wetsuits. Last time the contest was held, in 2010, competitors faced curling ocean walls over 50 feet high.
There were some frustrated viewers, grumpy contestants, and lackluster event planning, but the contest did manage to end on a good note. The winner (Santa Cruz native) Peter Mel and his fellow finalists decided to split the $50,000 prize between them before the last heat, regardless of the victor. And the last few incredible runs on the biggest waves of the day assured me that there is a lot more to Mavericks than sponsors and festival grounds and $10 tickets.
For me, the end of the day begged the question -- where does the legal battle between Mavericks godfather Jeff Clark and his former business partner Kier Beadling stand now? What would the fan experience have been like if extreme sports marketer Beadling was still running the show? Despite the raging battle over Mavericks, which we detailed in our January issue, the contest in Half Moon Bay and the spirit of surfing that goes with it, will never change.