Crowds flood Mavericks surf contest

January 13, 2008 1:42:38 PM PST
Children, dogs and thousands of surf enthusiasts crammed together on a tiny beach just north of Half Moon Bay today to watch 24 big-wave surfers tackle the legendary Mavericks break.

The crowds were twice as big as the ones that came out to view the 2006 competition, contest spokeswoman Jennifer Mangiacapre said. There was no contest last year due to poor weather conditions and a lack of sizable swells.

After a grueling day of sun, swells and wipeouts, 23-year-old Greg Long has emerged as the 2008 Mavericks Surf Contest champion today after defeating the immense waves that pounded the coast just north of Half Moon Bay.

At a ceremony this afternoon, Long was named champion of Mavericks, after out-surfing 23 other competitors. The San Clemente native has surfed big waves everywhere from South Africa to Chile, as well as up and down the Pacific coastline, according to the contest Web site. He came in second place in the 2005 Mavericks competition.

Grant "Twiggy" Baker of South Africa, who was the 2006 champion, came in second and Jamie Sterling came in third.

The crowds that crammed onto a tiny beach to watch the surfers were twice as big as the ones that came out to view the 2006 competition, contest spokeswoman Jennifer Mangiacapre said. There was no contest last year due to poor weather conditions and a lack of sizable swells.

As the tide came in around noon, San Mateo County sheriff's deputies escorted contest goers off the beach to safer viewing areas. However, due to erosion on the cliff just above the infamous break, viewers either had to scale a cliff located on the other side of the point to get a view of the famous waves, or watch the Jumbotron screen that organizers set up.

Deputies and contest organizers posted barricades on the cliff side early this morning warning viewers of the danger posed by the loose, wet rocks.

Twenty-four of the world's best big-wave surfers competed today. They come from as far Australia, South Africa and Brazil to catch the monster waves. One alternate surfer participated in the contest, Dave Wassel. He filled in for John Whittle, who did not make it to the contest because of the birth of his first child, according to contest organizers. Wassel came in second in his first heat, but was eliminated during the semi-finals.

Contest announcers said surfers faced difficult conditions today, but local surfboard shaper and competitor Randy Cone said the direction of the swell doesn't matter.

"If you wipe out, you are going to get slammed," Cone said. The Mavericks Surf Contest began in February 1999. Each year the window for the contest runs for three to four months. During that time surfers are on-call for when the "perfect" system passes through. When that happens, competitors are given 48 hours to get to Half Moon Bay for the start of the competition.


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