Possible record-breaking waves expected at Mavericks

24 big wave surfers will compete today in the Mavericks Invitational in Half Moon Bay.
January 24, 2014 7:04:46 AM PST
Twenty-four of the world's best surfers will compete Friday in the Body Glove Mavericks Invitational. And while surfers normally thrive on the big waves, conditions this year are making some surfers nervous.

It was just a little busy around the Mavericks surf shot at Pillar Point Thursday. At the center of it all was big wave surfer Jeff Clark answering the same question again and again

Freedman: "Is any wave too big?
Clark: "Um, is any wave too big? We'll see."

We'll see as soon as Friday, when surfers will attempt to ride and survive waves that will dwarf them.

"It's a moving wall of water so you're so hyper-focused that you're really not even thinking, you're just reacting," said big wave champion Peter Mel.

Around Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz where he practiced Thursday, Mel is more than a household name. He's 2012-13 Mavericks winner; a man who tried to stay calm Thursday, in small waves with his son John.

Freedman: "You worried about him?"
John: "Um, this is my first time that I actually kind of am."

There are 24 surfers who have been invited to participate in this year's contest, including Brazilian surfer Carlos Burle, was reported to have possibly surfed the world's biggest wave off the coast of Portugal last year.

The roster also includes Mel, of Santa Cruz, and 2009-10 winner Chris Bertish, of South Africa, along with a handful of local surfers from Pacifica, Santa Cruz and San Francisco.

There are six alternative surfers on standby for the competition.

Waves the surfers saw Thursday are nothing compared with what they expect Friday. They may be the biggest waves ever, possibly 50-feet-tall.

"I don't think you'll ever hear one of the boys that are invited admit that it's too big," Mel said. "But I'll tell you from my experience out there, a lot of experience, this is going to be a big swell."

And there's going to be a big crowd to watch it, even from a distance.

"I think it will be pretty tough getting into Half Moon Bay tomorrow," Clark said. "You know, leave early and get here and get to your spot."

To watch the contest this year a viewing area will be set up at Ocean Hotel and Spa at 280 Capistrano Road near Pillar Point Harbor, just across from the Mavericks break.

The surfers take to the water about a half-mile offshore.

The festival at the Oceano grounds will provide a live viewing party on a big screen with live music, food and drink concessions and other vendors on hand.

According to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, the bluffs above the break and entrance to the beach are closed to the public for safety reasons.

Viewers cannot go to the Mavericks beach because of high tide and surges. The cliffs above the beach are also considered unsafe for large crowds.

The roads to Pillar Point will be closed during the competition.

Mel says it takes six good rides to win at Mavericks; just six in three heats. An ultimate thrill in playing with our planet.

ABC7 News will be live streaming Mavericks. You'll be able to watch it online starting at 8 a.m.

(Bay City News contributed to this report)


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