Mavericks brings big business to coastal towns

February 15, 2010 7:18:59 PM PST
Organizers of the Mavericks Surf Contest plan to meet this week to go over spectator safety. At least 13 people were injured when an extra large wave crashed onto the beach Saturday. Mavericks attracts the biggest names in surfing to the San Mateo County coast, but this year it also presented danger to the fans who got too close.

It was back to the kind of waves typical of the San Mateo County coast Monday -- tame and picturesque. However, a veteran crabber says the posted warnings should never be ignored.

"If you go to an area like this and there's big surf coming in, you've got to be careful plain and simple," said regular crabber Nathan Lachance, who admits he has been caught off guard a couple times. "I've fallen right on my butt."

It was much worse than that for hundreds of spectators at Mavericks on Saturday. A rogue wave crashed over them, breaking arms and legs as they were caught by surprise.

The power of nature drew one couple to the coast Monday.

"For me, I think it's the power that comes from that water," said coastline tourist Lenny Zalesky. "We weren't going to get close to put ourselves in jeopardy, but I've never seen something that big."

Others say their respect for the forces of nature has been renewed.

"Like they say, never turn your back on the ocean, it can be dangerous," said Redwood City resident Terry Clark.

Mavericks was a one-day event, but it is expected to generate $24 million in tourist spending in the next year.

"They want to see it, they want to experience it," said Mavericks event organizer Katherine Clark. "The restaurants are all full, and they continue to be that way for days to come, which is just fantastic."

"We ran out of hamburger buns, napkins? just some of the essentials," said Colleen Granahan of Cafe Capistrano.

It was the biggest day in a year for Cafe Capistrano. Tourists were spending serious money.

"Probably about $400. We're staying at the RV park in our motor home, and then just downtown and the stores, and we're going to dinner tonight at Mezza Luna, bought a bunch of kites," said Redwood City resident Dawn Jackson.

Because of the injuries to spectators, county supervisor Rich Gordon says change might be in store to protect the public.

"Moving people away and putting up more signs are things we will consider in the future," he says.