Leaders meet to review safety at Mavericks

February 22, 2010 7:07:39 PM PST
The doors are closed, the public is not invited and the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services is listening Monday to what it calls an "after action report and improvement plan" following a rogue wave beach debacle at the Maverick's Surf Contest on Feb. 13.

The water knocked down a scoring platform and injured about a dozen people. One man broke his leg; a woman broke her ankle. Around 20,000 people tried to find vantage points on the bluffs and on the beach.

"The waves were perfect for the contest, but the people running the contest underestimated what the ocean can do," said contest founder Jeff Clark, who the sheriff did not invite to the meeting because he and organizers have parted ways and have a legal dispute.

Outside, Clark told ABC7 what he would have said to the meeting inside saying, "That beach was too crowded for the conditions."

However, virtually anyone else involved with the contest and its safety did go inside the meeting. The sheriff's office has invited the contest director along with representatives from the fire department, the Coast Guard, the United States Air Force, the San Mateo County Parks, the California State Parks, the California Highway Patrol, the California Department of Fish and Game and others.

"We routinely have these meetings after large events to see what we did right and what we might do better," said one of the sheriff's officials going into the meeting.

The contest is held by a private organization. It receives permits from the county. Katherine Clark, who helped run the event this year, says that all of this has been blown out of proportion. All the good publicity was washed away by a rogue wave.

"It was an extraordinary event and it has been overshadowed by an event on the beach that was handled effectively and immediately, so my heart hurts, it does," she said.