Opening ceremonies held for Maverick's surf contest


The competition, newly named the Jay at Maverick's Big Wave Invitational, will take place sometime between Wednesday and Feb. 28 at the famed surfing spot located about a half-mile from Pillar Point Harbor. The area is known for its 20- to 40-foot waves during the winter season.

Katherine Kelly Clark, a co-founder of the surf contest, is part of a new organization, Half Moon Bay Surf Group, which is running this year's event.

Clark said Monday's opening ceremony, which included a prayer circle and paddle out into the water, was "just beautiful."

The ceremonies ended with a dinner at a restaurant in Oceano, a nearby hotel.

"It was a magical day," Clark said.

Returning champion Chris Bertish was among 22 of the 24 surfers invited to the contest who showed up for the opening ceremonies, she said.

The event only occurs when there are ideal conditions for big waves, usually caused by storm swells. It was held in February but was not held in 2009 because the ideal conditions didn't materialize.

Clark said that although the window for the contest opens Wednesday, it will not be held in the immediate future.

"There's nothing going on," she said. "We track the storms from way out there, and there's nothing on the horizon."

In October, the San Mateo County Harbor District awarded the permit for the event to the Half Moon Bay Surf Group, rather than Mavericks Surf Ventures, which has held the event the previous several years.

The most recent version of the contest, held on Feb. 13, was marred by rogue waves that crashed onto a nearby beach where crowds had gathered to watch the surfers. At least 13 people were injured, including three who had to be taken to a hospital.

At the harbor district's Board of Commissioners meeting on Oct. 20, when the new group was awarded the permit, Clark told the commissioners that the beach will be closed to the public for this year's event, which will also have more security than last year.

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