Santa Cruz man wins Mavericks big wave surf competition

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (KGO) -- Northern Californian Nic Lamb won the prestigious big-wave surfing contest known as the Titans of Mavericks Friday. The 28-year-old outlasted 23 competitors and a big wipeout to capture the 10th championship with a $120,000 purse at the legendary Mavericks surf break at Half Moon Bay.

"I'm over the moon," Lamb said after climbing aboard a chase boat following the competition on the water. "Any time this wave breaks, it is life or death, man vs. nature. Mount Everest meets Niagara Falls." Lamb is from nearby Santa Cruz, and surfed Mavericks growing up. He now lives in Venice Beach in Los Angeles.

The waves weren't as big as past competitions, but grew steadily from 15 feet to 30 feet throughout the afternoon. Mavericks is called one of the most hazardous sporting events in the world, and several surfers suffered spectacular wipeouts, including one of the pre-contest favorites Ken "Skindog" Collins.

PHOTOS: Titans of Mavericks big wave surf competition 2016

Travis Payne of Pacifica, California, finished second and Greg Long of Santa Cruz finished third.

Long also won the $10,000 "boldest drop" award for the most spectacular ride of the day. Long won the event in 2009.

James Mitchell won $5,000 for the day's best ride in the "barrel."

RELATED: Women hope to someday be invited to Mavericks surf competition

The 24 contestants were given 48 hours to get here from all around the world. Last year the call was never made to run the contest because the waves never got big enough. This season, though, that hasn't been a problem. The surfers have been contending with waves as high as 35 to 40 feet all day.

The twist is this event no longer allows spectators on the beach or the bluff after 13 people were injured in 2010's tournament by a rogue wave.

"We're really discouraging people [to come to the shore] because we don't want to talk to families about what happened to their loved ones," Deputy Harbormaster Cary Smith said.

Santa Cruz surfer Ken Collins, nicknamed "Skindog," talked before the event.

"You're still like tense. It's going to be gnarly out there. There's going to be some big waves. So your body knows it," said Collins.

Unfortunately Collins felt the pain early. Announcers from the Red Bull broadcast say he blew out his eardrum in a wipe out in round one and nearly drowned.

RAW VIDEO: Sky7 HD over Titans of Mavericks 2016

Competing in the Titans of Mavericks is worn like a badge of honor, especially since it's not a guarantee the contest happens every year.

The contest was cancelled in 2015 due to a lack of waves.

"It's great to be back, especially since it's an El Nino year. We knew it would have to happen eventually but it was just plagued by this strong south wind over the last month or so and it was good to see that finally let up and give us a chance," said Mark Healey, surfer.

Just last month, we got a preview of the real thing. Huge waves were breaking at Mavericks on Jan. 7, and world-renowned big wave surfer Garrett McNamara wiped out, breaking his arm.

The big wave surf competition is not always easy to see, not with the beach and roads to it closed. As predicted, the event turned a quiet community into a small city. Restaurants and bars were packed.

"It's great for the town," said one fan.

Any business with a television became a surf championship venue. Albert Dunne, who was at Ketch Joanne's Restaurant and Harbor Bar, said the last time he saw the place that packed was last time there was a Maverick's competition.

Click here for details on the competition.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.