HALF MOON BAY, Calif.--The final round of the Maverick Surf Contest brought together six of the world’s best surfers, who battled the 40-foot waves for more than $30,000 purse, but in the beginning of the final round the finalists said it was for the love of surfing and promised to split the purse no matter who won, said 2008 champion Greg Long from San Clemente, California.
The final six charged hard, trading off monster waves caused by a receding tide. Long said he was waiting for only the biggest waves and at one point thought he should follow the veterans and take what he could but his patience paid off with a perfect score for his sick assed drop on a monster set.
Defending champion Grant “Twiggy” Baker landed in second place after heading straight off the top of a 30-foot wave and fighting through white water to surf a significant wall of water stretching in front of him. Baker will take home $12,000 in prize money and the Cliff Bar Green Room award for catching the best tube. Jamie Sterling, Tyler Smith, Grant Washburn, and Evan Slater rounded out the top finalists.
“Mavericks is kind of the king of the big waves pageant,” Baker said and it’s always a thrill to get back out two of his favorite surfing spots – Ocean Beach and Mavericks.
“These guys have been heroes and idols of mine forever,” Long said, “and I’m humbled and awed just to be in the water with them.” Long, Washburn, Sterling and Baker have been in contests together for years, including ones in Hawaii and South Africa.
Four of the six finalists are Californians but Grant Washburn, a San Francisco resident for more than 20 years said “it’s great to have the best surfers. The best from Africa, the best from Hawaii, from everywhere. It makes everybody play better.”
The whole show was judged from the water, due to the wave breaking so far off shore, but the distance didn't stop the circus coming to town, as usual the cliffs were lined with lenses and spectators alike risking injury and possibly death to catch one of the greatest shows on earth.
“It’s hard to see anything but I’m loving the atmosphere,” Dellens said. The San Diego native said she enjoyed the sights and people of her first surfing competition while Lentz, from Santa Cruz, said “It’s really comfortable, it’s like being home.”
Four 45-minute long heats with a max of 10 waves per surfer, keeping the score for the best three and doubling the points from their best ride. The top three contestants in each heat move on to one of the two semifinal rounds. Again, the top three of the six surfers in each heat move on to an hour-long final round.
The waves were crankin' in the early morning Half Moon Bay fog, some sick wipe-outs were on display, Ryan Seelbach, dominated the third heat but didn’t make is past semifinals, these madmen traded off waves worthy of the only big wave contest on the mainland.
Matt Ambrose, 46, who has been surfing Rockaway Beach in Pacifica most of life said “Everyone has pretty much a good vibe out there,” he said “even when it was a little bit dog-eat-dog in the last round (semifinals).”
The high tide ushers in few waves, bringing the competition level up a notch, “It was more dog-eat-dog in the last round,” said Ambrose. As the waves got scarce, surfers started taking off on lefts and rights, creating one hell of a sick show.
Shane Desmond charged way deep and took a long wall, cutting back and riding out along with Tyler Smith, who dropped in on a sick wall and stuck it.
Hawaiian native, Sterling, caught three great waves in the first half of the final round including one of the biggest waves of the day with another hair-raising drop. While all the surfers ride huge boards Sterling is known for his massive Rhino Chaser and his ability to maintain control of the big gun.
The circus was in the water too, the line up and channel packed with boats and jetskies working as caddies and rescue craft in the huge surf.
Evan Slater got slammed on his first ride of each heat only to nail a sick one right after it, he caught a wicked ride in the last 12 minutes of the final, charge hard Evan!
No one caught shit until almost 20 minutes into the hour-long final heat, tempting judges to restart the clock, Smith said. “I thought it was going to go flat, but a set came in and the contest really got started.”
Even though Long, 24, was the youngest surfer in the water he knew he needed a game plan. “I wanted to take it to the next level,” Long said “take some chances. It was the final and I was going to give it 110 percent.” Long started surfing when he was 10-years-old off the coast of his home town, then fell in love with the big waves at Todos Santos, a small island off the coast of Ensenada, Mexico.
Mavericks, which invites only the best 24 surfers in the world keeps the contest on hold from December through the end of March like many other contests around the world. In 2007 the contest was never called because challenging waves never made an appearance.
“Sharing it with my five of my best friends was great,” Long said “I’ve already won in my mind.”
Founder and Contest Director Jeff Clark gave out awards and greeted competitors after the final round. Clark started the Mavericks Surf Contest, originally called Men Who Ride Mountains, in 1999 with Quicksilver sponsoring the event.
This year Mavericks featured a “climate neutral” event with the help of co-sponsor Clif Bar & Co. to help focus on saving the delicate marine ecosystem at Mavericks Surf Break, according to event organizers. For the second year fans could watch the event live at AT&T Park in San Francisco or online at myspace.com while those who made the trek out the see the event live were kept in check by volunteers from Save The Wave Foundation and other green groups.