Mavericks is no stranger to controversy. Ever since SURFER unveiled Jeff Clark's big-wave playground to the world in June of 1992, a whirlwind of legal disputes and professional quarrels have orbited Half Moon Bay's iconic wave, and this time, the debate surrounds exactly who will be responsible for organizing its annual contest.
Although Mavericks Surf Ventures has organized and executed the world-renowned Mavericks Surf Contest for the last seven years, a group of prominent individuals within the Mavericks surf community, including photographers Frank Quirarte and Doug Acton and big-wave surfers Peter Mel and Grant Washburn have rallied to create a new event in its stead, as they believe the Mavericks Surf Contest has strayed from its original purpose by placing commercial interests ahead of the wave and its surrounding community. As an alternative, Quirarte and company have proposed "The Jay," which would honor the memory of Mavericks surfer Jay Moriarity, who died at 22 during a diving accident in the Maldives. The Jay would also donate revenues generated from the event to support local charities.
"The spirit with which Jay lived his life has inspired the surfers and the community to take the event in a new direction," says "The Jay's" mission statement. "By dedicating it to his memory, and sharing the excitement and the prosperity with local youth groups, we will be channeling the Maverick’s energy to one of Jay’s favorite places."
Although the San Mateo County Harbor District will permit just one contest to run at Mavericks this year, Mavericks Surf Ventures' CEO, Keir Beadling remains confident that his organization's version of the Mavericks Surf Contest will continue to serve the local community and the athletes involved.
"We have a ton of respect for all of the competitors—past, present and future," says Beadling. "They are the heart and soul of our annual Mavericks Surf Contest. This year, we are concentrating even more on integrating the passion of the surfers and the community into the event to ensure that everyone has a great experience. For example, last season we democratized the contest by giving the competitors the full power to determine whether and when to call the contest. We put the control in the hands of the surfers and we expect to continue that innovation each season. We also feel an obligation to help advance the sport of big-wave surfing, and we’re thrilled to once again be part of this season’s Big Wave World Tour."
Opponents of the Mavericks Contest have cited the event's negative environmental impact as a catalyst for change and hope to discourage the high volume of spectators (13 of whom were injured last year by a rogue wave) who journey to Pillar Point to watch. To minimize waste, they propose emphasizing viewership via webcast instead of actual foot traffic.
Beadling, however, defends MSV's environmental awareness and importance to the local economy. "Ours was the first-ever carbon neutral surf contest several years back," says Beadling. "In 2008, tens of thousands of spectators generated only 20 bags of landfill waste. The Half Moon Bay Chamber of Commerce regularly points to our Contest as the single day event with the greatest positive economic impact on Half Moon Bay coastal businesses. We’re proud of that. We’re trying to do our part, and to encourage folks who care about Mavericks to do theirs too. We regularly organize beach cleanups, educate our fans about personal environmental responsibility, and take our role as a protector of the local Mavericks environs very seriously. "
When asked about The Jay's progress, Frank Quirarte was brief. "We’re trying to focus on the permit process right now and not get into any more of the press roulette," wrote Quirarte via email. "Once that happens we will be more than ready to discuss all the details of the event."
Although the exact packaging and accoutrements of Mavericks' annual big-wave contest have been left to the discretion of San Mateo County Harbor District, one thing is certain: when the swell of the year pulses across Half Moon Bay this winter the world's best big-wave surfers will be there – no matter the banner on the bluff.