Jamie Mitchell sends it on Day One. Photo: Seth de Roulet
I know, I know — it seems silly to be reporting on the first swell of the Maverick’s season now, given the forecast of bigger and better surf to come. But opening day(s) can often foreshadow the winter ahead — the people, the trends, etc. — so it’s fun to look around and relay some observations. Plus, I probably won’t be out there when it’s much bigger, so I best opine while I still have an in-lineup perspective.
It was really busy on both Thursday evening and Friday morning. Like, 40-plus people busy. You’ll be hearing more and more about the crowds this season, as increased safety and hype draws countless new people into lineups (and over the ledge) at Mav’s and Jaws and beyond. Sure, drowning is a real concern, but what isn’t talked about as much is having 400 feet of fiberglass focused in such a dense area. Boards swinging, people sprint-paddling out to get over a wave while others paddle in to catch it. It’s sketchy. I saw one guy out there with a helmet and it made total sense. And there are a lot “shared” waves. I burned and was burned on Friday morning. Which doesn’t bother me so much, as I think it’s necessary to support the increased crowds, but there are certain locals you just have to yield to (see Skindog’s Instagram). That said, opening day is historically busy, everyone thirsty after a hot summer, and crowds tend to ease as winter passes and people’s boards, and spirits, break.
Two’s company, four’s chaos. Photo: Seth de Roulet
You’d think Half Moon Bay would produce countless Maverick’s superstars, but not since Jeff Clark and Ion Banner and maybe Tim West Jr. has team HMB really been making moves(I’m sure we’ll hear a few more in the comments section). I think that’s about to change. Fourteen-year-old Luca Padua has had a great start to his second season at Mav’s, knifing late drops in the bowl on his backhand. Him and his buddies, like Hunter Murrison and Thomas Lungard, both in their late teens, are dedicated and hungry and talented. Not to mention good kids. It was hilarious to hear Luca talking about needing to go in on Friday morning because he told his parents he was going to make it to fourth period. Turns out, he didn’t make it until fifth-period biology. Then he finished the school day and paddled back out.)
Maybe it’s because the waves were smallish (12 feet, occasional 15-footer), or maybe the crowd was forcing it, but a lot of guys were hunting the lefts. Damien Hobgood, Manny Resano and a few other goofies were among them. But what got me most fired up was seeing Ryan Augenstein take off on the bowl, pig dog down the face and dig his hip into the wave in an attempt to slow down and get barreled. It’s only a matter of time.
Ryan Augustine, pushing the boundaries. Photo: Seth de Roulet
The Titans of Mavericks contest has introduced a women’s heat into the event and, like any decision surrounding any contest ever at Maverick’s, it’s come with some drama. Mostly because Bianca Valenti, a Mav’s regular and the most vocal advocate for women’s inclusion in the contest, was left off the list. Now, I understand that no matter what, you can’t please everyone. And depending on how the Titan’s committee decided to frame their choices, they can make a case for any of the six girls they chose ahead of Bianca (based on years surfing Mav’s, or adding international diversity to the mix, for example). But with an event that has a history of playing politics (see: Grant “Twiggy” Baker and Peter Mel), it wouldn’t be surprising if Bianca’s assertiveness got her punished this year. Regardless, Bianca was out there Friday morning, smiling and getting bombs. She’s just getting better and better and, when she does make it into the contest, she’ll be a favorite. (Side note: Savannah Shaughnessy, likely the best girl to ever surf Maverick’s, is still sidelined with a severe knee injury…in case you were wondering why she wasn’t on the list, either.)
In my mind, the best thing about Maverick’s, and big-wave surfing in general, is the community. Every season opener is like the first day of school after summer break. You get to see friends you only see seasonally. There are a lot of high-fives and one-armed hugs with one eye on the horizon. Everyone’s catching up. Who got new jobs, new wives, new babies, new boards. Predictions are made for the day, the swell, the winter. It’s surprisingly congenial. Until a set comes. Then there’s drama. And with the North Pacific off to a strong early start, this could be a year of great theatrics.
Every familial rendezvous has its ups and downs. Pete Mel catches the sour end of this dispute. Photo: Seth de Roulet