The Mavericks Invitational is back, but it won't look as it did before. The usual gallery at Pillar Point, where tens of thousands would line the cliffs and scale the bluffs for the best perspective, are now completely off-limits to spectators.
Jeff Clark, Mavericks pioneer and 2012 Contest Director, said it's first and foremost for public safety. Clark and crew met with the local governing agencies—including the parks, sheriff, harbor district, and Coast Guard—to come up with this plan.
The measure is being taken in response to the incident at the contest in February 2010, when a high-tide set wave rushed over the cliff, sweeping more than 50 onlookers off their feet and injuring 13.
Clark said the plan also helps to protect the marshland and bluffs from the foot traffic of thousands. It restricts access to all cliffs and areas near the point, including the closing of coastal roads for everyone but residents.
"That's the biggest change," said Clark. "I think it's a good one, because now all those visitors coming to the coast aren't just wandering around the point trying to figure out what's going on."
Spectators are now limited to watching the live webcast at home, or at a big-screen viewing at the inaugural Mavericks Invitational Festival: a $25-per-person affair at a local hotel just north of Half Moon Bay. The festival aims to centralize the stoke in a way that can replace the cliff-top experience. There will be jumbotrons streaming the event, food, drinks, an awards ceremony, and more—all in the heart of town.
Clark doesn't shy from the fact that it's meant to generate a considerable revenue stream, but for a major contest without a sponsor, he said it's what needs to be done, and the locals are responding positively to the idea.
"Bringing the contest back has been a struggle for me for the last couple years. Our fans are so stoked that it's back, and that it's going to happen," says Clark. "They feel like if they can contribute to help the show go on, they're behind it. Our main goal is to become a self-supporting contest. Wouldn't that be better than trying to track down a main sponsor every year?"
To add to the hype of the contest's return, the wave has become a starlet of sorts in recent weeks while $250,000 camera setups hover from helicopters and whir around on jet skis during the high-budget filming of Of Men and Mavericks, a feature on the life of Santa Cruz legend Jay Moriarty. There is a stacked lineup of chargers acting as stunt doubles for Moriarty, all decked out in his signature O'Neill wetsuit and riding his classic Pearson Arrow gun. A bounty is up for grabs for the stunt double who can successfully replicate Jay's iconic wipeout as a 16-year-old at Mavs in 1994, which later adorned the cover of SURFER.
Simultaneously, they've recently begun to crack down on cameramen and rescuers using personal watercraft (PWC) on the set of the film. Officers are handing out tickets that start at $500 to enforce the PWC ban, but fines can increase up to $100,000 if they are appealed, on some very expensive sense of principle.
The Mavericks Invitational opening ceremony was in early January, and the waiting period is open from now until the end of March. Early season North Pacific storms have turned Mavs on as of late, and show promise for the potential of a solid swell for the event. The field of 24 has been set, and the competitors are standing by for an eventual call from Clark, who will give out a 24-hour notice when the contest is on.
Find more about the contest and the wave at www.MavericksInvitational.com