It was bumpy, windy and well below the 20-foot mark, but Darryl “Flea” Virostko once again proved he’s the Master of Maverick’s — no matter the conditions. The 32-year-old Santa Cruz surfer caught the winning wave of the Maverick’s Surf Contest with about nine minutes remaining in the final — a solid, 15-foot wall that outmuscled the rest of the day’s rides. “Yeah now!” said Flea after the victory. “Party in Santa Cruz tonight!”

After placing his event on a two-year hold, Mav’s pioneer Jeff Clark and the Evolve crew rallied together to put Maverick’s back in the spotlight. And despite the rapidly dropping swell (it had been 30 feet and stormy the day before), it got plenty of attention. Thousands of spectators lined the cliff, news teams hovered around every suspected competitor and helicopters circled the lineup. “The sun was out, we had some waves and we pulled it off,” said Clark. “If anything, the momentum’s now started again for an all-time event in the future.”

And as this year’s competitors learned, even the “small” days at Mav’s pack a serious punch. Shawn “Barney” Barron busted his eardrum after a trip over the falls in his first heat. Russell Smith had his jersey ripped off and endured a two-wave hold-down. Finalist Grant Washburn broke his 10-foot, three-and-a-half-inch-thick gun in two. Even Flea paid dues in his first heat, when he took off way deep, lost his inside edge and got driven all the way to the bottom. “F–k! How deep is it out here?” he asked mid-heat. “I’ve never hit bottom at Mav’s before.”

But from there, the only place he could go was up. After a shaky first round, he won his inconsistent semi, blasting past a handful of visiting big-wave chargers, including Carlos Burle, Brock Little, Garrett McNamara and Greg Long. In the final, he joined a group of familiar faces: San Francisco’s Grant Washburn, {{{Pacifica}}}’s Matt Ambrose, Santa Cruz watermen Pete Mel and Anthony Tashnick and SURFING Magazine’s Evan Slater.

Slater — who hadn’t surfed the break in a couple of years — had the final locked for most of the heat with a solid air-drop. But Flea never gave up the hunt, and with time winding down, the ocean squeezed out one more set for his incredible third-straight victory. As third-place Pete Mel said, “Unbelievable — the little f—ker did it again.”

1.Darryl “Flea” Virostko ${{{5000}}}
2.Evan Slater $3000
3.Peter Mel $2000
4.Anthony Tashnick
5.Matt Ambrose
6.Grant Washburn