Greg Long Wins The 2008 Mavericks Surf Contest

Greg Long might want to think twice next time before making a pact as the final starts. Because for the second time in his career when he agreed to split the prizemoney beforehand, he won big. "It's never about the money," said Long, who did the same thing at Dungeons a few years ago before winning the Red Bull big-wave event. "it's about the camaraderie and sharing a beautiful day at Maverick's together."

For a few days leading up to yesterday's mega affair at the legendary wave off Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay, no one was sure if it would happen at all. Although the waiting period started in early December and the forecast looked promising, invited surfers learned that city officials "highly discouraged" holding the event on a weekend. As of Wednesday, there was no word from contest organizers, prompting most invitees to make other plans. A handful drove north to Oregon for the Nelscott Reef tow-in event. Greg Long and second-place finisher Grant "Twiggy" Baker locked and loaded for their West Coast secret spot. But thanks to contest director Jeff Clark's persistence and heavy support from "voice of the surfers" Grant Washburn, they pushed the issue. By Thursday, surfers were U-turning in {{{Lincoln}}} City and booking their flights to SFO from Hawaii. After two long years of waiting, the Maverick's event had the official green light.

On early Saturday morning, as the first throngs of approximately 10,000 people lined the cliffs at Mav's, a couple things were clear: 1) it was going to be another event with picture-perfect conditions and 2) the swell peaked overnight, making for long lulls and some wave-starved heats. But unlike the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau, which requires a minimum of solid 20-foot surf to run, the Mav's event charges forward regardless once the wheels are in motion.

And charge they did. The first round – despite the 10 to 15 minute waits – was filled with early heroics. Half Moon Bay local Ryan Seelbach had the heat of a lifetime in Heat Three, picking off at least a half-dozen bombs and manhandling them all the way to the channel. Jamie {{{Sterling}}} pulled the drop of the morning – a beyond vertical backside grabrail and rode out unscathed. Flea – who showed up late for his heat – did a layback down the face of a massive left and pulled it. And Grant "Twiggy" Baker, the South African madman and 2006 Maverick's champion, stayed on his winning streak as he won hands-down the toughest heat of the day: Peter Mel, Flea, Anthony Tashnick, Tyler Smith and Zach Wormhoudt. "Just won the hardest heat of my life!" he said on photographer Rob Brown's boat. "I can't believe an East Coaster just took out the entire Westside."

As the tide peaked, the waves stopped and the semis got even more wave-challenged. Local charger Matt Ambrose didn't even catch a wave in his semi and Seelbach, after sticking one of the heaviest drops of the contest, came up one wave short. But they charged on, and the finalists — who could have delayed it at least an hour for the tide to drop – decided to get it done with.

Greg Long, Jamie Sterling, Grant Washburn, former runner-up Tyler Smith, Grant "Twiggy" Baker and your correspondent, Evan Slater. We paddled out to sheet glass conditions, an armada of boats and skis waiting eagerly in the channel…and absolutely no waves. Fifteen minutes into the final, with still no sign of life from the ocean, Twiggy made a suggestion. "Let's split the money."

It was the same suggestion he made in 2006, when he was ignored and then went on to win the big prize himself. This time, people listened. "I'm in," said Long. "In," said Washburn…until it was unanimously agreed. We gathered in a circle, had a group hug, and left it at that. "Now it's just for the glory!" yelled Twig.

Last year’s winner ‘Twiggy’ Baker

And sure enough, about five minutes after the agreement, the glory started happening. Twig grabbed a bomb from way deep and hooted his way through. Long slipped under the hook on the second-biggest wave of the day and scaled the face to the bottom. 10 minutes later, Sterls manned up out near "Garrett's Peak" air-dropped clear to the bottom and pulled it. "I was scared for you, then I was happy for you," said Smith to Sterls back in the lineup. A few more crazy sets with textbook big-wave surfing, six good friends high-fiving each other and the 2008 Maverick's Surf Contest ended with a bang.

On stage, when Clark announced Greg as the winner and the 1000 or so on hand went nuts, he let the world in on our secret. "This was such an amazing day and it's always been a dream of mine to be up here right now, making this speech. But there's a lot more to it than that, and all the surfers share a special bond out there. It's not about the money, it's about surfing our favorite big wave with a few good friends and pushing it as hard as we can. Because of that, we all decided ahead of time that we're going to split the prizemoney equally."

With that, the crowd went wild. And one of the best big-wave riders in modern times, a guy who towed into the biggest waves ever ridden at Cortes Bank last week, who exemplifies everything that is good and hardcore about surfing and who somehow remains unsponsored (Wake up, people!!), thanked the crowd, thanked Jeff Clark, did an hour's worth of interviews and high-tailed it to the airport with Jamie Sterling.

"Wish I can celebrate with all you guys tonight," he said, "But the Eddie could be on tomorrow. We'll be there in spirit. We'll always be there in spirit."

SURFING’s own Evan Slater. Evan’s far to modest to say it, but he was ripping throughout the entire event, despite a long layoff leading up to the event due to an injured back

2008 Maverick's Surf Contest Results
1. Greg Long $9500 plus a ${{{4000}}} Reactor watch
2. Grant "Twiggy" Baker $9500
3. Jamie Sterling $9500
4. Tyler Smith $9500
5. Grant Washburn $9500
6. Evan Slater $9500

Clif Bar Green Room Award
Grant "Twiggy" Baker

Jay Moriarity Award
Jamie Sterling