CLICK HERE for a photo gallery of the eventI'm still a little punch-drunk and my neck feels like it spun around a few times Exorcist-style, but I am lucid enough to know that Wednesday's Maverick's Surf Contest was a huge success. Five times the prizemoney from 2004 and at least three times the surf, the event reminded everyone why Maverick's remains the heaviest coldwater big-wave spot on the planet. As event director Jeff Clark says, "People were worried about that incoming storm, but I just went on faith. I knew it'd provide for us."

Maverick's provided, and Maverick's punished. With more than 10,000 spectators lining the cliff, two choppers hovering above, a live webcast and a media boat filled with {{{100}}} pea-green journalists, the world got to see some terrifying images from the legendary break, now a teenager since its first media unveiling. But none of these images give you a hint of just how difficult this wave really is. How the difference between a perfect 10 and a two-wave holddown can be a fraction of an inch. How those seemingly makeable drops can betray you at any moment and send you cartwheeling into the rocks. How every single one of the 28 invited surfers — from the winner to the last-place wipeout victims — deserves a big round of applause.

And on that note, we should give special recognition to the following competitors — watermen who added a few more chapters to the Maverick's gripping story:

Anthony Tashnick With Flea on the injured list (his knee is still tweaked from the Eddie), everyone scanned the list for the next in line. They didn't have to look far. Full-blooded Westside, 20-year-old Tashnick is Flea's star pupil. There's nothing "guru" about Tashnick's approach to Mav's. He just paddles out, sits in the bowl, nuts up and goes. Operating on two hours of sleep from a Hawaiian red-eye flight, Tashnick saved his best heat for last, sticking a couple of late 18-footers in the mid-afternoon glare. In that glare, most people couldn’t see why he was doing it with such ease. The secret? “My Stretch bat-tail four-fin,” said Tashnick slyly. “It holds in like a Thruster but gives me such a better turning range. I’m sold on these things.” Later that afternoon at the Half Moon Bay Brewery, Tashnick went through all the Westside motions once they announced he'd won the coveted title and 25 grand: showered in beer, "it's all a dream," "party tonight," etc., but it's deep in the Maverick's pit where he really became a man, and transformed in one short day from apprentice to master. "I'm proud of him," said Flea, looking on. "I mean, if I had to choose someone to win it, it'd be Peter first. But Tazzy's good. He'd be my second choice."

Tyler Smith What happens when you slip in as sixth alternate? You prove you belong. And that's what Ty Smith did in all three of his heats, straight to a third-place finish. Along with fifth-place finisher Shane Desmond (who caught arguably the biggest wave of the day), Smith is proving that going backside at Mav's doesn't have to be a disadvantage.

Mike BrummetTalk about fallen soldiers. Santa Cruz charger Mike Brummet took a 20-foot freefall drop in heat one that had us all cringing in the channel. "I was about to go on that one," remembered Carlos Burle. "And then I thought, 'No way can you make that one.' But Mike flipped around, and then he was gone." Brummet hit so hard and plunged so deep, he spent the rest of the heat coughing up blood.

Ryan Augenstein There's nothing like feeling invincible at age 21. And right now, Santa Cruz surfer Ryan Augenstein is feeling mightier than anyone. He's been putting the most paddle-in hours in at the break among the Santa Cruz favorites, and it shows. As fourth-place finisher Zach Wormhoudt noted: "All of Ryan's hours out here have been paying off. He's totally comfortable, totally in rhythm." He was so in rhythm in his first heat that he airdropped over Ken "Skindog" Collins, disqualifying Skinny with a bizarre interference call. In the semis, Augenstein looked determined to either break Maverick's or break himself, flipping under any beyond-vertical ledge that came his way. As he learned freefall after freefall, Maverick's always wins. "Oh my god, he just got taco'ed!" yelled Jason "Ratboy" Collins from his 15-foot fishing trawler. Augenstein may have went down swinging, but it's only a matter of time when he connects — consistently.

Greg Long How can surfers' luck change? Just look at Greg Long. Two weeks ago, a tiger shark decided to pick him — out of all the people surfing {{{Rocky}}} Point — to sample for a snack. On Wednesday, he found himself right in the slot for two of the best Maverick's waves of the day — both netting perfect 10s. Greg's only had a couple of days in at Mav's, but he approached it like he does any big wave. Cool, calm and calculated. He waits patiently out the back, and only goes on the waves he knows he can catch. I had the pleasure of watching the approach firsthand, and could only kick myself in our first heat as I got suckered into the first set, missed it, and turned around to see Greg on the ledge, flying into the drop of his life. "I was on my tippy-toes the entire time," he said back in the lineup. "Definitely a keeper."

A keeper indeed. Good enough to propel him through to the final and an $8000 second-place check. It's an accomplishment worthy of at least a full night of celebration, but not for Greg. By 7:25 p.m., he was heading on a plane south, preparing to dawn patrol his favorite big-wave spot south of the border. As Greg reasoned, "When you're feeling lucky, you gotta run with it."

[Stay tuned for SURFING's June issue for the full breakdown from Maverick's.]

1st – Anthony Tashnick
2nd – Greg Long
3rd – Tyler Smith
4th – Zach Wormhoudt
5th – Shane Desmond
6th – Matt Ambrose