Making MavericksThe following piece is an excerpt from the book Making Mavericks, soon to be a major motion picture by the name of Chasing Mavericks.

I had been coaching Jay Moriarity for four years when his whole world changed on a fifty-foot monster of a wave that almost killed him. Instead, it made him famous.

At just sixteen, he was by far the youngest surfer to take on Mavericks, a reef break half a mile off the California coast at Half Moon Bay that at the time was recognized as having some of the largest waves anywhere in the world. Some of the most legit surfers in the game had even conceded that when Mavs was on, it was more powerful than the legendary waves at Waimea on the North Shore of Oahu—and that had been considered the all-time mecca of big wave surfing since the late 1950s. So for a kid Jay’s age to surf Mavericks was unheard of.

To say that Mavericks isn’t for kids is doing it an injustice. It’s hardly for people. I’d been surfing it for seven years when Jay had his life-altering moment. I had seen world-renowned big wave riders paddle out, take one look at the building-sized, dark green wall of ocean rushing at them with such incredible force that the water actually gets sucked backward up the face of the wave, and then just turn around and go home. These were people who’d conquered breaks all over the globe, but they simply wanted nothing to do with Mavs.

Jay, though, he wanted to slay dragons.

As a coach I’d worked with dozens and dozens of young people, training them toward the goal of not merely being the best athletes they could be, but more importantly the best people they could be—respectful, responsible, passionate human beings. But when Jay was just a scrawny twelve-year-old who’d somehow gotten up the nerve to come over to my van at Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz and asked me to teach him about surfing, his enthusiasm for learning what I had to offer totally blew me away. He had a vision of who he wanted to be, the ceaseless determination to make it happen, and you could see it in his bright blue eyes and this killer grin that drew everyone to him.

If not for his passion and eagerness to do the work, I would never have let the kid anywhere near Mavericks. We’d been working together on basic technique and then contest surfing for two and a half years before he even brought it up. After that the real work began, and it was another year and a half before I let him paddle out at Half Moon Bay.

He hadn’t even been surfing Mavs a whole season when the wipeout happened. Video shot by Eric W. Nelson of Powerlines Productions. More from Eric at


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