Maverick’s (or Mavericks if you prefer) isn’t just one of the most consequential big wave spots in North America. The wave in Half Moon Bay has launched careers, taken lives, and through it all has cultivated an almost mythic quality capturing the imagination of surfers and non-surfers alike for generations.
The place also, for whatever reason, is no stranger to controversy. Efforts to run a contest at Mav’s have famously changed hands a number of times over the years. And in 2018, it became the backdrop of efforts to level the playing field between male and female big wave surfers, which ultimately led to the World Surf League’s institution of equal prize money for men and women across its numerous tours.
As it happens, there is in fact more controversy – albeit somewhat less substantial – surrounding Maverick’s that’s dominated far too much time in editorial discussions in The Inertia office and been a major sticking point in a number of emails we’ve received over the years: is it Maverick’s (apostrophe) or Mavericks (no apostrophe)?
When the issue first reared its ugly head during The Inertia‘s infancy, a decision was made: apostrophe. You see, according to Matt Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing, the origins of the spot itself can be traced back to the earliest days the wave was surfed. In a 2015 story paraphrasing Mav’s origin story, our own Alex Haro wrote:
“Maverick’s is named after a german shepherd. In the winter of 1961, three surfers from Santa Cruz rode a few of the waves inside the rocks at Pillar Point. Alex Matienzo, Jim Thompson, and Dick Notmeyer watched the massive waves breaking farther out to sea for years. Often, the german shepherd would attempt to follow them into the water, prompting them to name the wave after it.”
So being that the wave was named after a german shepherd named Maverick, our editors decided that the possessive only made sense. Not to mention, there was only one dog, not multiple, so Mavericks written without an apostrophe seemed like an odd choice. It’s been in our style guide as such ever since. And it’s worth noting that Maverick’s appears as such in a number of other publications and books.
Case closed, right? Not even close.
You may recall that long before the World Surf League bought the permit to hold its surf contest at Half Moon Bay (which never ran, bee-tee-dubs), Maverick’s pioneer Jeff Clark was among those involved in efforts to hold an event first called the Mavericks Invitational, later called the Titans of Mavericks contest. The WSL followed in that naming tradition calling its event the Mavericks Challenge, which has over the years made things complicated. In the past, when we’ve written the spot name we’ve stuck to the apostrophe, but when writing the contest name we’ve been forced to write it as the contest organizers have decided to stylize it, much to some of our editors’ chagrin.
Clark may not have been the first person to surf Maverick’s, but overwhelmingly he’s the man who put it on the map. And Clark insists that Maverick’s be written without an apostrophe. Having surfed the place since the mid-70s, it would seem that Clark should rightfully have the final say on the matter.
To further add to the confusion, in some cases the same writers have oscillated between apostrophe and no-apostrophe throughout their work, including Warshaw. In his EOS entry, Mavericks is plural, but for his book, Maverick’s: The Story of Big Wave Surfing, he uses an apostrophe. In a recent email, Warshaw conceded that both ways are effectively right.
“I remember a few months ago doing a search both ways, and it came out pretty even, apostrophe vs. non-apostrophe,” he wrote. “Flip a coin? I’m inclined to say that either way at this point is acceptable.”
Because we live in a democracy, we thought we’d put the matter to a vote. So, weigh in below: Mavericks or Maverick’s? The future of the sport may, or may not, depend on your participation.