This year something felt different during the opening ceremonies for the upcoming Mavericks Invitational. Having acted as head judge for the event since 2000, I have experienced a lot of changes at this competition. Almost as difficult as riding the wave itself, getting all the personalities aligned to pull off an undertaking of this magnitude off has always been a challenge.
The change did not come overnight. The committee that formed about two years ago to steward the event has been working overtime and only recently having a glimpse at the rewards. They have a local presenting sponsor, GoPro, which seems to fit the theme of the community running things. From the paddle out, to catching some waves, through dinner at the yacht club, down to the final punk rock band at the OPL bar, it was old friends getting together to share something special, the big wave culture at its rawest form.
There is a feeling of order due in part to the many meetings and hard work, but also a sense of independence permeates the group – with each sector working toward the common goal. Jeff Clark has said from the beginning we need to do this right, and I believe we are making progress in a big way.
The best big wave riders in the world are on the invitee list, and if you look at the heat draw it’s an uphill battle regardless of which heat you are in. Even the alternate list looks intimidating. No one gets invited unless they have stood out at the Bowl, regardless of titles, credentials or accolades attained elsewhere. After one attempt at getting this wave wired, you just may understand the rule. Few have excelled on their first go-out, and they are all now part of the draw. Many more have never returned for a second shot.
The last contest at Maverick’s was held in the largest surf ever witnessed in the history of paddle-in competitive surfing, and while that feat may not be repeated this year, the level will indefinitely be high. Talk is in the air of an El Nino year, but as of yet it has been a slow start to the Northern Pacific season. One swell can change all that. Keep an eye on the charts, practice your wave predicting and better yet, buy a round or two for someone who can give you the inside scoop. For Mavericks that would be Mark Sponsler at Storm Surf.
Otherwise, we’ll be ready and waiting to make the call. Be on the lookout.
View portraits of the 2012 Maverick’s Invitational invitees by photographer Seth Migdail. Check out The Inertia’s first film, Sine Qua Non: The Psychology of Big Wave Surfing with Greg Long.