Maverick’s Surf Competition Makes Waves

Lauren Dahlberg-Seeth

Top surfers from across the globe will flock to the icy waters of Half Moon Bay on just hours notice to compete at the annual Maverick’s surf competition under the new name, “The Jay at Maverick’s Big Wave Invitational,” which honors the memory of Maverick surfer Jay Moriarity.

This one-day event will be held on a date to be determined between Dec. 1 and Feb. 28, 2011, and depending on the surfing conditions, contestants and fans could be given as little as 24 hours notification to congregate at Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay for the competition to begin.

“Surfing the Maverick’s is very different from surfing anywhere else,” said Will Lavis, a Miramonte senior and surfer. “The waves are extremely fast and dangerous. It’s very challenging but also rewarding.”

Competing at this invitation-only event are 24 of the world’s most experienced big wave surfers, including ten-time world champion Kelly Slater, widely acclaimed Shane Dorian, and one of surfing’s “living legends,” Mark Healey.

Competitors are divided into four heats. During each heat, surfers are judged on every wave they ride and given a score from 0.5 to 10.  At the end of their session, each surfer is ranked based on the combination of their three best waves, and the top three from each heat move on to the next round.

“Surf competitions are judged by how a surfer rides a wave and how big the wave is,” said Lavis. “It’s really different from any other sport because the conditions are so variable.”

Due to the 15 spectator injuries that were caused by a rogue wave during last year’s competition, there will be no beach access at The Jay at Maverick’s Big Wave Invitational this year. Event organizers have announced several official viewing spots that will be available for spectators, including the Fox Theatre in Redwood City, the Oceano Hotel and Spa in Half Moon Bay, and the Wipeout Bar and Grill located on Pier 39. For viewers who are unable to see the contest in person, there will also be a live HD webcast streaming on the event’s website.

Mark Sponsler, a local surfer and the official Maverick’s conditions forecaster for The Jay, remains on the lookout for good surfing conditions at Pillar Point. For the competition to take place, conditions must include a swell of 10 feet or more, wave crests about 18 seconds apart, a low tide, and clear skies.

The Half Moon Bay Surf Group Inc. officially renamed the annual Maverick’s competition this year to honor Moriarity who, at age 22, died in a diving accident during a visit to the Maldives Islands in 2001.

The live HD stream of The Jay at Maverick’s Big Wave Invitational will be available on the day of the competition at