13 January, 2008

The Maverick's Surf Contest - I went, I paddled, I watched - front row!

No, I mean it. I really went. I started my day by not sleeping much the night before - I think I landed a total of about 3 hours of sleep. You'd think I was actually hand picked by Clark himself to compete. I arose at 4:10a because I wanted to park near the "trail head" and skip as much crowd action as possible. Plus - I'm a dawn patrol surfer anyway, so it's really the only way to go.

I made my way up I-280 to highway 92 West to head over to Half Moon Bay. That road takes you up the northern end of the Santa Cruz mountains. As I crested the top and began the drop-in to the coast, The Ventures "Hawaii 5-0" came up on my iPod. A better intro the this years Mavericks surf contest, I cannot imagine. It rocked!

I was at the shore in my wet suit with my 8'5" Minard tri-fin before first light. As the light broke, I surveyed the conditions as I have never been out at this break before. I don't surf big surf - at least not *this* big, and it's a foreign break to me. To the extent possible, I wanted to make sure I could actually get out and not be defeated by the inside crap. I finally made a plan for the alleged half-mile paddle to the observation area. It seemed a little crazy - but I figure it's nothing compared to folks that actually surf the place.

As I took to the water in front of the main tower (the tan shape just above the white rectangle in that picture) on the beach from which the play by play is made, I have my target through to the outside. I planned it well as the place I entered had a good rip current that helped me get out. Everything I've read about Mavericks says it is a half mile out. I call bullshit on that my friends. It's a mile if it's a metre... Maybe I picked a bad spot...

I took a fairly good rinse cycle on one set wave that penetrated the rip. It held me down pretty well - more than I would have expected from inside junk or more than I had ever experienced before from something of this size - which on the inside wasn't more than about 6 to 8 feet. I resurfaced and continued the paddle without further interference of note. Slowly the flotilla grew closer.

As I arrived at the group of boats, surfers were taking off on a set. AWWWOOOO!! I had decided at the last mavs contest that paddling out would be fun and a much better way to see this monster go off. How right I was will be clear shortly.
As it turns out, I was able to sit literally in the front row and watch an amazing show. I'm not sure how long I was out in all - I entered the water at 7:00 AM sharp and was walking past the small parking lot near the point at about 10:00 AM.

Here are the pics with only my commentary as I haven't a clue what heat each is from and who is who...
It was amazing to see, right up close, these guys dropping in on big waves. Mind you, these waves were not as big as Mav's can get. don't get me wrong - I have no desire to actually ever try that...

I finally moved up closer and joined the crowd of other observer/surfers. Plus this guy on the boogie. He said he was hoping to catch some before the contest started but that it had actually started a little early. Imagine that - on a boogie board. Dang.

Here is an un-surfed wave. As it passed through this crowd, one of the guys acted like he was going to take off on it. Seeing as how it was a competition, I think he thought better of that - didn't want the organizers (and probably his friends) to get pissed.

I had taken a sling bag along with me in which I carried a couple of disposable water cameras. The other pictures above are from an older one. The rest are from a newer one made by Polaroid.
It seems like I start getting closer here. I did, some, but also - I think this lens is a little better.

It's hard to tell, but on the picture to the left here, the surfer dropping in takes the wave to the left. Most rides at this spot seem to be favored by the rider going right. I don't know why cause the left is smokin...

I'm sure they didn't mean to make this a twin ride. Also, the guy in front is cutting off the other guy - big time blow it in surfing. Not sure how they handle that in contests. In my book, the guy at the peak should get points and the other guy should get bupkis.

Like I said - seems like we're moving into the bowl. Sitting here, the shoulder of the wave is going under us. It's not like we're in position to catch this, but here, you start to get a sense of what the wave actually means. I think it was in the movie, Riding Giants where the narrator says something along the lines of, "It's always amazing when an apparent suicide attempt turns into a great wave. There were a lot of suicide attempts that were like killer waves. I would like to ride one of these really. No - I won't ever really do anything about it...

Here, I wanted to capture the crowd of "front-rowers". Al of these guys are sitting on big wave guns (except the guy on the boogie). All of these guys are locals here. They all know each other. They all know this wave, and they know all of the guys surfing in the contest. Unlike a lot of locals at some breaks, these guys were really nice to me. It was pretty clear I was not one of them. I'm older, heavier, and what the hell is that I paddled out there? Ya - a short long board... oy.

It's hard to imagine that this wave gets bigger. Listening in on the guys I was sitting with, it sounded like it was actually dropping off during the competition. I'm sure these guys were out surfing yesterday. They were talking about going out on Sunday (13.Jan), but I had the definite impression that it just wouldn't be as good. That must have really killed them. It's hard to give up your favorite break - that only goes off every now and then - to a competition of many who are not locals.

I took this picture then looked up - I started paddling. It was fine really - I was never at any sort of risk of getting spanked by this monster, but I'm not one to wait to find out. ;-)

I had been getting cold, so decided that since it's not really practical or logical to just paddle around to warm up, I'd start to head back in. I didn't want to run the risk of hypo-thermia. Oh, and BTW, I'm guessing that the writer of the special overview of Mavericks that lists the water at 40 degrees - is a local trying to keep surfers like me out of the water. I'm guessing it is rare that the water in these parts gets below 50 like, ever...

As I was ready to paddle in, I had been given advice from one of the locals (the boogie boarder - THANK YOU!) on how to get in - just round mushroom rock and catch a ride in. I was already tired from the paddle out and if I followed this sage advice, there would be at least one more rinse cycle was in my future. There were a ton of folks out on Jet-Ski's - most were part of the tournament but the rest were there to enjoy the show. I saw one guy kinda hanging out so I paddled over and asked if he'd be willing to give me a ride in. He said "sure". SWEET! This guy is my savior! I hop on back, hold onto my board and off we go on his red, 1500 CC Super-charged personal boat.

The contest folks only allowed him to get me as far as the imaginary line between the end of the jetty and mushroom rock. So, I hop in the water after thanking him again profusely and finish my paddle in.

That's the step by step detail of my trip. What you really want to know is about the whole event. Personally, I call it an ecological disaster. I might have that wrong. However, out in the line up, I damn-near choked on the exhaust from the jet-ski's and motor boats trolling around the whole time. As well, there was a fine sheen of oil across the whole area of water in the line-up.

The folks watching from shore of course are trampling on wet - soggy earth. Most that had any view of note were getting it from the cliffs where my daughter and I watched it 2 years ago and did our share of eroding the cliffs. This is already fairly soft cliff material that seemed like sandstone to me, at best. As we have had a lot of rain lately, the amount of erosion that had to happen is just horrendous. Plus, as we'll likely get more rain, that damage will continue to be compounded.

Anyway - I had a great freaking time and am really glad I went. I would love to do it again, but realize that I might not be able to get a ride or have the stamina. You know what? Who cares... I'm planning to go again next year if it is called - that will be my 50th birthday gift to myself. ;-)

All images Copyright Daniel Hinojosa - 2008 and not authorized for re-publishing without the expressed written consent of the author / photographer (Daniel Hinojosa)


Owlonastick said...

Wow. I blog about cleaning out my gutters and here you are quoted in the LA Times. I'm giving up man.

Very cool. How long have you been surfing?

Chato said...

I've been surfing since 1972. And the LA times thing was totally coincidental. I was almost to the parking lot and about ready for a rest and this guy starts chatting me up. It was causal and when I put my board down, we exchanged introductions and this guy is from the LA Times. I'm not all ga-ga about it cause that kinda stuff just happens to me. Not all the time, but, enough.

Owl-on-a-stick? Is that you Greg?

Plopculture - an inside look into the inside said...

very damn cool. i may have to give that a bash one year...thanks for posting that.

Chato said...

Pop - cool. If you decide to do it sooner than later, like next year - let me know. I'm trying to convince DTS to come too! ;-)