Friday, June 26, 2009

Mavericks Pioneer Jeff Clark 'Ousted' from Mavericks Organization

Legendary Mavericks pioneer Jeff Clark, who discovered the Mavericks wave 34 years ago, is denying that he resigned this week from the organization that now runs the world-famous big-wave surfing contest, but says instead that he has been ousted in a boardroom coup.

Within hours of the announcement of the first-ever opening of the Mavericks season on November 1, - see previous blog - Jeff, who established the competition and was Contest Director, is writing on

'Over the past several years, it has been obvious that my vision and priorities are not in

line with those of Mavericks Surf Adventures.

I have had in the past, and continue to have, strong differences of opinion with the present CEO - Keir J Beadling - and Board about the direction, image and priorities of the company and the contest.

'The press release issued by Mavericks Surf Ventures this week stating that I ‘stepped down’ and I am ‘passing the torch to the next generation’ is wrong. The reality is that I was ousted as Contest Director by the current CEO.'

It seems that money is at the heart of the argument. Just as the Mavericks team have received enough sponsorship money to open the contest window from November 1 to March 31, instead of having to wait until January 1, Jeff accuses the company of a possible compromise on the calling of the contest.

'The one thing I would truly regret would be to see a committee deciding, based on sponsorship money and media opportunities, when the best day to run the contest would be, and have it turn into just another 10 foot swell with a lot of hype and not a lot of substance. Any true Mavericks surfer wants and deserves a real test of ability.'

He also contests the press release sent out by Mavericks Surf Ventures, stating that this year's contest will celebrate the 35th anniversary of his pioneer surfing of the wave. The 35th anniversary 'is actually next season, in 2010-11. I will not allow the company to use my accomplishment as a marketing tactic,' he says.

'Effective today, I have resigned from the Board of Directors of Mavericks Surf Ventures.

'My vision for the Mavericks Surf Contest has been unwavering: it is about the family of big wave surfers, the spirit of the ocean, and this amazing wave. I never wanted that to be compromised for the sake of money or marketing opportunities. I think that focus is obvious to anyone who knows me or who has seen my priorities over the years.'

Jeff grew up just north of Half Moon Bay and as a 17-year-old was the first person ever to surf Mavericks in 1975. He continued to surf there alone for 15 years, until the surfing world finally realized the Mavericks wave was no myth.

'Mavericks has been an integral part of my personal and professional life for more than 30 years, and I hope that it continues to be a part of both in the future.

'I wake up looking at Mavericks, and I have watched and surfed those waves most of my life. I started the contest 10 years ago, and I can say one thing for sure: Mavericks is Mavericks. The waves will come – or not – when they will.

'I wish everyone well, knowing that Mavericks will always take care of itself.'

But the reports a statement from Keir Beadling that says that he and assistant contest director Catherine Clark, Jeff's former wife, have 'spoken with most, if not all, of the 24 invited surfers surfers from last year's canceled event' and are confident that the surfers are 'interested in the contest's "next phase" and playing their own role in it.

'I'm sure it's a complicated thing (for some of the surfers), but ultimately these guys want to see a successful event,' Beadling is reported as saying. 'There's been a long-term sense of tyranny that we're now out from under.'

pics - screen grabs from - show: Jeff being interviewed at the Opening Ceremony in January of the unsuccessful 2009 season; and presenting at the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards in Anaheim in April

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mavericks - November 1 Opening Season

The season for the Mavericks Surf Contest, one of the most dangerous big-wave surfing competitions in the world, is set to open for the first time ever on November 1 instead of in January.

This means that 24 of the world's top big-wave surfers now have from November 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010 for a chance that Mother Nature will produce a stupendous-enough swell at Half Moon Bay to allow the contest to take place.

Mavericks CEO, Keir J Beadling, said, 'We’re thrilled to announce that this year’s big-wave contest season will begin earlier than ever before. We have long understood the importance of increasing the size of the contest window, but haven’t been able to do so.

'Last season’s events further highlighted how valuable a November opening date can be. Now, thanks to the support of everyone involved with the contest, we will make the November opening a reality.'

During the open season, the surfers, who are specially-selected by Mavericks pioneer and Contest Director, Jeff Clark, remain on 24-hour alert. Defending 2008 Champion is Greg Long of San Clemente, south of LA.

Their biggest-ever prize of $150,000, donated by Moose Guen and Jane Sutherland of MVision, and Barracuda Networks, rolls over from last season.

Last season the contest window closed without a contest simply because not enough of a Pacific swell appeared. To rub salt into the wound, the November Thanksgiving weekend produced 30 ft - 45 ft waves that were described as 'two of the most perfect days ever seen' there.

Many of the world's greatest surfers swarmed to Mavericks and achieved so many stunning rides that there was a record number of entries in the Monster Paddle section of the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards in April, known as the 'Oscars' of surfing.

While Jeff Clark, Keir Beadling and the Mavericks team were left kicking frustrated heels in the sand. They simply did not have enough sponsorship money to open the contest window for six months, even though they had often seen great waves in November and nothing of contest standards between January and March.

Now this has changed. 'We are grateful to our sponsor partners whose support was vital to making the opening of the contest season in November a reality, and for ensuring that the surfers will be competing for a record-breaking $150,000 prize purse.

'We are fortunate that all of our sponsor partners recognize the importance of opening the contest window on November 1, and that they have demonstrated their commitment to making sure we are able to do so,' said Keir Beadling.

As the contest nears, fans will be able to go onto text and email alert for the call that leads to the mad dash to Half Moon Bay, about an hour away from San Francisco.

In the interim, there are surfing treats on the way. The TV premiere of the 'Very Best of Mavericks' will be aired by Fuel TV in August, promised as 'stunning footage' of Mavericks surfing over the past several years.

Also upcoming is the Mavericks Live Tour™ Concert Series, details of which will appear on

'Although the contest season is still a few months away, we celebrate Mavericks all year round,' commented Keir Beadling. 'Between the Fuel TV show and the upcoming Mavericks Live Tour concert series, fans should have enough to hold them over as they await the start of the 2009/2010 contest season.'

The Mavericks™ motto is this:

'Coined as "the wave beyond," the Mavericks™ brand inspires hardcore athletes to face the unpredictably raw power of Mother Nature, and stirs the souls of those who aspire to challenge their own limits. Mavericks remains true to its core: a cold, mysterious and foreboding place that demands respect from everyone who goes there and inspires them to attempt the extraordinary.'

Sunday, June 7, 2009

4th Street Bridge closes again - this time for a whole day

Bells sounded all day near the AT&T Ballpark for repairs of the historic 4th Street bridge at China Basin. The bridge was raised early Saturday morning, and not closed until the end of the day, causing diversions and delays for people in the area.

The MUNI T line terminated at Caltrain, and a replacement bus service was in effect all day. Warnings about the disruption were posted electronically on the MUNI boards for some days prior to the closure.

Talking a leisurely stroll past the bridge in both the morning and afternoon hours, little could be seen of the work that was going on, save for some large lumber being lowered into the bowels of the bridge mechanism.

Either way, the bridge reopened to traffic and the T streetcar line later that evening as normal service was resumed. There is no word from MUNI or the Port Authority about whether the work is complete, or whether we will have to endure more closures in the future.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Opera at Giants' AT & T Park

About 26,000 people spread across the pitch and nearly filled the stands at the Giants' AT & T ballpark last night for a free live broadcast of Puccini's opera, Tosca.

The simulcast is an annual event at the ballpark and was part of the opening week of the San Francisco Opera's 2009 summer season, titled 'Summer of Seduction.'

Performed in Italian with English subtitles, it was relayed from the War Memorial Opera House onto the Giants' massive screen, the Jumbotron.

'An idealistic artist, a celebrated singer and a corrupt police chief engage in a fierce battle of wills in this tempestuous tale of cruelty and deception,' says the SFO website. 'With its themes of political intrigue, sexual intimidation and official hypocrisy, Puccini’s great melodrama set in 1800 is anything but dated.'

In the title role and making her debut for the company was Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka, with baritone Lado Ataneli as Scarpia, while tenor Carlo Ventre played Cavaradossi.

Tosca opened last Tuesday and runs until June 26.

Next, as part of the Summer of Seduction, is Porgy and Bess with a George Gershwin score, followed by Verdi's La Traviata, which ends on July 5.

Opera lovers can look forward to a second free opera performance, Verdi's Il Trovatore, to be shown at the ballpark on Saturday, September 19.

For more info:

For pics of the event by Chris on Flickr click here

Friday, June 5, 2009

LIVE Opera at the Ballpark, featuring San Francisco Opera

Tonight, (June 5, 2009) the San Francisco Opera visit the AT&T BallPark for their annual 'Opera at the BallPark' event. Tonights performance is of Puccini's TOSCA, which is part of their current run at the Opera House and will be shown as a simulcast on the Jumbotron (The SF Giants, 103ft HDTV).

Previous similar events in the past attracted over 15,000 opera fans

For a review of the current season of Tosca at the Opera House, see the review from Inside Bay Area

For FREE tickets with reserved seating, visit the opera house website.

For those not used to Italian Opera or who do not know the story, subtitles will be included.

Beginning at 6:30PM, pre-registered fans can enter the park, while entry for the general public begins at 7PM. Field seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. You must bring your barcoded confirmation print-out for early entry. Bring blankets (no lawnchairs) to sit on the field. If you're thinking of bringing a picnic, please review the AT&T Park Restrictions to speed your check-in at the security gate. NO alcohol or unsealed containers will be permitted

AT and T Park is easily accessed by public transportation, with it's own station on the N streetcar line.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Passengers spot Captain 'Sully' Sullenberger

'I saw him walking past with a smile on his face, but I thought it can't be him because nobody applauded or approached him!' said 26-year-old Rochelle in amazement.

She had just stepped off Tuesday's Virgin Atlantic flight from San Francisco to Heathrow - see previous blog - and discovered that her instincts had been right:

She had flown with Captain Chesley B. 'Sully' Sullenberger 111, one of America's newest popular heroes. Captain Sullenberger saved the lives of all his passengers and crew with a spectacular landing on the Hudson River in January following a bird strike that knocked out both engines.

'But with a face and a moustache like that it's impossible not to recognize, he's got a recognizable face,' said Rochelle.

She was kicking herself as we strolled down the walkway this morning after the ten-hour flight.

'If I'd been certain it was him, I would have loved to have introduced myself and shaken a hero's hand! How cool would that have been!'

A South African girl with a degree in films and communications from Los Angeles, she was on her way home.

'I want to be a documentary filmmaker reporting on stories in Africa - and finding out who the real heroes are in Africa,' she said, with determination and confidence.

Which is why she is doubly disappointed at yesterday's near-miss with heroism!

Captain Sully Sullenberger Flies with Virgin Atlantic Passengers

Not many people can say 'I've flown with Captain 'Sully' Sullenberger!' the flying hero catapulted to global fame after landing

his US Airways jet on the Hudson River in January.

But passengers last night on board the Virgin Atlantic flight from San Francisco airport to Heathrow can! The celebrated captain flew as a first class passenger with his wife and two children.

Most passengers were unaware of his presence on the scheduled 4.30 pm flight, though not so my travelling companion, Maureen, whose eagle-eyes and media brain - she works in marketing for a major company in San Fran - spotted him near Duty Free in the airport.

'I bumped into him when I was coming out of Duty Free and he was with his wife and two girls, and I recognized him from the TV,' said Maureen, a mother of three children travelling with six-year-old Finn.

'So I just walked over to him and said, 'Excuse me, do you mind if I just say hello and shake your hand, because I'd love to meet you and with my little boy, Finn.'

'And he said, 'Yeah, absolutely,' and shook my hand and asked where we were going. And that was how I found out we were on the same flight!'

He just seemed very unaffected,' was Maureen's opinion. 'Just very friendly and asked us a couple of questions, our names and asked Finn how old he was, even though he was travelling with his family and they were waiting for him.'

Maureen was struck by 'just how incredibly calm he comes across. He presents this image of someone who takes everything in his stride,' she said. ' But,' she remembered, 'I do know from the interview with Larry King that he suffered - from the stress of the near air disaster. He couldn't sleep for days and couldn't think about when he would be ready to go back to work.'

Maureen, like myself, was trying to quell incipient anxieties in the wake of the Air France disaster. The thought of such a flying presence on board was very reassuring.

'But I wonder how the pilot feels!' she said.

With the presence of Captain Sullenberger and in the shadow of the missing Air France plane, I interviewed a few passengers about their attitudes to flying, and even found one young man who has experienced a near-flying accident.

Seated at the back of the plane was Bulgarian-born Pacha and her husband, Wasil, who live in the Bay Area,

How did she feel about flying? I asked Pacha first.

'Comfortable,' was her reply.

Was she affected by the Air France disaster?

'It happens,' she said, matter of factly. 'You never know what will happen to you. You just have to pray!'

Did she know, I said, that Sully Sullenberger was on board with his family?

Her face became animated with surprise and delight,

'He lives in our area, in Danville,' was her instant comment. Then she added, 'I feel even more comfortable!'

Also on the plane were Tim and Emma, a young couple who had been visiting friends in America and were returning to their home on the Essex and Suffolk border.

How did they feel about flying?

'No worries!' said Tim. 'There's a risk in anything so if you want to go on holiday, you have to get it into perspective. you could have an accident on the way to the airport.'

What did they think of the Air France tragedy?

They looked blankly at me, so I explained.

'How do Americans find world news?' said Tim, who had been scouring news channels in his hotel for international news. Like many visitors, I suggested, they had either been lost in a maze of channels or constricted by a limited hotel package.

'I do at times feel slightly apprehensive,' said Emma returning to the subject, 'because of claustrophobia and the time - ie spent on a plane - and that you can't get off, decide to stop or walk. But I'm aware it's the safest form of travel and if you want to go somewhere you've got to do it.'

Her attitude to flying was coloured by the whole airport experience.

'It's slightly more security-conscious coming back from America than (travelling) from the UK, which makes you a bit more uncomfortable, but it's for a reason.'

Tim had been aware of extra spot checks being made, the combined effect of which made Emma both more nervous and reassured at the same time. 'I do think about it - ie air accidents. I wouldn't want to fly regularly,' she said.

A comment that suddenly spurred a memory in Tim.

'I actually had a very near-miss in America in a single-engine craft,' he said. 'It was in Lake Tahoe a few years ago and it hasn't affected my fear of flying at all. We had an aborted landing because of a strong cross wind, and on going round again we couldn't get any height and it was purely pilot error, he hadn't put his flaps down. That was pretty hair-raising at the time!'

How did they feel about having Sully Sullenberger on board?

'It makes us feel very reassured,' said Emma.

'I'm actually watching Airplane - the disaster movie - as we speak,' grinned Tim, ? King of Cool or masochist!

'We've got a lady pilot,' added Emma, 'that's why he's on board!' she said but commenting on a serious note that our female captain was a lady of exceptional talent.

'I wonder how our pilot feels with him on board!' she continued.

Sully's on board...there's pressure!!!'

I can report our flight was smooth and fear-less, and enlivened by active children and for a while a crying baby so there were plenty of distractions. Attentive and friendly stewards and stewardesses made for a pleasant flight.

We landed at Heathrow beneath sunny and partly cloudy skies almost exactly on time at 10.30 am.

After the landing on the Hudson River, though, it was reported that Richard Branson offered to double Captain Sullenberger's salary if he flew for Virgin. He also, according to The Week - - said the Captain could 'become one of the astronauts in my intergalactic spaceship company. The man can write his own ticket with me.'

Captain Sullenberger declined the offers, but perhaps he could be persuaded to become a resident first class passenger?

Whatever... newly-minted badges are being released.

'I've flown with Captain Sully Sullenberger!'

pics show: passengers on board the flight on Tuesday evening; Captain Chesley B. 'Sully' Sullenberger 111 throwing the opening ceremonial pitch for the San Francisco Giants - see blog; view of London and the wing tip of the plane as we approach the runway

more in next blog

Monday, June 1, 2009

Spread Eagle

It was the chance to become one with a sculpture that symbolizes 'transcendance, freedom and the pursuit of happiness,' as part of the American Dream.

This giant pair of revolving eagles wings was a fitting and very popular exhibit at the Maker Faire 2009 with its theme of Remake: America - see previous blogs.

Balancing inside the steel ring was harder than it look. At first, people wobbled, feet poised on a small plinth at the base of a steel ring, arms outstretched.
But then they were off, to spin with wings as of eagles.

At the head of the queue awaiting her turn was Linda, pictured in the second pic.

'I think the Faire is wonderful. This is my second year of coming and it's a wonderful variety of amazing, creative things to do!' she said, before climbing inside the ring.

Over the day, thousands watched in amusement and took pics.

The Spread Eagle, with a 30 ft wingspan, is the work of Bay Area sculptor Bryan Tedrick who lives in Sonoma, Northern California.

He received an honorarium to build it for last year's Burning Man radical arts festival at Black Rock Desert, Nevada, where the theme was the American Dream. It is built primarily of steel with redwood and found objects.

A graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, Bryan writes on his website: 'Art is a vehicle of expression, a means of encoding our response to the world. I hope my audience appreciates my serious folly, my love of nature and beauty, and enjoys my effort to flirt with the mystery of life.'

EepyBird Diet Coke and Mentos Live!

It was the show thousands of people had waited for, the chance to see live what many had only heard about or seen on the internet: the phenomenon of bottles of Coke exploding like dancing fountains simply by having Mentos mints dropped into them.

EepyBird with their slogan, 'Entertainment for the Curious Mind,' is the brainchild of mad scientists Fritz and Stephen who were performing at the 4th Annual Maker Faire 2009 - see previous blogs

'And we are just a few minutes away from making a really big mess!' they announced to a crowd fascinated at the sight of 100 bottles of Diet Coke lined up on stage with strings dangling from them.

In front of the stage was the 'splash zone' where mostly youngsters were waiting to be drenched with cascading Diet Coke. Steve, also a lawyer, gave warning of the wind direction and people laughed as a bunch of kids migrated to the dry side!

But first, a brief scientific explanation was given as any scientist worth their fizz would give.

What causes the fizz? asked Fritz, a man whose name has surely predestined him for such a discovery and who is also a professional juggler.

Nucleation, he answered, a reaction caused by carbonization sticking onto a rough surface. You can stick your finger into a fizzy drink, and a few bubbles will rise to the surface.

Why Mentos? is one of the two most-asked questions by the curious.

Because, said Fritz, the mints are coated in 40 layers of liquid sugar which makes them 'chemically rough', meaning the carbonization 'grabs onto the bumps'.

He pointed to the Mentos: six round white mints poised over the neck of each bottle, held in place by a pin.

Cut into the bottles are different-sized holes and slits, which produces different patterns to the fountains.

And then came the unbeatable offer: you could buy a kit to experiment yourself. 'It's the only place on the planet you can go buy these!' exclaimed Steve and Fritz, adding that the 'most important' lesson to learn today was, 'Try this at home!'

And then Fritz moved on to the second most-asked question: Why Diet soda?

Any carbonated beverage will work, he said, but the combination of Diet Coke and Mentos has been found in their scientific research to be particularly powerful. Plus there is the benefit that it is not sticky. As they spend much of their time beneath a fizzy fountain, they are not coated in sticky liquid!

With the science lesson over, we were about to watch the demonstration when a voice from the crowd shouted: 'We have a missing child!' Instantly, a little boy in red tee-shirt and blue cap was held aloft. Happily his father spotted him within seconds and the child was passed from shoulder to shoulder into the arms of dad who was in the splash zone.

And then it was down to watching this unique show: the music began, Fritz and Stephen rushed around the stage pulling strings, mints dropped and spouts of Diet Coke spiralled, criss-crossed and rose high in the air before falling on the mad scientists and the laughing crowd in the splash zone.

Sixteen-year-old Kathy had tried enthusiastically to shout out a question to Steve and Fritz at the start of the show but her voice didn't carry over the crowd.

'I think it is better than last year!' she said afterwards. 'I think it is really cool how they use the different shapes that they drill in the tops, and how it changes the shape of the blasts.'

Kathy, who wants to be 'some sort of scientist, I'm not really sure', also commented of the show, 'I think it's more popular than the county fair that we have here because we're in Silicon Valley and we like technology rather than rides.'

Altogether over the Maker Faire, Fritz and Steve performed three times on each of the two days.
Last April they beat their own Guinness World Record by setting off 1,360 geysers in Lueven, Belgium, and since January 2006, according to their website, have been through about 4,000 bottles of Diet Coke and over 24,000 Mentos.

The pair are now really grateful for sponsorship from Coca Cola and Mentos!

For more info and videos:

pics by Chris, also here is a link to Chris' Flickr photostream of the event - previous blog of Sunday, May 31.