Friday, August 28, 2009

Mavericks Surf Contest 2009/2010 - 24 Contestants Named

It's the moment Mavericks fans have been waiting for, the announcement of the doughty 24 who will line up in hope of tackling one of the world's most dangerous waves in the 2009/2010 Mavericks Surf Contest.

The 24 are specially selected among the world's top big wave surfers. They will prepare themselves to be ready to ride the giant chill waves of Mavericks at Half Moon Bay at just 24 hours notice. First, though, they have to wait for Mother Nature to send a gigantic swell across the Pacific with waves deemed to be worthy enough within the contest season of November 1 to the end of March.

A record prize purse of $150,000 has been rolled over from last year.

Among the chosen few is the reigning Mavericks Champion, Greg Long of San Clemente, who won the title in 2008. Last season there was no contest because of a lack of waves. Instead, he gloried in winning Ride of the Year in the 2009 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards - the Oscars of surfing - and being nominated for Surfline Best Overall Performance Award.

He will be facing tough competition from Darryl 'Flea' Virostko who achieved a hat trick by becoming Mavericks Champion in the first three contests held in 1999, 2000 and 2004. 'Anywhere in the world, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who so perfectly combines a crazy, almost reckless attitude with raw ability,' says his Mavericks bio.

'Flea', from Santa Cruz, withdrew from injury in 2005 and the title passed to Anthony Tashnick, also from Santa Cruz and another hopeful this season. Anthony is listed as an 'alternate' for the prestigious Eddie Aikau contest in Hawaii for the third year in a row.

Also in the line-up is Grant 'Twiggy' Baker of Durban, South Africa, the Mavericks Champion of 2006 and last year's runner up. 'Twiggy,' says his Mavericks bio, had a 'stunning big-wave summer in South Africa, earning Billabong XXL nominations for Biggest Wave, Monster Paddle and Ride of the Year'. Another achievement is to be a main-list entry in the Eddie Aikau contest for the first time.

San Francisco's Grant Washburn, a finalist in '04, '06 and '08, has been surfing at Mavericks for many years alongside the now-deposed Contest Director and legendary pioneer of The Wave, Jeff Clark. Of all those in the line-up, Grant, described as having arms like oars, is considered to be the one with the most experience.

Not only a surfer, he is a filmmaker who has made documentaries and helped to produce books on The Wave. He coedited 'Inside Maverick's: Portrait of a Monster Wave', to which many of the surfers taking part this season contributed.

He is joined both in the event and surfer-writer world by Evan Slater of San Clemente, editor of Surfer Magazine.

Someone for whom the trophy seems to have slipped tantalisingly from him over the years is Pete Mel of Santa Cruz - 'To say that he's due would be putting it mildly. For years, Mel has been the hands-down choice as Mavericks most talented, influential surfer.' A pioneer of the Northern California tow-in movement, he is one of the two most known surfers from the area in Hawaiian competitions.

Brazilian Carlos Burle was winner of the Biggest Wave honors in 2002 for a colossal 68 ft Mavericks wave and was nominated for Monster Tube and Ride of the Year in the 2009 Billabong XXL awards.

Other contestants, all of whom have achieved distinctions in this life-threatening sport are: Hawaiians Brock Little, Jamie Sterling, third in the last contest, and Dave Wassell; Chris Bertish of South Africa - 'known to pull into any barrel at any size – the quickest way to gain respect in the big-wave surfing community.'; Ben Andrews of San Francisco and Nathan Fletcher of San Clemente, both of whom were injured and unable to compete last year; Matt Ambrose, a finalist in three of the last four contests and Shawn Rhodes, both of Pacifica, south of San Francisco - quote by Jeff Clark: “Shawn’s the kind of guy you see out at Mavericks when everyone else is running for cover.”

Another contingent are from Santa Cruz: Josh Loya; Shane Desmond - 'undoubtedly the most accomplished backside surfer in Mavericks' history' and a 2005 XXL winner of the Paddle-in award for a ride accomplished in the Mavericks contest; Zach Wormhoudt - 'among the most accomplished tow-surfers in the world, earning a Biggest Wave nomination in the 2009 Billabong XXL awards.'; Tyler Smith; and Kenny 'Skindog' Collins - 'In the summer of '06, he came out of a massive tube at Puerto Escondido - one of the most sensational performances ever witnessed at the famed Mexico break - to win both Ride of the Year and Monster Tube in the Billabong XXL awards.'

And there are two surfers from Half Moon Bay itself, Ion Banner, the first truly local guy to make the main list as Jeff Clark kept himself out of the competition when he was running it. Of Ion, it is said, 'Always a standout in past contests, Banner gained singular recognition last year for his amazing air-drops and whimsical switch-stance maneuvers.'; and Tim West - 'Best of the up-and-coming younger generation from the Half Moon Bay coastside', Tim made Mavericks headlines in 2005 when a shark buried a tooth in his board. See for the dramatic story.

One notable missing from this year's contest, however, is Jeff Clark. In an epic boardroom battle earlier this year, the man who discovered the Mavericks wave claims to have been pushed down and under. In his place is Keir J. Beadling, CEO of Mavericks Surf Ventures.

Seemingly, the cause of the battle is over the momentous decision of when to call the contest. Some years, in 2007 and 2009, Jeff as Contest Director never made that call. Not only is he no longer Contest Director but all mention of him has been deleted from the Mavericks website.

There was no contest, either, for three years between 2001 - 2003 due to sponsorship difficulties. This season the contest window opens on November 1 instead of January 1 due to increased sponsorship from Sony Ericsson.

What makes Mavericks to be 'like no other place on the planet'? It is waves often as high as 50 ft, very strong currents, dangerous rocks, shallow reefs and bone-chilling water.

Greg Long and Grant Washburn suffered competition-worthy wipeouts last year. Also 'Flea' Virostko 'on a face conservatively measured at 65 feet.'

Evan Slater knows injury from The Wave. He writes in Grant's book: 'Even after surviving countless beatings and a handful of two-wave hold-downs, I still have no clue why there's a 99.9 per cent wipeout survival rate at Maverick's. Every time you go through one, you wonder in midthrashing, "Is this the end for me?'''

Somewhere betweeen November 2009 and March 2010, these 24 surfing daredevils hope for the opportunity to pitch their skills against each other and Mother Nature...and come out alive.

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joe rocker said...

It's amazing how these guys can ride such massive waves!!!!


Steven Weller said...

Anyone tell me what these guys do, other than surf, to make cash? Day jobs and if so, what professions?