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November 25, 2009 > Hawaiian punch at Mavericks contest

Hawaiian punch at Mavericks contest

By David J. Nicolas

Twenty-four brave and talented surfers from around the world are waiting for the same phone call - the OK to ride some of the Bay Area's largest breaking waves.

The organizers of the annual Mavericks Surf Contest, which is held at the unpredictable waters of Pillar Point Harbor (north of Half Moon Bay), hope that weather conditions steady. The Mavericks season began on November 1, and organizers have until March 30, 2010, to choose when to have the contest.

When the hand-selected surfers get the call, they will have 24 hours to report to Pillar Point Harbor to compete in one of the most elite surf contests in the sport.

For many years, the extreme conditions of Mavericks were left untouched. Local surfer Jeff Clark noticed the giant waves that were reminiscent of Hawaii's waters and decided to give them a try. Clark enjoyed his pipe dreams with friends until the first Mavericks contest in 1999.

This year's competitors, including the first ever Mavericks winner Darryl "Flea" Virostko, were handpicked by Mavericks organizers. Like every year, surfers battle icy waters and enormous, left-breaking waves. Jagged rocks are peppered everywhere around Pillar Point Harbor, as well as the possibility of looming great white sharks.

The danger that awaits surfers was most apparent in 1994 when famed Hawaiian surfer Mark Foo was pulled underneath a barreling 18-foot wave and drowned.

The contest's environmental impact is another concern.

"The Mavericks family is committed to preserving the beauty and health of the local ecology," said Mavericks CEO Keir J. Beadling in a press release.

Mavericks will again team up with Saves the Waves Coalition who helped the contest become the first environmentally neutral of its kind in 2006. This year, Mavericks plans to use the sun to power all of the contest's activities.

If weather conditions grant an opportunity for this year's competition, it will be the first time Mavericks goes completely solar. All of the land-based operations will run on renewable energy with zero emissions, even if skies are cloudy and overcast.

Fans won't need binoculars to see their favorite surfers take on the gigantic waves. Like last year, Mavericks will allow fans from around the world stream the competition in a live Web cast. There will also be a viewing at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

For fans willing to brave the actual conditions, cold weather and ocean spray, different vessels will provide up-close views come competition day.

Boaters like Captain Bob Ingles of the 50-foot Queen of Hearts sport-fishing vessel will ferry surf fans just feet away of the competitors and cresting waves.

Mavericks attracted 50,000 fans to Pillar Point Harbor in 2008. For now, fans, like the elite 24, can just wait if Mother Nature allows a contest in 2009.

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