Just off the Half Moon Bay coast of California, winter storms and underwater geography combine to create some the world's biggest and most dangerous waves. The Mavericks Surf Contest gives the world's best surfers a chance to pit their skills against the big ones that can rise over 50 feet high, but this contest has an interesting twist. No one knows when it will be held until just 24 hours before it starts.
How the Mavericks Invitational Surf Contest Works
The big waves come in winter, and around the end of each year, the official waiting period for the Mavericks Surf Contest begins. When conditions are right, organizers call a field of 24 surfers (who have been pre-selected) to tell them when the Mavericks Surf Contest will begin. They have 24 hours to get there. That's all the time you'll have to prepare, too.
The first Mavericks Surf Contest was held in 1999. The name and the group running it change every few years, but as of 2012-2013, it's called the Mavericks Invitational.
No matter what it's called, if Mother Nature provides the waves, tens of thousands of spectators will gather to watch an elite group of the world's best big wave surfers.
Watching the Mavericks Invitational
If you want to watch the Mavericks Surf, you need to know when it's going to happen. Their news service will take care of that. Visit their website or text MAVS to 50501, to subscribe.
Getting to the Mavericks Location
If you decide to go to Half Moon Bay to see what's going on, don't expect to see too much. The big waves break about half a mile offshore. Bring binoculars and arrive as early as you can to find a good spot to watch from. To get a closer view, you can take a boat tour.
The big waves of the Mavericks Invitational Surf Contest break over an ocean reef off Pillar Point near Half Moon Bay. Buy tickets in advance to get parking passes and for access to the festival.
During the Mavericks Contest, previous event organizers set up shuttles from parking lots at the airport or harbor. We don't know what will happen this year.
Visiting Mavericks Off Season
During the off-season, it's easy to get a look. From Hwy 1, take the South Capistrano Rd exit near the Half Moon Bay Airport. Follow the road past the harbor entrance. Turn left on Prospect Way and west onto Harvard Avenue. After it merges with West Point Avenue, follow the road up the hill to the Pillar Point Marsh lot and hike about one mile uphill, along the sandy footpath to the viewing area on the bluffs.