A HISTORY OF MAVERICKS AND JEFF CLARK
Never in the history of the sport of surfing, and particularly big wave surfing, has one person been so closely tied to a surf spot, especially for so long. Having first paddled out as a teenager in 1975, Jeff Clark has continued to surf this legendary spot to this day. It can be said, then, that no one knows the people and history of Mavericks like Jeff, knowing certain swells by date and conditions like each one happened yesterday! And as for that pesky apostrophe? Well, most people drop the apostrophe, as we prefer to do, but others keep it as an ode to the spot on the inner reef that was once the preferred swimming hole of a dog named Maverick.
Here is a timeline of Mavericks as conveyed by Jeff Clark and fellow surfers of the times
MAVERICKS: THE AWAKENING
Alex Matienzo, Jim Thompson and Dick Knottmeyer surfed off Pillar Point, which was the only spot protected from northwest wind. They surfed inside the rocks about 100 yards off the beach on mellow long board waves that rolled onto the shore. They named the spot after Matienzo's roommate's German Shepherd, Maverick, who would swim out to them each time they went out. The crew would eventually take him back to the beach and tie him up on the fender of their car, at a time when cars could drive out to the point, to keep him out of the water.
First time Jeff Clark surfed "Mavericks" as it was then known then, inside the reef within 100 yards of shore. He was with Walt Von Hoffe, his little league sponsor, and friends. It was the same spot that Alex named after the dog, Maverick. In this same spot Jeff would eventually teach his children, Katrina, Kevin and Kaila, to surf.
Jeff shaped his first board. Ray Pinochi, Jack Shipley and Ryan Dotson who worked at Surfline in Hawaii were in town, and they helped him fiberglass and finish the board. It was the birth of his shaping career.
Jeff’s first solo session at Mavericks; he was 17 years old and a senior at Half Moon Bay High School. Thus began his lifetime obsession with this magical wave, what he referred to as his "sanctuary." Years later Alex Matienzo came into Jeff’s surf shop and asked why he called his surf shop Mavericks. Jeff told him that his little league coach called the spot inside the reef Mavericks, and he had called it Mavericks since he was 10 years old. Alex told Jeff, “You’re the reason they still call it Mavericks.”Later, Alex presented Jeff with a painting of the big waves on the outer reef, with an image of the dog Maverick.
Jeff was the first to windsurf Mavericks making it his personal playground to surf-sail during the mid 80’s.
Eventually, Jeff talked a few friends into paddling out with him to watch. Jeff Kayes, Jim Dale, Jerry Hogan, Keith Delari, Heather Brown Dent, Mark Harrington and John Dale sat in the channel and watched Jeff brave the massive waves. Despite his attempts to get others to join him, Jeff surfed Mavericks alone for 15 years. On one massive day, Keith Delari, Heather Brown Dent and Jeff paddled the long route from Ross’s Cove to the outer reef. Feeling confident, Keith and Jeff tried to catch a wave on their 6’4" surfboards but were thoroughly smashed—Mavericks would not be tamed. And certainly not without a big wave gun.
After years of creating surfboards and long-curve windsurfing race boards, Jeff took his shaping skills to the next level and started building big wave guns specifically for Mavericks. Thus began his lifelong passion to create and build surfboards for big wave surfing, with unique innovations to take on the characteristics and size of Mavericks.
JANUARY 22, 1990
Jeff Clark convinced Santa Cruz surfers Tom Powers and Dave Schmidt to paddle out at Mavericks on the biggest day he had seen. Dave and Tom caught their first waves at Mavericks that day and returned to Santa Cruz with stories of the most perfect big wave they had ever seen, and everything changed—Mavericks was no longer a myth.
The next season, everyone who was or wanted to be a big wave rider came to Mavericks: the Santa Cruz contingent (Tom Powers, Richard Schmidt, Dave Schmidt, Vince Collier, Bud Miller, Vince Broglio, Nacho Lopez, Shawn Barron, Marcel Soros, Rick “Frosty” Hesson, and Anthony Ruffo); the Ocean Beach crew (Dr. Mark Renneker, John Raymond and Grant Washburn); the guys from Pacifica (Jim Kibblewhite, Shawn Rhodes, Matt Ambrose, Greg Savin, Brent Heckerman, and Rod Walsh); plus some local Half Moon Bay boys (Jim Tjogas, Darren Bingham, Alan Nelson, Tony Canadas, Mike Kimsey and Ion Banner).
Steve Tadin took the first published photo of Jeff Clark surfing Mavericks, which appeared in Surfer Magazine.
Photographers Bob Barbour, Don Montgomery, Lawrence Beck and Doug Acton came onto the scene and Mavericks went from anonymity to the pages of Surfer, Surfers Journal and Surfing Magazine.
JANUARY 1, 1992
Videographer Gary Mederios released the first Mavericks film, Waves of Adventure in the Red Triangle. Other filmmakers followed including Grant Washburn, Steve Spaulding, Eric Nelson, Dave Alexander, Pete Baranzon and Curt Meyers. The publicity inspired more surfers to attempt Mavericks, including Frosty's protégé Jay Moriarty, Darryl “Flea” Virostko, Peter Mel, Zack and Jake Wormhoudt, and more Santa Cruz kids. While Peter Davi, Don Curry and Armond trekked up from Carmel to take their chances.
Jeff Clark named by Surfer Magazine as one of the “world’s best big wave riders”
Big wave charger Ken Bradshaw journeyed from Hawaii to Mavericks after he kept getting orders from "Doc" Renneker for his Waimea big wave guns and had to find out for himself what was causing so many of them to break
16-year-old Jay Moriarity surfed Mavericks. Jeff watched his first session and noticed he had great instincts and skill. The week of December 24th brought a massive swell, and Jay paddled right into the bowl attempting a bomb of a wave. The bottom dropped out and it became the most famous wipeout ever at Mavericks. The iron cross photo made the cover of Surfer Magazine and the New York Times. His life was later depicted in the Holywood film Chasing Mavericks.
CHANGING TIMES FOR MAVERICKS
DECEMBER 23, 1994
Mark Foo, Ken Bradshaw and Brock Little came from Hawaii to surf Mavericks while Mike Parsons and Evan Slater traveled from Southern California. This amazing convergence of big wave surfers ended most tragically: Mark Foo had drowned while surfing at Mavericks. Shaken by this devastating loss, Jeff Clark gathered a few friends started the Mavericks Water Patrol.
Jeff Clark was honored to be invited to compete in the Eddie Aikau/Quiksilver big wave contest in Hawaii.
Planning began for the first-ever contest at Mavericks, with Quiksilver as the presenting sponsor.
FEBRUARY 17, 1998
The inaugural Men Who Ride Mountains contest went off at Mavericks in 15-foot surf after a morning of fog. The waves weren't as big as hoped for, but the sets were intense. Winners: 1st Flea (CA), 2nd Richard Schmidt (CA), 3rd Ross Clarke-Jones (AU), 4th Peter Mel (CA).
FEBRUARY 26, 1999
Female surfer Sarah Gerhardt breaks the gender barrier and becomes the first woman to surf Mavericks, earning her a spot on the alternates list for the next year's contest at Mavericks.
MARCH 3, 1999
The second Men Who Ride Mountains contest took place amidst clear skies and 20-foot waves, with female big wave surfer Sarah Gerhardt on the invitee list as an alternate to compete with the men. The competitors said they had never seen so many 20-foot waves in one day. Winners: 1st Darryl "Flea" Virostko (CA), 2nd Kelly Slater (FL), 3rd Tony Ray (AU), 4th Peter Mel (CA), 5th Zach Wormhoudt (CA), 6th Matt Ambrose (CA).
FEBRUARY 7, 2004
After a four year hiatus, the third Mavericks Surf Contest took place and trophies were handed to: 1st Flea (CA) (third consecutive year), 2nd Matt Ambrose (CA), 3rd Evan Slater (CA), 4th Anthony Tashnick (CA), 5th Peter Mel (CA), 6th Grant Washburn (CA).
MARCH 2, 2005
The fourth Mavericks Surf Contest was again dominated by Californians: 1st Anthony Tashnick (CA), 2nd Greg Long (CA), 3rd Tyler Smith (CA), 4th Zach Wormhoudt (CA) 5th Shane Desmond (CA), 6th Matt Ambrose (CA).
FEBRUARY 8, 2006
The fifth Mavericks Surf Contest saw a dominance of California surfers but it was Grant "Twiggy" Baker of South Africa who took first place, Tyler Smith (Santa Cruz, CA) in 2nd, Brock Little of Hawaii in 3rd, Matt Ambrose (Pacifica, CA) in 4th, Grant Washburn (San Francisco, CA) in 5th and Evan Slater (San Clemente, CA) in 6th..
JANUARY 12, 2008
After a year hiatus that saw no contest-worthy conditions, the waves finally materialized for the sixth Mavericks Surf Contest. Winners: 1st Greg Long (CA), 2nd Twiggy (ZA), 3rd Jamie Sterling (HI), 4th Tyler Smith (CA), 5th Grant Washburn (CA), 6th Evan Slater (CA).
FEBRUARY 13, 2010
During the seventh Mavericks Surf Contest, the swell direction and size converged putting so much pressure on the beach that three sets came over the harbor wall and into the harbor. The final set was the biggest and a massive wall of water plowed through the viewing area causing several major injuries, knocking down the awards stage, and the Sherriff Deputies cleared the beach. This was the last time the public was allowed to view the contest from the beach. Since that time, beach and cliff erosion has been so extensive that there is no safe viewing area from land. Contest winners: 1st Chris Bertish (ZA), 2nd Shane Desmond (CA), 3rd Anthony Tashnick (CA), 4th Dave Wessel (HI), 5th Carlos Burle (Br), 6th Kenny “Skindog” Collins (CA).
THE EVOLUTION OF MAVERICKS
MARCH 16, 2011
Big wave surfer Sion Milosky of Kauai tragically drowned after a two-wave hold down at Mavericks. This was another devastating loss for the surf community. A ban of personal watercraft, including jetskis, at Mavericks and throughout the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, had led to the end of the Mavericks Water Patrol except by permit on contest day.
OCTOBER 25, 2012
The first major motion picture about Mavericks was released. While many independent films have been made about Mavericks (i.e., Riding Giants and films by local filmmakers with Powerline Productions), Chasing Mavericks starring Gerard Butler and Johnny Westin chronicles Jay Moriarity’s and Frosty’s relationship and Jay’s quest to conquer Mavericks. Jeff was a Technical Advisor on the film and drove a camera boat during the filming. He worked with the late Brock Little and Sonny Miller as well as renowned water photographer Mike Prickett. The movie, while not historically accurate, captured the spirit and stoke of Jay Moriarity and catapulted Mavericks' fame.
JANUARY 20, 2013
After waiting two years for the perfect conditions, the newly reformed Mavericks Invitational did not disappoint. In an unselfish act before the final horn sounded, all six finalists joined hands in the water and agreed to split the prize money “as a brotherhood.” Winners: 1st Peter Mel (CA), 2nd Zach Wormhoudt (CA), 3rd Greg Long (CA), 4th Alex Martins (Br), 5th Mark Healey (HI), 6th Shawn Dollar (CA).
The "Committee 5" was formed consisting of five prestigious big wave riders (Jeff Clark, Daryl “Flea” Virostko, Matt Ambrose, Shawn Rhodes and Ion Banner). The Committee 5 is responsible for judge selection, contest criteria, rules and regulations, athlete selection, and when to make "the call" to hold the contest.
JANUARY 24, 2014
The ninth Mavericks Invitational took place under sunny skies and perfect conditions. Winners: 1st Twiggy (ZA), 2nd Shane Dorian (HI), 3rd Ryan Augenstein (CA), 4th Tyler Fox (CA), 5th Greg Long (CA), 6th Anthony Tashnick (CA).
EVOLUTION OF THE CONTEST
FEBRUARY 12, 2016
The 10th showing of the contest came with new partners, a completely rebranded event and after a year of no contest-worthy waves. The contest took place during an El Niño winter and over a spectacular swell. Winners: 1st Nic Lamb (CA), 2nd Travis Payne (CA), 3rd Greg Long (CA), 4th Tyler Fox (CA), 5th Jaime Mitchell (AU), 6th Carlos Burle (Br). The success of the re-brand and partners was short-lived, and soon the contest changed hands again.
The World Surf League, always looking to add more to their quiver of events, acquired the rights to the permit and contest at Mavericks. Since that time, no event has taken place at the break, yet the allure of the beast continues to draw men and women from all over the world. The waves are best viewed on non-contest days, when the waves are breaking and hundreds flock to test their skills, and the beaches and bluffs are open to the public (these areas are closed on contest days due to the significant danger of large crowds on a tiny to non-existent beach and eroding cliffs during a high surf advisory).