Mavericks Surf Awards™ Announces Video Performance Contest to Honor Mavericks and the Surfers Who Brave the Legendary Wave

HALF MOON BAY, Calif., Oct. 23, 2019 -- With the first storms of the winter building energy and getting ready to unleash its fury on Mavericks, local residents have gathered financial and community support for a "virtual" contest that recognizes exceptional performance throughout the entire big wave season.

Mavericks pioneer Jeff Clark and entrepreneur Chris Cuvelier are thrilled to announce the first annual Mavericks Surf Awards. Jeff Clark, who first surfed Mavericks in 1975 at 17 years old and founded the original Mavericks surf contest, has partnered with Half Moon Bay resident and founder of Zola, Chris Cuvelier, to form a video performance contest to honor Mavericks and the athletes that surf it.

"Our mission is to celebrate Mavericks and support the men and women who have dedicated their lives to surfing this amazing spot," said Jeff Clark. "When the WSL decided to cancel the contest at Mavericks, it was yet another sign that the times have changed, and we need to change, too. The logistics and politics of running a one-day surf event make it incredibly difficult. This is an opportunity to rewrite the script, keep the surfing pure, and stay out of the way of the athletes who want to go out there and free surf for the pure joy of it. Every swell, there are photographers out there documenting amazing moments that no one even sees. Now we have a way to capture those moments and recognize the best of the best every season."

The Mavericks Surf Awards is a video performance contest where athletes and videographers submit their best surf videos of Mavericks throughout the season, and winners are selected for various categories. All surfers – men and women, seasoned professionals and up-and-comers – are eligible to enter.

A significant cash prize purse will be be divided across five categories: Male Performer of the Year; Female Performer of the Year; Biggest Wave; Best Wave; and Best Barrel. 90% of the prize money for each category will be awarded to the athlete and 10% to the videographer. The window to submit videos is November 1, 2019, through April 15, 2020, and will culminate in an Awards Ceremony in Half Moon Bay in May.

"Jeff and I wanted to ensure we would properly honor the wave and the athletes," said Cuvelier. "What we came up with are five key objectives that will guide our decisions: celebrating the wave; providing financial support to the athletes; promoting unity, inclusion, equality and environmental stewardship; providing value back to sponsors; and promoting water safety."

The event website will launch in November and will feature stunning photos and videos, profile the surfers and document life in and around Mavericks and the big wave community.

Big wave surfer, Maya Gabeira from Brazil is looking forward to the new format. "I am so excited to see what happens this season at Mavericks. After 4 years without an event, it's about time the place gets attention and support through a new format. The Mavericks Surf Awards will be a way to continue to see the performance rise and get the athletes more support and deserving recognition. I hold Mavericks in a very special place in my memories."

Mavericks has been known to create 50-60 foot faces and is known to be one of the most dangerous waves in the world. Safety is, as always, paramount to the surfers. Clark was adamant that, in order to qualify for entry, the surfer must complete the wave.

Big wave surfer Luca Padua, a Half Moon Bay resident and the youngest person to surf Mavericks, is an official adviser to the contest. "Mavericks is one of the biggest and most dangerous waves on the planet," said Luca. "I'm stoked that Jeff and Chris are placing such an importance on water safety and implementing rules about making waves to win. We want to see progression in the sport, not people paddling themselves into unmakeable waves. The platform these guys have created is perfect and I'm beyond stoked to get this season started!"

Mavericks Surf Awards is meeting with a number of big wave surfers who have extensive experience surfing Mavericks to become official judges of the contest. A ceremonial paddle out to open the big wave season will take place on October 25, 2019 in Half Moon Bay.

For more information or to stay in touch with upcoming events and big swells at Mavericks, visit

For media inquiries contact:
Nicole Landers at
Cell: 323-377-4356




Line of surfers standing on beach with surfboards leaning on their backs


When knowledge of the massive waves at Mavericks became widespread in the early '90s, big wave surfers from around the world began to make the drive to the sleepy town of Princeton-by-the-Sea to witness and challenge the beast of a wave. By 1998, a small group of big wave surfers decided to showcase the rising talent on display at Mavericks. Thus, the idea for a big wave contest at Mavericks was born. Jeff Clark, the pioneer of the spot, led the way to showcase the best talent -- much like a father showing off his pride and joy. His role as Contest Director also meant that Clark would never surf in an event he worked so hard to make a reality. 

The early years of the contest were sponsored by Quiksilver and were known as Men Who Ride Mountains. Competitors included Pete Mel, Darryl "Flea" Virostko, Grant Washburn, Brock Little, Shawn Rhodes, Ross Clarke-Jones, Evan Slater and other big wave legends vying for the crown. In the early years, the sport was dominated by men, and there was only one woman -- Sarah Gerhardt -- who surfed Mavericks. A true pioneer, Sarah was an alternate for the contest in 2001 (other notable alternates over the years include Kelly Slater, Garrett McNamara and Richard Schmidt), and for many years and until recently, she was one of only a few women who surfed the spot. Today, men and women are charging the waves at every chance to challenge their skill and, for some, to pursue one of the coveted invitations to the contest.

An interesting part of Mavericks lore is that, since the early days of the contest, it has not been without its controversy or drama. Perhaps that is a reflection of the wave itself, a maverick, one that does not follow the rules or the norms. Jeff Clark's vision for a contest was, and remains, to have it be a showcase for big wave talent, to help launch careers for big wave surfers, and create opportunities to support the surf culture and local businesses in the community. A surfer at heart, his true passion always was to feel the power of the ocean, test his focus and ability, and enjoy the thrill of riding massive waves -- a far cry from the business logistics and politics of organizing an event for the world's stage. That's where others have stepped in, in various iterations of the event, some helpful and some with grandiose yet failed notions of making money, a pursuit that takes it far beyond a small-town, fun event for surfers. It's a tricky balance, one that elevates athletes and launches careers, but often takes away from those soulful moments in the ocean. It's as though the "myth" of Mavericks stays with anyone who becomes a part of it, and it's hard for some to let go or refrain from pushing limits. While Jeff remains involved in the contest, his focus is on safety, athletes and respect for this revered spot he has surfed for 42 years now. As he has always said, "Mavericks will take care of itself." 

 Jeff Clark with Surfboard at beach 

Until 2019, the contest was on the biggest world stage its ever seen. The webcast was one of the highest rated sporting events in history, with people worldwide turing in to watch the biggest and gnarliest rides and, yes, wipeouts. The evolution of the event continues, and any surfer chosen to participate must skillfully surf Mavericks, not just survive it, in order to be considered among the invited competitors. Sadly, in spring of 2019, the World Surf League -- which took over the contest in 2017-18 season -- backed away from running the event citing logistical challenges. Indeed, the contest is one of the most challenging to create, basically with three events in one (sea, land and airwaves) with only 48 hours notice and a myriad of local, political hurdles. It was after this announcement that it became evident to Clark and others that the traditional contest format is outdated. He and business partner Chris Cuvelier pulled together to bring back the Mavericks Surf Awards, which Jeff and others first held after the 2011-12 season failed to give contest-worthy conditions. That "trial run" of the event showed the promise of providing athletes and the public with the spectacle and drama of Mavericks, all season long.

"Do you surf Mavericks?" is a question almost every surfer gets, especially if you hail from California. But big wave surfing is a different sport altogether. We do get calls and letters from surfers of all levels asking about getting an invitation to compete, or even about getting lessons to surf Mavericks. It's hard to comprehend that notion. Knowing one's abilities in the raw power of the ocean -- making sure your skill matches your desire to surf bigger waves -- is what determines whether a surfer is ready to take their talent to the next level. Says Clark, "I often get asked if someone may be ready to surf Mavericks. I tell them, the only person who knows is the person in the mirror." 

More history and the timeline of Mavericks

Where is Mavericks located? 

The Science of Mavericks