The forecasts predicted a heavy swell and calm weather, so on went the green light for the annual competition at Mavericks, California’s most infamous and best-endowed surf break. Come contest morning, Saturday, February 13th, 2010, the waves arrived, larger and smoother than expected, with clean faces up to fifty feet…
The conspicuous sign at the entrance to Mavericks Beach reads “Warning: Deadly Waves At Any Time,” and it’s not joking. As the first heat began, a series of breakers washed into the nearby crowd, first a dribble and then four feet deep, sending the fortunate scurrying up the cliff, and the unlucky into the drink. The gruesome tally: one broken leg, another busted ankle, dozens of complete soakings, and hundreds of pounds of innocent consumer electronics sent to a watery grave. Good ’ol Neptune scored himself some boss new gear, y’all!
Thankfully, I avoided that chaos and, around noon, pointed my super-telephoto camera rig into the lineup from a much-more-relaxed position just off U.S. Highway 1, about two miles distant. The resulting video, cropped tighter in post-production, is a mega-zoomed, telescope-style view of Mavericks: the tiny sliver of the scene near the horizon that, on-site with your arm fully extended, would have fit behind half of your pinkie fingernail. For the photogeeks, that’s an equivalent focal length of about 4000mm.
Let’s take a look! Onshore at bottom, we see the observation scaffolding, the aforementioned warning sign, and a competitor stretching on the breakwater that the ocean earlier crested. Behind, there’s the action: one surfer paddling out stand up, others bobbing to and fro, and, near the end, an Incredible Display Of Ballsiness on the lip of a huge wave:
Click here to see a slighter larger, higher quality version. Apologies for the audio, which, in slightly raw fashion, accurately represents the afternoon breeze, ping of the harbor beacon, and two guys next to me yapping about Sean Connery.