Surfing fans hoping to see a this year in Half Moon Bay will likely be disappointed.
With less than two weeks to go before the window closes on March 31 for this year’s contest at the famed surf break, the chance that the right conditions will materialize appear to be unlikely, according to Bay Area expert forecaster .
“I can easily see out until March 31, and there’s pretty much nothing,” he said, looking at his system data of incoming wave height, wave period, wind speed, and barometer pressure from buoys stationed around the world.
“This is a La Niña winter, which is not favorable to big storms and big surf,” he said.
What is Sponsler looking for? Buoys reading a "pure swell of 10 feet with wave crests of 18 seconds apart," he said.
Calm winds and a low tide for a five-hour period is also necessary for contest conditions, along with a consistent swell throughout the day for contestants to compete, Sponsler added.
A veteran wave watcher who has worked with Mavericks contest organizers to call the competition for years, Sponsler said that there is one last cycle before the end of the month which technically could be the start of what Mavericks Invitational contest organizer Jeff Clark and others are hoping for.
“On the 28th there’s the start of the active Madden-Julian oscillation, a new cycle which can help start new storms in the North Pacific when it’s on — but there’s a week lag in the atmosphere,” he said.
“It takes awhile for it to start turning, and by then, the contest window closes,” he said. “I would say our last shot of anything decent is in early April and even that’s a 50-50 guess,” he said, referring to the chance that the active phase of the Madden-Julian oscillation could materialize some large swells. “During La Niña years the season tends to shut down early,” he said.
The peak of the this year's season at Mavericks was from late January to mid-February, Sponsler said.
"That's when we got our best surf," he said. "That's when the Madden-Julian oscillation turned active for a four-week period."
The best day of the season, Sponsler said, was on Feb. 8 — a day taken advantage of by the film crew which shot on location at the break during ideal conditions.
"That day was great for filming — there were about 40-feet faces — but the conditions weren't right for the contest," Sponsler said.
Some of the Mavericks contest competitors, Sponsler said, are down in South Africa, which is where the big waves are hitting right now.
"The season there is now getting cranked up," he said, "as well as in Chile and Peru. Anything facing the South Pacific will do well right now," he said.
Surf contest planning continues
Despite the bad forecast ahead, Mavericks Invitational spokeswoman Jessica Banks said that contest organizers are still “very hopeful” as they finalize their plans for the event.
“We’re watching every storm coming in,” she said. “Everyone is keeping a close eye on it.”
If the contest is not called this year, organizers still plan to hold an all-day outdoor Mavericks Invitational Festival on March 31 in Half Moon Bay which will feature competitor appearances and the first-ever Mavericks Surf awards ceremony honoring the achievements of the 2011-2012 season at the surf break.
“Jeff Clark and Ken Collins are putting together a panel of judges for the awards,” Banks said last week.
Awards will include an array of categories such as the best Mavericks barrel of the year award, as well as the best Mavericks wipeout of the year, according to Banks.
“Those who come to the festival will have a chance to meet the Mavericks surfers in person, take pictures and get autographs,” Banks said.
Ticket sales, she said, have been good. “We’ve also sold a lot of the VIP tickets,” she said.
The amount of the prize purse, which will be awarded at the festival or at the contest’s award ceremony, has yet to be released.
If the Mavericks contest is not called by March 31, the all-day Mavericks Invitational Festival will take place on the grounds of the in Princeton north of Half Moon Bay. Parking will be at the . For more information about the festival, or to buy tickets, visit the contest website here. Come back to Half Moon Bay Patch for a full guide to the festival.
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