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Half Moon Bay to Host World's Top Surfers at Mavericks Opening Ceremonies

Competitors will paddle out to big wave break on Friday for opening of 2011-2012 contest window.

Some of the best big wave surfers across the globe will converge in Half Moon Bay on Friday to ride the first big swell of the season at and officially open the 2011-2012 contest window, veteran surfer and Mavericks Invitational Jeff Clark announced yesterday.

"We've been waiting since November, and now we're definitely seeing some big waves this week at Mavericks," Clark said. "It's the first really big swell of the season, a chance for the surfers to get out there and play with that power before the contest actually happens."

The Mavericks paddle out and prayer ceremony is an adoption of the Hawaiian tradition and has been a hallmark of the contest's opening ceremonies.

At the afternoon gathering, invited competitors and alternates will first take part in a beach ceremony, then paddle out to the world-famous break located less than a mile past . On the water, surfers will form a prayer circle to commemorate the event, show respect to fellow surfers and their safety, and pay tribute to those who have , according to contest organizers.

"It's the perfect chance to see each other again after a year or so, get out there and free surf without pressure, and then come together to celebrate and show respect for the surfers, the wave and the community," said Clark, who first surfed Mavericks while a student at in 1975.

Contest organizers plan to hold the one-day event on the day of the largest waves of the winter season, which opened on Jan. 1 and ends on March 31. The 24 invited competitors and 17 alternates — comprised of surfers who live as close as Pacifica and as far away Australia, South Africa and Brazil  — will have just 24 hours to arrive in Half Moon Bay after the .

This season marks the first in several years that Clark has been involved as the contest director. In September, Clark and wife Cassandra Clark, Santa Cruz surfer (and contest competitor) Ken Collins, surf coach Rocky Raynor, and local surfer Brian Overfelt (who is also owner of the ) took control of the contest when the San Mateo County Harbor Commission them the contest permit as the board of directors of Mavericks Invitational LLC, a newly-formed company which they named this year's contest after.

The group, who will present their plans this Thursday at a with local safety agencies, has made significant changes this year.

Competitor judging and support will take place on the water, not at Mavericks Beach. The public will not be allowed on the beach and bluffs to watch the contest. Instead, ticketholders (who will pay $25 in advance or $40 at the door) will gain entrance to a "festival" and awards ceremony held outside the grounds of the at Pillar Point Harbor in Princeton, and will park at the in Moss Beach. Parking proceeds will benefit the Boys & Girls Club of the Coastside organization based in Half Moon Bay.

Contest organizers are limiting the number of festival attendees to 12,000. Those who want a greater close-up look at the action — and access to the competitors themselves — can spring for VIP tickets at $100 (200 tickets available) and $500 (50 tickets available). For $1000 each, eight spectators can view segments of the competition on a boat and be guaranteed a seat at the awards ceremony dinner.

If the contest is not called this season, a festival will still be held on March 31 which will feature the Mavericks surfers and a first-ever Mavericks Awards end-of-season ceremony honoring the season's achievements, according to contest organizers.

"Every year the sport of big wave surfing witnesses a push of progress, raising the level of performance in one of the world’s most extreme sports," organizers wrote in a press release. "This progress does not always happen on the contest day. Some of the greatest achievements in big wave history go unnoticed or are overshadowed by the contest itself."

The 2011-2012 Mavericks Invitational opening ceremonies will take place at Mavericks Beach at 2 p.m. on Jan. 6 in Princeton just outside Half Moon Bay.

On the day of the contest, the festival will begin at 8 a.m. (to coincide with the first heat of the contest) outside the grounds of the Oceano Hotel in Princeton located to the west of Highway 1 at Capistrano Ave.

For a full list of the invited competitors and alternates to this year's contest, click .

To buy advance festival tickets and a parking pass for the day of the Mavericks contest, click here.

To receive news feeds about Half Moon Bay and the unincorporated Coastside between Montara and Pescadero, visit Half Moon Bay Patch on Facebook and "like" us here. Follow us on Twitter here.

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