Friday in Half Moon Bay, an opening ceremony, known as the paddle out, marked the beginning of Mavericks Invitational surf contest season. If wave conditions are right, organizers will give 24 surfers 24-hours notice to get to Half Moon Bay and compete. The contest window is open now until the end of March.
At Friday’s paddle out, surfers gathered to take pictures, say a prayer led by contest founder Jeff Clark, and paddle to the middle of the ocean where they formed a giant circle. The surfers carried Hawaiian ti leaves with them in their mouths or tucked into their wetsuits for good luck.
The unpredictability of ocean conditions means that some years the contest doesn’t take place at all. This has been the case the last two years. The contest hasn’t taken place since February 2010.
Waves at Mavericks have been known to reach heights of 60 feet. This year, Mavericks board members say the contest will definitely happen. Crowds are predicted to be twice as big this year due to the release of a Hollywood movie, Chasing Mavericks, about the surfing spot and culture in Half Moon Bay.
The contest is important to Half Moon Bay’s community. Not only does it bring in an estimated $2.1 million for the city through tourism revenue, it also brings surfers together from all over the world. This year, some contestants hail from Brazil, Australia, Santa Cruz and South Africa.
This article first appeared in Peninsula Press, a hyperlocal news site powered by Stanford University’s Graduate Program in Journalism.