|ESPN.com: Surfing||[Print without images]|
|Derek Dunfee, sliding down a bomb in the early morning hours in Half Moon Bay.|
It wasn't adding up. After what had been anticipated as one of Maverick's all time season openers, the conditions didn't end up matching the predictions. The buoys were hitting, but the wave count was down and the monster sets were few and far between. At one point the Half Moon Bay buoy hit 17.5 at 20, which should easily equate to 25-foot seas.
But what did show was a northwest wind blazing through the lineup all day, creating a dangerous chop right up the face of the wave. But that didn't stop the 40-plus paddle contingent from testing their bravado on one of the world's most dangerous waves.
Mark Healey launched on the first of the twenty-foot bombs. The amount of wind coming up the face was compared to a jet engine. Riding a new board for the first time turned out to be a bad call today as he caught air and literally launched like a wing. As his board reconnected with the wave face it did an abrupt right-hand turn, launching him straight down a 40-foot wave face.
Another gamble was made in anticipation of Monster Mavericks. Ignoring the jet ski ban, more than tow teams waited in the wings for a small window to tackle a Maverick's beast that never happened. Even with these horrendous conditions paddle surfers stuck it out until the end. What used to be just one or two paddle holdouts in these conditions has now turned to the entire pack. Towing is over at Maverick's.
An all-star cast was on hand despite the Nelscott Reef Big Wave Event being called on the same day. Greg Long, Shane Dorian, Mike Parsons, Grant Washburn just to name a few, opted for Maverick's instead of making the long haul to Oregon. They were banking on the idea that the swell would be too raw to hold that event. Turns out they ran the Oregon event to completion that day.A host of Mavericks newbies also showed up, including Hawaiians Reef Macintosh, Ian Walsh and Sion Milosky.
Although the tow scene is all but gone, out at Maverick's a new genre is emerging fast. The stand-up paddle force has moved in, led by none other than the godfather himself, Jeff Clark. Along with Clark out in the lineup on SUP was Haley Fisk, the first of the "Go Big" paddlers. Chuck Patterson, Mark Alfaro and Ian Wallace from San Francisco were also out standing tall. The raw power of this swell proved too much for Clark's effort, snapping his SUP gun like a twig. But on the other hand, Wallace paddled into probably the wave of his life -- a perfect 18- to 20-footer with nobody else on it.
With the exception of heroics by Mark Healey, Ryan Augustine, Tyler Fox, Skindog, Shane Dorian, Derek Dunfee, Ryan Seelbach, a few SUPers, and returning veteran Shawn "Barney" Barron, the day belonged to the weather. Back at the boat ramp, as everybody returned in jubilation after surviving another solid Maverick's session, things quickly turned somber as the crew found out the bad news about the loss of Andy Irons. Many were close friends to three-time world champ and were obviously heartbroked. Turns out on this day our mother ocean was a bit unsettled and for good reason.