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Thursday, December 2, 2010
Updated: December 4, 11:17 AM ET
"The Jay" waiting period begins


As the window of the 2010/11 Mavericks contest season officially opens there's a huge buzz around Mavericks and the big -wave community. The soul has been rightfully returned back to the event. Katherine Clark, one of the organizers of The Jay Moriarity Invitational, ordered 24 leis for the competitors to be handed out during the introduction of the lineup, but with 50-plus unexpected paddlers taking part in the opening ceremony for the newly formed Jay Moriarity Invitational, it wasn't nearly enough. In Mavericks tradition, all who have surfed there -- and some who haven't -- are invited to stand shoulder to shoulder with the legends of the sport.

Based on the popularity and feedback already received, organizers of the event expected a larger than normal crowd, but not at all what they got on a beautiful, high-pressure Monday afternoon. In a word, it was amazing. Rick "Frosty" Hesson -- mentor to Moriarity -- summed it up best while addressing the crowd, "What you see before you, it is the most awesome, unbelievable assembly of big-wave riders and incredible human beings ever collected."

Opening ceremony of the first Jay Moriarity Invitational.

And that was an understatement. Surfers from around the world, both invited and not, joined the lineup and were introduced one by one to the crowd of fans and the army of photographers. A certain Jeff Clark handled the emcee responsiblities. Not that it wa hard to ID any of the surfers -- Greg Long, Shane Dorian, Peter Mel, Darryl "Flea" Virotsko, Grant "Twiggy" Baker, Mark Healey, Jamie Sterling and the list goes on and on. It was a who's who of elite big-wave hellmen.

Also on hand was Kim Moriarity, Jay's widow. "To have this re-named in Jay's honor is unbelievable to me," said an emotional Moriarity. "I know how much it would mean to him to have his whole big-wave brotherhood standing here."

And with the conclusion of a prayer given by Mike Gerhardt, one of Jay's closest friends, the competitors, their families and the local community paddled out to the Mavericks fore bay to join hands in the traditional circle.

It's true what they say, hockey fans are a breed unto themselves.

With the sun setting over the reef behind them, one by one they gave thanks and raised there joined hands in honor of Jay and new beginnings. Dave Wassal, North Shore lifeguard, big-wave surfer and last year's recipient off the Jay Moriarity Award thanked the community of Half Moon Bay for having them all back year after year. "We're big wave surfers and we come with our egos and entourages, but you invited us back year after year, and for that we are truly grateful," said Wassel.

As the sun set and the group returned from the icy Northern California waters the real party began over at the Oceano Hotel. After the ping pong ball heat draw, a few speeches and lots of stoke the festivities began and went on well into the early morning hours.

Just the kind of place you want explain where your nickname came from.

And the party didn't stop there either. The next day Barracuda Networks, the event's title sponsor, invited the competitors to join them in their luxury box at the San Jose Sharks game. Barracuda exec's bussed them down from San Francisco to experience the sights and sounds of the "Shark Tank." And during one of the period intermissions the Sharks invited Twiggy and Greg Long down to the ice to address the crowd while Mavericks Big Wave footage played overhead on the jumbo-tron. When asked how he got his nickname, at first Twiggy stammered, then announced to the whole arena, "My ex-girlfriend gave it to me." Needless to say, the line was a hit.

So it begins, The Jay has now been realized. After a year of wrangling for the contest license with the previous group that organized the event -- an endeavor that entailed repeated meetings with the San Mateo County Harbor District Commission -- it appears that the competitive future of Mavericks is on a much-improved tact. "It's been a lot of hard work, and my hat's off to all those that made it possible," told former Maverick's winner Greg Long. "To bring the event back in the name of Jay is an amazing thing. He really encapsulated the spirit of surfing, and especially big-wave surfing. Looking forward to a great year."

The waiting period runs from Dec. 1, 2010 through Feb. 28, 2011. Now if only the North Pacfic would kick it up a notch.