Mavericks rides storm’s wave

One of the Bay Area’s most powerful winter tempests in recent years became a boon to the world’s elite surfers as waves reached heights treacherous enough for the much-anticipated Mavericks Surf Contest to begin Saturday.

Mavericks contest Director Jeff Clark gave the green light Thursday afternoon to one of the world’s most competitive big-wave contests, giving competitors just more than a day to head to Princeton by the Sea in Half Moon Bay.

“As a wave, it’s probably the one to measure against,” said surfer Grant Washburn of San Francisco, who has competed in the previous five contests. “Obviously there’s others, but if we have a good day at Mavericks we feel it’ll be the biggest eventof the year.”

This will be the first Mavericks contest in 23 months after last year’s tournament was cancelled due to a lack of big waves. The official window of time for the contest opened Dec. 7 — earlier than in previous years — and would have ended March 31.

The big-wave event, from 8 a.m. to about 3 p.m., should pump about $4 million into the town’s economy, with local eateries and hotels benefiting the most, said Charise McHugh, president and CEO of the Coastside Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau.

McHugh, also head of the area’s eco-tourism bureau, said she was impressed with the work that Mavericks organizers did for this year’s event. In the past, there have been concerns over the hordes of visitors trampling native plants and wildlife, but various initiatives have appeased those worries, McHugh said. She said a bio-diesel generator will provide electricity for the event and organizers will sell energy credits to offset emissions from a 300-mile car trip, for $2 apiece to attendees.

But not everyone is ecstatic about the contest. Lucy Turner, manager of the nearby Cowboy Surf Shop, said the crowds will be rough on locals.

“The majority of people here just say, ‘Ah, here it is again.’ And the traffic is just ridiculous. It’s just horrendous,” Turner said.

To help stem traffic, Mavericks will stream a free live Web cast for the first time this year at MavericksSurf.com. Live action will also be shown at AT&T Park for $20 to $25.

There will be no parking on nearby Highway 1 or Capistrano Road on Saturday, said San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Marc Alcantara.

The Mavericks

» 8 a.m.: Start of first round

» 40: Number of minutes per surfer

» $75,000: Total prize money

* Source: Mavericks officials, chamber of commerce

mrosenberg@examiner.com  

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