Surfing fans may be pushed from shoreside

Promoters of the Mavericks surf contest could borrow a play from international soccer by setting up big-screen viewing areas in parking lots, pubs and hotels to accommodate the growing popularity of the event, according to local officials.

An estimated 40,000 people swarmed the big wave surfing competition off the coast of Princeton-by-the-Sea, tripling the area’s population for the daylong event a year ago, said Sheriff’s Lt. Steven Shively.

Overwhelmed, area residents now want assurances a plan will be in place to deal with bathroom facilities, traffic, parking and damage to cliffs caused by pedestrians.

“I think the World Cup showed that you don’t necessarily have to be at a stadium or on the bluffs, in this case, to enjoy the event,” said Chris Mickelsen, a Princeton-by-the-Sea resident and chamber of commerce chairman.

Following last year’s successful live webcast of Mavericks, promoter Doug Epstein said he is now looking for one large venue, or possibly multiple smaller venues, to team up with for viewing parties.

“We’re looking at potentially hosting some venues to give people a way to see the event without being on the bluffs,” he said.

One or more of those venues might be in San Francisco, Epstein said.

Alternative viewing spots are just one of a handful of concerns that Epstein, of Maverick Surf Ventures, will have to address before the county Harbor District will allow the event to be staged from its parking lot at Pillar Point Harbor, according to Harbor District General Manager Peter Grenell.

“As a person living here, none of us was aware there was going to be that many people,” county Harbor District Commissioner Sally Campbell said.

At times it was chaotic, with people parking in front of driveways in Princeton-by-the-Sea, she said.

Campbell would like to see the Harbor District raise the ante on Surf Ventures to about $18,000, from $13,000, for the use of the district’s facilities and boats during the event, Campbell said.

While the Mavericks contest gives coast-side residents the opportunity to show off and promote the area, portable toilets and better traffic control are essential, said MidCoast Community Council member Katherine Slater-Carter.

“Cars stretched a mile to a mile-and-a-half both directions from Princeton,” she said.

“We want to minimize the disruptions where we can,” said Epstein, whose company has managed the event since 2004.

If negotiations are successful, visitors could park at the Half Moon Bay Airport or a similar location and take a shuttle bus to the bluffs, where so many congregate for a peek at the surfers, who are often half a mile off the coast, Epstein said.

“I personally hope it works because, overall, I think it is good for the community,” Campbell said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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