Swells bode well for surfers at Mavericks

Surfers from across the globe already stoked to ride 50-foot waves in Half Moon Bay during the Mavericks Surf Contest believe “monstrous” waves hitting the coast this week indicate good things for the fate of this year’s competition.

“It’s the biggest [waves] we’ve seen in a long, long time,” said contest director Jeff Clark, who was excited to leave Hawaii on Monday for the area’s waves, which he said are around 30 feet. “It’s bigger than anything we saw last year.”

The contest, canceled last year due to lack of big waves, could begin between Friday and March 31, the official window of time for the contest. As soon as the forecast calls for wave-generating storms, 24 international competitors will be called to the competition at Princeton-by-the-Sea within 24 hours.

A high surf advisory is in effect in the area until noon Wednesday, said National Weather Service forecaster Bob Benjamin. Swells of up to 24 feet running against the slope of the ocean in the area should translate to some fairly huge waves, he said.

The early reports gave organizers hope that this year will not be a repeat of the conditions for last year’s canceled event. Maverick Surf Ventures CEO Keir Beadling said it was probably the worst big wave season in a decade or two.

Mavericks organizers announced late last month that the official contest window will open several weeks earlier than previous years due to what is expected to be a season of excellent waves. That decision might pay off.

“It’s impossible to know but it’s very unlikely that the contest wouldn’t deliver two years in a row,” Beadling said.

The contest will officially kick off with opening ceremonies Friday when heats are assigned and surfers hold a prayer circle in the water.

“They’re all here to ride the biggest waves that they can,” Clark said. “They have this undying commitment to chasing and trying to catch that magic wave.”

The contest is unique because of its treacherous terrain and wave riding a half-mile offshore, Beadling said.

The event attracts about 50,000 people and will be available for viewing online this year as well, Beadling said. The contest is also expected to pump more than $1 million into the area’s economy. First prize is $75,000.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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