Maverick’s Invitational Surf Competition

Bringing some of the World’s Best to the California Coast!

Since its inaugural event in 1999, “Mavericks,” as it is known among the world’s surfing elite, has drawn the most intrepid and experienced surfers, hoping to catch the ride of a lifetime. Each winter, storms off the California coast create waves near Half Moon Bay that rival those found in Hawaii and few other locations. Often reaching crests of 25 or more feet and occasionally topping out at a truly daunting 80 feet, the waves found here during some winters are quite dangerous and have claimed the lives of several world-class surfers.

These monstrous waves are formed by a combination of offshore storms and a long, sloping ramp on the seafloor as it approaches Pillar Point, near the town of Half Moon Bay. Deep troughs on either side of the ramp focus the waves’ energy, allowing them to reach heights found nowhere else on the California coast and in few other places in the world.

The Mavericks Competition has no set date each year, as the waves are dependent on weather conditions. However, in most years, it occurs anywhere from late January to the last week in March. If fortune and weather do not smile and the big waves do not appear, the event is called off until the next winter. Despite the ephemeral and unpredictable nature of the event, it has become one of the most important surf competitions in the world, with competitors flying in with only 24 to 48 hours notice to get a chance at riding their way into the record books.

If you want to compete, you already know all about this event and have contingencies in place for when the phone rings. If you are a mere mortal who loves to watch these athletes tempt fate and shred some towering waves, you have some options:

  • Buy a ticket for the event and join other spectators at the Oceano Hotel & Spa in Princeton Harbor near the event. (There is no direct viewing, as the contest occurs about ½ mile offshore.) Or,
  • Head to AT&T Park in San Francisco and watch the event on the ballpark’s humongous 110-foot Jumbotron. Or,
  • Rent a spot on a charter boat and watch the surfers compete at a safe distance. (Provided your stomach will tolerate the motion of the ocean!) Or,
  • Check out the free webcast from the comfort of your home (or on your TV if your cable provider offers Universal Sports Network.)

If you want to go to either location, you should point your web browser at the official site of the competition at The site features lots of information for spectators and is the single-best source of real-time info about the event. The towns of Half Moon Bay, El Grenada, Moss Beach and Montara are lovely, but you can expect Highway 1 to be jammed before, during and after the event. So if you plan to attend, leave early, allow plenty of time and pray you can find a motel or campground that still accepts reservations. Surf’s up!