Massive waves call surfers to Half Moon Bay's legendary break every year, even without a contest or prizes. Now that the World Surf League has added Mavericks to its Big Wave Tour, the Coastside's giant surf is back in the spotlight.

New Name, New Organizers

After months of uncertainty, the World Surf League announced that it had purchased the rights to the contest, then known as the Titans of Mavericks, from the event's previous owners, and would be adding Mavericks to it's 2017/2018 Big Wave Tour through 2021. After securing the necessary permits and the approval of the California Coastal Commission, the WSL announced in December that the contest would officially return as the Mavericks Challenge.

The Window Opens

The 2018 contest window opens on January 3 and closes on February 28, leaving just 8 weeks in which to find the perfect conditions. While previous contest windows have opened as early as November, no contest in the event's 18 year history has ever taken place before January 12th, so the shorter window is unlikely to have any ill effects. The surf at Mavericks can be unpredictable, though, and sometimes the right conditions never materialize - since its inception in 1999, only 10 contests have been held.

Surfers at Mavericks - Photo By Scott Eggers
Surfers at Mavericks - Photo By Scott Eggers

Women Welcome

For the first time, the Mavericks Challenge will welcome female surfers to Northern California's most storied surf spot. Six of the world's best female big wave surfers will compete this year: Paige Alms, Keala Kennelly, Justine Dupont, Bianca Valenti, Sarah Gerhardt and Emily Erickson.

“We are thrilled to open the competition window for the Mavericks Challenge,” said World Surf League CEO Sophie Goldschmidt, “Mavericks is a special location that adds a new level to the Big Wave Tour schedule. Hosting the women’s event at Mavericks was always a priority for us when we acquired the event. We are excited and ready to bring the Mavericks Challenge to the international stage for our fans to enjoy.”

How to Watch

For most people, the easiest way to catch the contest is on a screen near you - past contests have been broadcast on television and streamed online. The shoreline and blufftops that overlook Mavericks are closed to the public on the day of the contest both for the safety of visitors and the protection of delicate habitat. Still, standing on the beach was never the best way to watch - the break is too far from shore to be seen clearly.

If you're lucky enough to score a place on board, some local charter boats take visitors out as close as they can get to the contest. If you're in town but stuck on dry land, many local restaurants and pubs serve as gathering spots where guests can watch live streams of the action - no Dramamine required.

Kevin Henney is a web developer and photographer who can often be found behind the scenes of He's a sixth-generation resident of the Coastside, but never fails to find something new to experience in our little seaside towns.