The Adrenalist

Liquid Everest: A Closer Look At Maverick’s



The waves at the Californian surf hub Maverick’s vary from impressive and astonishing to unrideable. Some soar 80 feet, making Maverick’s one of the world’s wildest places to catch a ride.

“The Super Bowl of big wave surfing” Can produce waves that soar over 80 feet.

The intel below draws on the new book The Voodoo Wave by surf seer Mark Kreidler, who profiles the hub and the high-performance adrenaline athletes it lures.

Ten curious things about Maverick’s:

1.   Named after a white-haired German Shepherd dog that nonchalantly braved its waters way back in 1961, Maverick’s lies at Half Moon Bay on the Pacific coast.

2.   Here are Kreidler’s directions. “From San Francisco, the point is accessible via a 22-mile regimen of twists and turns along Highway 1, through Pacifica, and down a particularly malicious piece of road around an area known as the Devil’s Slide, past which the pavement suddenly smooths and broadens out to the finish, a breathtaking stretch in which the ocean thrusts itself into full view, the waves crashing home along the broken shores of the rugged, rock-strewn beaches of Northern California.”

3.   The force of the big wave source stems from a mix of influences. The key cause: a giant underwater natural rock “ramp”.

4.   Dubbed “The Godfather of Maverick’s”, uber-surfer Jeff Clark rode it alone for 15 years before other surfers engaged, with his guidance, in 1990. According to Kreidler, fewer than 150 people on the planet have the constitution, skill and disregard for safety to paddle in, stand up and traverse Maverick’s waves under the forbidding conditions it routinely serves up.

5.   On November 21, 2001 – a date later named One-Hundred-Foot Wednesday – two jet ski-borne safety patrollers, Shawn Alladio and JC Cahill, were confronted by mammoth Maverick’s waves coming at breakneck speed. The survival instinct kicked in. The more experienced Alladio decided the only chance was to gun their engines and sprint straight at the swells – meet them head on and try to surmount them before they crested and slammed in big-wave fury. The tactic worked.

6.   “Normally,” Alladio later told the San Francisco Chronicle, “when you go over a big wave, you get pelted with spray. But these clots of water were huge, the size of your fist, and they exploded like you were getting pounded by water balloons. And on the wave fronts, each time we went up I could see all these fissures or ravines in the surface, and there was some kind of crazy light energy vibrating inside the wave like electricity.”

7.   Sometimes fatal to surfers, Maverick’s can also maul gawkers. In 2010, during the Maverick’s contest, a rogue wave rushed the beach. Racing 40 feet inland, it injured a dozen of the thousands of watchers encamped on the rocky hillside.

8.   After being thrashed by two Maverick’s waves on January 22 this year, big wave surfer Jake Trette told NBC Bay Area, “It was like Mother Nature gave me a right cross, like Mike Tyson punched me in the face.”

9.   Other sources liken the typical Maverick’s wave to a freight train.

10.  According to Kreidler, the worst mistake you can make is thinking you can take on the liquid Everest. You survive by becoming “part of the wave”.


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