Monday, January 25, 2010



Tim's a nice guy, but he likes to put the hurt on waves, like this insider @ Mav's

All over the world, there are natural wonders which seem to radiate mystical energy and raw power, places that command awe and demand respect. Mt. Everest. The Amazon. The Artic. Victoria Falls. At places like these, one sight can leave you breathless, and one false move can leave you dead. Despite the risks, there are always some brave (or crazy, you decide) individuals willing to risk their lives by putting themselves at the mercy of Mother Nature’s nastiest conditions.

More often than not, it’s the locals who have the most experience and in-depth knowledge of what it takes to survive such endeavors. Here in Central California, we’ve got our own extreme natural wonder, and it’s a doozy. Located in Half Moon Bay, the colossus known as Maverick’s is a surf spot that almost shouldn’t be surfed. The waves at Maverick break violently over treacherous reef, deadly displays of power that seem to rock the entire ocean.

Every winter, giant swells unload over the craggy rocks, and every winter there are dozens of big-wave enthusiasts ready to take a stab at conquering one of the murderous, yet intoxicatingly thrilling set waves. Over the years, there’s been a crew of Half Moon Bay locals who have dedicated their lives to surfing their beloved home break, and in the process have become some of the most skilled, wave-savvy surfers in the lineup. Guys like Ion Banner and Travis Payne from Pacifica.

Much like the Hawaiians of Oahu’s North Shore or the Balinese, these local surfers have to accommodate a seasonal circus of big name visiting pros, intense media coverage, and high profile contests, which bring increased attention and crowds to their beloved break every year. This year, the drama and hype surrounding the yearly Maverick’s surf contest has reached an all time fever pitch. Petty politics and concerns over increased corporate involvement have overshadowed the real reasons why the contest is so special.

Rather than dwell on the negative, I thought I’d catch up with Half Moon Bay local and Maverick’s standout, Tim West Jr., to ask him a few questions about the wave, the event, and what it means to be a local Maverick’s surfer.

Tim, When did you first hear of the wave out at Maverick’s? What was it like surfing it for the first time?
I heard about Mavericks in the early 90's when photos were first being published in surf magazines. One stormy day riding home on the school bus in 6th grade I'll never forget seeing a huge wave breaking out there and that’s how I figured out where it was. When I first paddled out it was such a memorable experience. The amount of water focusing in one spot was like no other wave I'd ever surfed before. There were only 4 guys out on a picture perfect day. It was such an accomplishment for me to make the paddle out because I had been working up to it for so long. I went for the first left that came my way and paid my dues right away. A very memorable day for sure.

Who are some of the local standouts who you’ve looked up to throughout your career?
Well there are a lot of local standouts that have charged Mav’s who stay on the underground like Ion Banner, Jim Tjogas, Tony Canadas, Curt Myers, Alan Nelson, Steve Dwyer, and Mike Kimsey, who inspired me to try surfing the place when I was growing up. These are the kind of local surfers who not only take the time to give you knowledge of how to surf the wave, but also go out of their way to find you a board to surf and make the paddle with you to the peak. Over the years of surfing I've met so many people from around the world who come to surf here and every one of them has influenced me in one way or another. Jay Moriarty definitely tops the list because he charged huge waves with a positive attitude in and out of the water.

What does it mean to be a local contestant in the Maverick’s contest? Do you feel the local contingency is fairly represented in the event?
It is an honor to be in the contest. I've looked up to Ion Banner all my life for being the local Maverick’s charger all of my life, and to be in the same lineup with him is a dream come true. There are a lot of locals in the area who have their feet deeply rooted in the sand here. The support they give is very motivating and pushes us to charge harder each session. I feel that there should always be a local surfer in the contest, even when Ion and I get too old to paddle out. This year we have about fifteen to twenty surfers from the area who are in the lineup stepping it up each session and a bunch of groms at the jetty who are definitely going to be out there one day. The future looks solid for the local contingency in the lineup at Mav’s. I'm always going to reflect he teachings I've learned from my mentors and share it with them.

What does it feel like to share home break with the top big wave surfers in the world? How does this push you and your fellow competitors?
I'm stoked to share the peak with visiting surfers who bring respect to the lineup. Surfing with guys like Greg Long, Al Mennie, Grant Baker, Jamie Sterling, pushes me to surf on that level. Just about every big wave surf spot in the world is represented out there. So its cool talking with them about their waves and getting the chance to go visit other big wave arenas worldwide. What tops it all off is the friends I've gained from surfing Mavericks over the years. A wave may last 10 seconds but a friendship lasts a lifetime.

How would you like to see the future of the Maverick’s competition?
I would like to see the Maverick’s competition be seen as a positive event for the surfing community worldwide and just as respected as the Eddie at Waimea Bay. It should represent how the local crew would like the surfing community to see it, which is as a respected heavy big wave that holds a contest full of surfers passionate about the ocean and the local community surrounding it. Just about every surfer in the lineup is out there from day one because they have a passion to surf big waves and push their own limits. Thirty nine surfers would then chosen to be on the contest list for being standouts in and out of the water. That’s how I envision the contest through my eyes.

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