Spectators Swept Away at Surf Comp.

February 13, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The picturesque shores of Northern California turned into a nightmare for dozens of spectators swept away by waves at the Mavericks surf contest.One hour into the Maverick's Surf competition, what one official called a rogue wave breached the jetty off pillar point near half moon bay, sweeping scores of spectators into the ocean.

"I was not expecting a wave to 3 feet over the levee and wash us away," said David Hopper, a spectator.

The surf destroyed scaffolding and the scoreboard

The crowd was stunned by the wave and there was more.

A second, then a third wave crashed over the breakwater, inundating the concession stands nearby.

"We all went up on tables, people grabbed counters and poles and watched half our stuff float out of the booth," a vendor Steven Davidson said.

"Very chaotic, people grabbing children trying to climb up the cliff side grabbing the mud," Jenny Keay said.

Officials began evacuating that portion of the beach and golf carts were used to ferry the injured to a triage area, where 8 ambulances treated numerous people, including several with broken bones.

"This has always been a major problem for us at Mavericks, getting ambulances to people who are hurt because of the crowd," said Rick LaMark, San Mateo County Paramedics Supervisor.

Hundreds of people left the area, many opting to hike to cliff top viewing points. The beach was clearly marked with signs warning of dangerous waves and surf. Witnesses say people did not listen to announcements made over the loudspeakers to stay away from the water's edge. Locals said Saturday's surf was unusually treacherous.


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