Surfers, Coast Guard, town prepare for Mavericks

Anthony Tashnick hangs on during the semifinal heat of the Mavericks Surf Competition, Wednesday, March 2, 2005, in Half Moon Bay, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

February 13, 2010 7:58:07 AM PST
Two dozen of the best surfers in the world were in the Bay Area Friday, preparing for Saturday's famous Mavericks Surf Contest.

The waves were not impressive Friday, but that was expected to change dramatically by Saturday and some are concerned that the waves may be too big.

The prize for winning first place in the big wave surf competition is $150,000, but the real winner may be the community that plays host to the contest. Big waves bring big publicity, which brings big money -- an estimated $29 million in a year, according to one study.

In 24 hours, Princeton-by-the-Sea will look like anything but a sleepy little town. Streets will clog, restaurants will fill and permanent residents will hide from the hoards.

"Tomorrow we will make sure we have everything we'll need in the house and we'll stay there," Princeton-by-the-Sea resident Dean Simonich said.

It has been two years since the small, obscure beach called Mavericks last became the big wave surfing capital of the world. It looked flat and almost benign Friday afternoon, but the big stuff is building.

"A good wave will be the most intense 5-10 seconds of your life," Mavericks contestant Mark Healey said.

The Mavericks break is a relatively recent discovery, but well-chronicled. Sports writer Bruce Jenkins wrote the definitive book about how the contour of the reef makes a perfectly formed wave.

"Well it breaks so hard and so hollow, you could drive a truck through the tube in the break," he said.

And when that six story tall waves breaks on a man, it feels like getting hit by a truck, according to Healey.

For that reason, the U.S. Coast Guard will keep a close eye on the competition, along with the harbor patrol and local fire department.

In a twist unusual for most sporting events, organizers are asking people to stay away and watch from the Internet, but the town is still preparing for the masses to arrive and watch.

This Saturday fans, for $20-$25, can watch the contest in high definition on the big screen at AT&T Park in San Francisco. People at home can also watch the contest online. The competition starts at 8 a.m.