or Mavericks is a world-famous, but for some a notorious and
deadly, surfing location in Northern California. It is located
approximately one-half mile (0.8 km) from shore in Pillar Point
Harbor just north of Half Moon Bay at the village of Princeton-By-The-Sea.
After a strong winter storm in the northern Pacific Ocean, waves
can routinely crest at over 25 feet (8m) and top out at over
50 feet (15m). The break is caused by an unusually-shaped underwater
is a winter destination for some of the world's best big wave
surfers. Very few riders become big wave surfers; and of those,
only a select few are willing to risk the hazardous conditions
at Maverick's. An invitation-only contest is held there every
winter, depending on wave conditions.
Clark, having grown up near Half Moon Bay, learned about Maverick's
at an early age. At that time the location was deemed too dangerous
to surf. He spent time watching the break, and conceived the
possibility of riding Hawaii-sized waves in Northern California.
One day in 1975, with the waves topping out at 10 to 12 feet,
Clark paddled out alone to face Maverick's. He was successful,
catching a number of left-breaking waves, thereby becoming the
first person to tackle Maverick's head-on.
the next£20 years, Clark continued surfing Maverick's
alone. It was Clark's secret winter 'giant north shore-sized
surf' surfing spot. Other than a few close friends who had paddled
out and seen Maverick's themselves, no one believed in its existence.
The popular opinion of the time was that there simply were no
large, Hawaii-sized waves in California.
next two people to surf at Maverick's, on January 22, 1990 and
in the company of Clark, were Dave Schmidt (brother of big wave
legend Richard Schmidt) and Tom Powers, both from Santa Cruz.
John Raymond, from Pacifica, and Mark Renneker, from San Francisco,
surfed Maverick's a few days later.
next major event occurred on December 23, 1994. During a week
of huge swells Mark Foo, Ken Bradshaw, Brock Little, Mike Parsons,
and Evan Slater came on an overnight flight from Oahu, Hawaii's
north shore to surf Maverick's. Such was a major event in the
history of Maverick's for reputable Hawaiian big wave riders
to travel to the U.S. mainland to sample the waves of this little-known
big wave riding beach. Unfortunately, the occasion is remembered
for its tragic outcome. The popular and famed Hawaiian big-wave
rider Mark Foo, died while surfing Maverick's with the other
Hawaiian visitors and local riders.
fatal ride occurred in late morning of the first day (December
23, 1994) of riding when (as revealed later on video film),
on a late takeoff into an 18-foot wave, Foo caught the edge
of his surfboard on the surface and fell forward into a wipeout
near the bottom of the wave. Foo may have been knocked unconscious
by his surfboard in the thrashing whitewater of the 'wipe out,'
been tangled in his 'leash,' (a cord that attaches to the board
and extends to an ankle strap on the surfer's leg), the leash
may have been caught in the rock under the surface of the water,
or Foo may have gotten confused in the darkness underwater and
failed to float or swim in the correct direction to the surface
for air. After a short period of time, fellow surfers became
aware that they hadn't seen Foo riding waves anymore, and began
urgently searching for him and his surfboard all around the
Maverick's beach, nearby parking lots, and surfing water. A
few hours later Foo's body was found washed toward the shore,
floating just under the water surface with a piece of his surfboard
still attached by the leash to his ankle. News of Foo's death
traveled instantly to the far reaches of the surfing sport around
the globe. Newspapers and watersports magazines covered the
loss. Citizens of the Hawaiian Islands (Foo's home) and the
surfing world mourned his passing. The unfortunate loss gave
Maverick's deadly surf a new warranted but unwanted notoriety
but also prompted the formation of the Maverick's Water Patrol
to protect big wave surfers when they are performing in the
dangerous winter surf.
Death of Mark Foo.
the surfing sport, Mark Foo's death has brought about a continuing
discourse regarding the safe use on extreme waves of surfboard
'leashes' (a flexible plastic cord which connects, by an ankle
belt, surfboards to the ankle of the trailing leg of the surfer
when he's riding his surfboard). Many in the surfing sport believe
that Foo's surfboard leash may have caused or contributed to
his death. The leash proponents defend the leash as a useful
convenience and as insurance against losing the surfboard, a
form of flotation device, in case of a wipe out, and the leash
is a means for the fallen surfer to find one's way to the surface
air by following the leash cord to the floating surfboard. Opponents
argue that a leash can cause the surfrider to collide with his
board in a wipe out, causing head injuries, and that the leash
can also loop around arms, legs or the surfer's neck when underwater,
and thus dangerously restrict movement to safety or strangle
the surfer. Quick-release velcro tear-open-collared leashes
have since become standard surfing equipment to address some
of these dangers. The debates and concerns continue unresolved
and these worthwhile discussions of water safety are, perhaps,
the legacy of Foo's unfortunate demise.