Arguably one of the most anticipated days in big-wave surfing, the arrival of the first significant swell of the Northern Hemi season sets hellmen's hearts aflutter. On Sunday, Maverick's roared to life with a solid northwest swell. Playing host to a crew of chargers, kooks and a few brave newcomers, the 18- to 20-foot surf did not disappoint. "It was a great opening day for a lot of people," said longtime Maverick's surfer Ken "Skindog" Collins. "It's always nice to hang with so many good friends and dust off the cobwebs."
"These early season swells look promising. And with a much-anticipated El Nino weather pattern predicted, we're already seeing significant activity in the North Pacific only a month into the season," said photographer and water patrolman Frank Quirarte. "Maverick's is looking like it's going to be one of the places to be."
Matt Becker spun and paddled into one the biggest set waves of the day -- a 20-foot monster that nobody else wanted any part of. He made the drop into the flats and then had to straighten out. "I wasn't sure I was going to get into that wave," said Becker. "I hadn't gotten into a wave all morning. But I got to the bottom of the wave and realized there was nowhere to go."
"Nic Lamb and Colin Dwyer didn't seem to mind the melee," said Quirarte. "They both paddled into some of the biggest cleanest waves of the day, making it look easy. Dwyer, a Pacifica local, and Lamb, from Santa Cruz, are both vying for a spot in this year's Maverick's contest. Making the cut shouldn't be that hard; both have been pushing it out there for the past few seasons."
The first wave of the day went to Mavs stalwart Anthony Tashnick. Not the biggest wave ever ridden, it did break the seal, and the game is now definitely on as the 2014-15 big-wave season looms.
"The Maverick's drop is already challenging. Add a 6-foot bump on the wave face and it's riding in a rodeo, a rodeo with a big, super-angry bull trying to buckle your knees and squash you into oblivion," said Quirarte of the unruly nature of the swell.
Big-wave world record holder Shawn Dollar kept it casual, picking the clean, "medium" ones and drawing smooth lines.
Expect big things from Lamb this season ... real big things. He's right there in the mix of guys who are pushing boundaries, and when the wave comes to him he's not afraid to spin and go.
Lamb enjoys the 75-degree weather during a lull in the action.
Savannah Shaughnessy is one of very few women to have competed in Big Wave World Tour events. She's been charging Maverick's for years. Battling a crowd of 50-plus would-be chargers, she's proved time and again she can hold her own in any and all conditions.
Patrick Shaughnessy, steep and deep right on the Maverick's bowl.
"When the wave breaks here, don't be there," said the character Turtle in the popular 1980s surf film "North Shore." That quote seems appropriate here as well.
"The day had its fair share of thrills and spills," said Quirarte. "It was a good day, not the best or the biggest, but a great start and hopefully a sign of things to come. No doubt we'll see the crowds thin out, as the swells get bigger. And hopefully El Nino will deliver once again."