Super Bowl of Surfing Returns to California on Big Waves

The invitation-only professional surfing contest known as Mavericks is returning to California after a three-year wait for the right weather conditions, on a forecast for storm-churned waves as high as a two-story building.

Twenty-four surfers are scheduled to compete Jan. 20 off the Pacific coast near Half Moon Bay, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of San Francisco, organizers announced yesterday.

The competition, held intermittently since 1999, is billed as the Super Bowl of big-wave surfing. Each year during the contest season, November through March, chosen surfers from California to South Africa wait for notice of the competition, which can come as little as 24 hours in advance.

“The waves are going to be insane, the weather is going to be beautiful, and the level of surfing will break new ground,” Jeff Clark, the contest director, said in a statement on the event’s website.

The Jan. 20 forecast calls for seven-foot swells at 19-second intervals, with optimal east winds and wave faces up to 25 feet (8 meters), according to Surfer magazine’s website.

With roots going back to the early 1960s, the event became a global competition in 1999, according to the Mavericks Invitational website.

The contest wasn’t held in 2001 because of the lack of surf, and a lack of sponsors prevented competitions for the next two years. Poor conditions canceled it again in 2007.

In 2010, the last time the competition was held, 13 people standing on a seawall were injured when they were swept off by waves, the Associated Press reported at the time. That sightseeing area has been closed to spectators, according to Surfer magazine.

Mavericks is famed for producing the biggest surfable waves in the U.S. outside of Hawaii. The surf break is due to the presence of a reef, according to a seafloor study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.