Hundreds of people carrying folding chairs and blankets braved the cold coastside weather near Half Moon Bay Friday morning to be among the first of an expected crowd of 18,000 to attend a festival and watch this year's Body Glove Mavericks Invitational surf contest.
Weather conditions produced the ideal 30- to 40-foot waves for surfing about a half-mile off the coast of Half Moon Bay at Pillar Point as surfers began the first run at about 8 a.m.
"Today is amazing because of how selective we are about the swell," said Kyla Kemp, 17, of the Half Moon Bay area, who works part-time at the Maverick's surf shop. "We went two years without having it."
The shop's owner Jeff Clark organizes the contest, which took place last year but not in 2011 or 2012 because conditions weren't right.
Winter is usually the best time to hold the competition, between November and the end of March. Experts measure the waves and are able to tell
the best conditions for the waves two days ahead of the contest.
Outside the festival entrance, Matt Rollins, 34, of Oakland, was one of the first people to enter.
As someone who surfs at San Francisco's Ocean Beach and Santa Cruz, Rollins said he likes the Mavericks competition because "it's big and challenging and pretty crazy."
"You eat it, you're going to get washed in," Rollins said. "The water's cold, getting held under the cold water is not fun."
Jameson Kenway, 31, of Moss Beach, who was helping set up equipment for the reggae band Nesta, said he likes the festival because "It's a celebration of surfing. It's my day of the year, a coastline holiday.
Everyone is just taking it off, they want to join the event."
Kelly Dallas, 39, a surfer from Calistoga, said that the area of the Mavericks competition has "some of the biggest breaks in the world and it should be a national holiday."
He said he could have paid $1,000 to go watch it from a boat out in the Bay but decided to spend $15 to watch it at the festival, which includes live feeds provided by ESPN that are shown on jumbo high-definition screens.
Nate Ward, 32, of Gilroy, who said he surfs in the Santa Cruz and Monterey areas, said he likes the festival because of "the big waves that you don't get that often. Big, tall, large, super-cold water, you have sharks out there and rocks, it's a rough spot. They're like the lumberjacks of surfers."
For people unable to go to the festival, a free webcast of the competition is offered online. Viewers cannot go to the Mavericks beach because of high tides and surges, while the cliffs above the beach are also considered unsafe for large crowds.
More information about the contest, as well as the free webcast,
is available at www.MavericksInvitational.com.
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