image-mavs big wave
Photographer Ben Schutzer captures the first swell of 2020 from the deck of the Huli Cat. The Coastside boat is part of what surfer Tim West Jr. calls the Mavericks Experience. Photo courtesy Ben Schutzer

A local Mavericks surf regular turned surf historian is expanding his tourism company to offer a chance to see the famous big waves up close.

El Granada resident Tim West Jr. has operated the Mavericks Experience, offering boat and walking tours and surf lessons, for about three years. However, this is the first season he’s worked with the San Mateo County Harbor District to take visitors on permitted vessels to witness waves breaking at Mavericks. 

His tour company features both a boat and walking tour depending on conditions on the water. He also teaches surf lessons during the summer at Surfer’s Beach.

West is no stranger to Mavericks, surfing on the Coastside for more than two decades. 

“I first surfed at Mavericks when I was 20. It was a fun hobby and something I was passionate about,” he said. 

Now, West participates in a different way, by going out on his personal watercraft to be ready for potential water rescues during surf events. And he also operates the Mavericks history tours. 

“It’s becoming such a spot on the map,” West said. “… like Mount Everest, even if people don’t climb it, they want to see it and go as high as they can go.” 

West notifies people interested in the tours a few days before the waves are expected to break. For a fee, visitors can go out with West on a boat for about three hours and see the legendary big waves from a perspective that few experience.

When waves are not breaking, he leads land tours following the trail around Mavericks beach. West provides participants with Mavericks history along the way. 

“I will talk about the history of the harbor from bootlegging to fishing before there was even a highway, the Native American history and the military history,” West said. 

He said he is also currently looking to partner with local hotels to offer corporate tours for people visiting the area for conferences or events. 

Over the last five years West has been interviewing surfing legends and mapping the history of Mavericks since the 1950s. 

“Half Moon Bay is no longer just about pumpkins and Brussels sprouts,” West said. “It’s Mavericks. It’s the crown jewel of the town. So, I kind of want to preserve the true history.” 

On Thursday, West took a tour out using Harbor Commissioner Tom Mattusch’s boat, Huli Cat, which was featured in the movie “Chasing Mavericks.” Swell heights that week were estimated at 11 to 14 feet, with some locations exceeding 25 feet.

He said the tour was split between a group of professional photographers hoping to get shots of the waves and tourists fascinated by the whole experience. 

The tour company is a passion project for West. He hopes it will provide the next generation of surfer enthusiasts with the true history of Mavericks. 

Plans for any Mavericks contest this year remain in flux. And West says that is unfortunate.

“It’s a bummer,” he said. “This contest is such an important part of the community and I hope the politics can sort it out.” 

“It’s more than a wave, it’s community. There is a lot of pride and joy in Mavericks,” he said. 

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