Friday was an abnormally warm evening at Pillar Point, but the scene was familiar for the annual Mavericks opening ceremony. Yet the vibe felt different. Instead of droves of international professional surfers and event sponsors, roughly two dozen people paddled out into the lagoon off the point to celebrate the start of the big-wave season.
This year, the contest will try a brand-new format.
When the World Surf League effectively scrapped Mavericks from its Big Wave World Tour in August, many people on the coast and around the world questioned when, if ever, the next competition would arise at the notorious wave.
Last week, Mavericks frontiersman Jeff Clark and local entrepreneur Chris Cuvelier announced the inception of the Mavericks Surf Awards, a five-month-long competition that takes place over video. Instead of a one-day event with 24 competitors, the new Mavericks format is open to any surfer who completes, documents and submits — via video — a wave ridden at Mavericks between Friday, Nov. 1 and April 15, 2020. The categories up for grabs include Male Performer of the Year, Female Performer of the Year, Biggest Wave, Best Wave and Best Barrel. An award ceremony will take place in May 2020, with surfers taking 90 percent of the prize money and videographers getting 10 percent, the organizers say.
The new format eliminates the headaches contest organizers have been dealing with for two decades, from permitting challenges between multiple agencies, inconsistent conditions and unpromising waiting periods. Organizers say the process is inclusive and open to men and women, international professionals and underground locals.
The specific amount of sponsorship money, along with the five judges, will not be announced for another three to four weeks. The format is similar to the WSL’s global Big Wave Awards, in which Mavericks occasionally makes appearances in several categories. Clark and Cuvelier, the CEO of the San Francisco-based sparkling water company Zola, said a Mavericks-only challenge was ripe.
“Jeff and I wanted to ensure we would properly honor the wave and the athletes,” Cuvelier told theinertia.com. “What we came up with are five key objectives that will guide our decisions: celebrating the wave; providing financial support to the athletes; promoting unity, inclusion, equality, and environmental stewardship; providing value back to sponsors; and promoting water safety.”
One thing to note: The awards will be given to completed rides only. Surfers won’t be rewarded with money and glory for cavalier commitment to unmakeable waves. Luca Padua, the youngest surfer in the Mavericks lineup, was gradually brought on as an adviser to Clark and Cuvelier after the WSL’s announcement. He believes the promotion of safety and inclusion are huge draws.
“When you have a single contest day, yeah that’s sick, but what if you’re not on that day?” Padua said. “What if that’s not your day? What if you didn’t sleep that good or ate something weird or didn’t sleep well. Throughout the year, you’re going to have days when you’re not on your game.”