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Mavericks contest draws thousands

AP Photo/ Marcio Jose Sanchez

At a small beach in Half Moon Bay, thousands of surfers and spectators gathered Tuesday to watch the Mavericks Big Wave Event, the only big wave competition in California.

Mavericks was founded in the 1960s when surfers discovered the spot located about half a mile offshore and named it after the dog of one of the surfers present. Waves at Mavericks, propelled by steep cliffs underwater, have been known to reach 50 feet in height or more. The surfers who found it steered clear of the larger breaks further offshore, instead sticking close to the beach. It wasn't until 1975 that a 17-year-old surfer decided to brave the mammoth swells. For the next 15 years, Jeff Clark was the only surfer riding them. In 1980, Clark convinced two other local surfers to try it and they became addicted as well. Since then, Mavericks has become increasingly popular as word has spread that it is the only big wave beach in California.

The Quicksilver Men Who Ride Mountains surf contest began at the beach in 1999. After two years, Quicksilver withdrew and Clark formed a new company to sponsor the contest in 2004.

Tuesday's contest was the fifth at Mavericks. 20 die-hard surfers and four alternates were chosen by Clark to compete. Grant Baker of South Africa won the contest, finishing ahead of five other finalists that included surfers from Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Pacifica.

For more photos of the competition, see page 12.