My friend Katherine has never had any interest in surfing but she “likes beaches.” So she decided we’d go to Maverick’s Surf Competition and all hell broke loose. Here’s what happened:
We left from Kat’s house at 6am. Yes. 6am. Katherine was convinced traffic and parking would be appalling, so we were up and on the road early, arriving in Half Moon Bay by 6:30. We parked in one of the lots that was charging $15, which was fine with us and took a big yellow school bus closer into town. From there, we followed the others up at this ungodly hour about half a mile towards the beach.
At one point on the way to Mavericks, you can either go up the hill and watch from the cliff or follow a side path to the beach.
You’ll remember that Katherine likes beaches. So we took the side path and followed it all the way around the lagoon until we got to the staging area. They’d set up t-shirt tents and food booth and there was a big two-story platform set up, which looked like a really big lifeguard tower everyone called “the jetty.” From there, someone sounding like Spicoli would make occasional announcements.
We walked out onto the beach laden with beach crap and it’s important to note that this beach isn’t a huge, loungy, beach volleyball kind of beach. It’s rugged, with a huge cliff wall on one side and not very long. The waves, which seemed normal not that I could see them before THE SUN ROSE, left about 20 feet of sittin’ sand between the water and the base of the cliff.
We were smack dab in the middle of the beach when we decided to put the blanket down.
People had set up there own little sections as we had, with children in strollers and complex cameras on tripods, but there weren’t THAT many people there. Everyone was hanging out, eating breakfast, drinking coffee or beer. Occasionally a wave would come really close and the crowd would go, “Oohhhhh!”
Above us, on top of the cliff were hundreds of people with more fancy cameras all poised out over the ocean to where the big waves and thus, surfing would go on. Volunteers kept coming by in Mavericks t-shirts telling us to be careful because someone hundreds of feet above us could shift a rock and then we’d die. Or something like that.
The sun rises. We drink coffee. I take dorky photos with the phone.
It’s clear the tide is coming in, fast, but only little hamlets of folks are affected each time. And since we were just watching other people get wet, it didn’t seem like a big deal. We’d overheard people say that high tide would be at 9:30, which didn’t bode well, and Kat and I wondered what to do.
With that, out little hamlet is hit. We leapt to our feet, grabbed our bags and held them in that air, our bodies pressed against the cliff as water covered us to our knees. The family next to us had a fancy camera set up which crashed into the water and their stroller (with a baby in it because babies love surfing) tipped in the water. The wave sucked back out and we stood there soaked and helping the family get all of their stuff back. The baby was fine. The whole thing lasted seconds.
We’d made a friend in a woman named Darlene and then three of us walked back to the mouth of the beach where the jetty/announcer’s booth was. We walked under the jetty and stood on a huge piece of concrete which separated the ocean from the Lagoon. Standing there with about 20 other people and looking down towards the beach as more and more people got soaked, Kat and I tried to come up with another plan.
Climbing up the hill seemed like a lot of dangerous work and our snazzy sneakers were soaked. But if high tide was at 9:30, the beach would only get worse. And the piece of concrete we stood on was up high, with rocks and crashing waves in front of us and rocks and food booths behind us. It wasn’t a good place to set up camp.
All of a sudden, this man comes up behind us and screams, “You guys might want to move. Waves are going to come through here and…”
I could see it was going to hit us. The waves weren’t stories high or anything. But every 10 minutes or so, a big one would knock a few folks over and I was about to be one of them. Some people ran.
It was only going to hit my legs, so I steadied myself. I looked like an old lady, holding my purse in the air and waving for balance. And I was up on this elevated, sidewalk-sized piece of concrete, so if I fell, I’d hit rocks on either side. The water, which didn’t feel that powerful, came up to my waist.
It sucked back out again and I made my way back under the jetty, off of the beach and down to where all of the booths were, some of which were now wet.
Some folks had definitely fallen down, and seemed soaked but fine. Frustrated, Katherine and I walked across the little village of food and clothing vendors and stood in front of a jumbotron that had been set up so you could watch the contest while you bought a hot dog. An old, bearded man with pukka shell necklaces sat on a pile of iceplant with his dog talking to a fisherman.
“Should we sit here for awhile?” I asked, desperate to take my shoes off.
Katherine, suddenly an environmentalist, was concerned for the iceplant. None the less we sat as the fisherman asked pukka shell his name.
“They call me Nomad.”
The patch of iceplant started to fill with folks. Everyone from the beach was retreating to the Jumbotron/iceplant area. But it was still really early and spectators were arriving in droves. Every once in awhile, the Jumbrotron would flash an image of people standing on the concrete under the jetty getting wiped out and the iceplant people would “Oooohhhhhh!!!”
Some chick screamed out, “Been there, done that!”
I was starting to hate these people.
And every 10 minutes or so, some poor injured person would pass in front of the Jumbotron/iceplant area on a golf cart with a bunch of paramedics and rangers screaming, “Make way! Move!”
I saw a guy with a gash on top of his nose giving interviews to the press and a woman with her foot shooting blood. And for each one of them, there were 20 or so just sopping from head to toe.
That went on for about 2 more hours, amid rumors of the beach closing and word that no one was allowed down to where we were.
Never having cared about Mavericks nearly this much in the first place, Katherine and I gave up, put our dripping shoes back on and hiked out of there.
Traffic was backed up all the way to Pacifica.
I am now home in San Francisco, my clothes are in the dryer, my hair is wrapped in a towel and my beloved friend and editor, Eve can rest in knowing I’m not fish food.
And how was your morning?
Photo: Beth Spotswood