Fans of big-wave surfing will find it a lot more difficult to get a firsthand look at the Mavericks competition in Half Moon Bay this year, as viewing spots on coastal bluffs and beaches will be closed to public access.
Representatives from the Half Moon Bay Surf Group, which is organizing this year’s Jay at Mavericks Big Wave Invitational, joined an array of public safety agencies at a meeting tonight to announce the closures and discuss the logistics of protecting the public, the environment and competitors at the event.
More than 40,000 spectators have converged on the area around Princeton-by-the-Sea to watch the contest in previous years, often jamming on to fragile cliffs and overcrowding beaches to get a view, San Mateo County sheriff’s Capt. Mark Hanlon said.
“We’ve taken a lot more initiate action to keep people from going onto that cliff,” Hanlon said of this year’s event.
Access to Pillar Point Bluff and 199 acres of surrounding open space and environmentally sensitive habitat will be closed, Hanlon said.
The Peninsula Open Space Trust, which owns the land, gave permission to Mavericks organizers and local authorities to enforce the closures, San Mateo County Department of Parks Ranger Scott Lombardi said.
“The overall impact on the bluff is going to be tremendously different than last year,” Lombardi said.
Access to the beach below the bluffs will also be closed, sheriff’s Lt. Lisa Williams said.
In 2010, 13 spectators were injured and three hospitalized when a rogue wave crashed into a crowded viewing spot set up on the beach.
Authorities will be patrolling the closed areas and turning back any spectators they find, Hanlon said.
A unified command post will be set up at a radar station on Pillar Point, which will include units from the California Highway Patrol, the Coastside Fire Protection District, the sheriff’s office and the Pillar Point Harbor Patrol.
Organizer Katherine Kelly Clark said there wouldn’t be many local options for people coming to town to watch the competition.
A viewing screen will be set up for the public on a two-acre lot at Capistrano Road and Prospect Street in Princeton, but it won’t be comfortable, Clark said.
The competition will also be telecast live on the Internet at www.thejayatmavericks.com.
“The best way to watch it is at home,” Clark said. “That’s the message we want to get out.
Chris Cooney, Bay City News