Mavericks Caifornia Surf Contest - What You Need to Know

Guide to Watching the Mavericks Surf Contest

Competitors at the Mavericks Surf Contest
Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

The Mavericks California Surf Contest gives the world's best surfers a chance to put their skills against those big ones that can rise over 50 feet high. It all sounds simple enough, but this contest has an interesting twist. No one knows when it will be held until just 24 hours before it starts.

You may have heard of the monster waves at Mavericks near Half Moon Bay, California that are the setting for this contest of big wave surfing. Just off a rugged, rocky point along the coast, winter storms and underwater geography combine to create some the world's biggest and most dangerous waves. 

How the Surf Contest at Mavericks Works

Most of the year, the ocean's waves look perfectly ordinary at Mavericks. The big waves come only after a big winter storm in the Pacific Ocean. No one knows in advance when they will peak, or even if they will get to their legendary sizes at all. In fact, in some years they never get big enough to hold the surfing contest.

Late each year, contest organizers announce the official waiting period for the Mavericks Surf Contest. When conditions are right, they call a group of 24 pre-selected surfers to let them know when the Mavericks Surf Contest will begin. The contestants have just 48 hours to get there. That's all the time you'll have to prepare to watch them, too.

The first Mavericks Surf Contest was held in 1999. The name and the group running it changes every few years, but in 2017 it was called the Titans of Mavericks. No matter what the name of the competition is, if Mother Nature provides the waves, tens of thousands of spectators will gather to watch an elite group of the world's best big wave surfers.

If you want to watch the Mavericks Surf, you need to know when it's going to happen. Their news service will take care of that. Visit the Mavericks website or like and check their Facebook page.

Watching the Mavericks Surf Contest in Person

If you decide to go to Half Moon Bay to see what's going on, don't expect to see too much. The big waves break about half a mile offshore. Bring binoculars and arrive as early as you can to find a good spot to watch from. During the Mavericks Contest, previous event organizers set up shuttles from parking lots at the airport or harbor, but that did not happen in 2016. 

The big waves of the Mavericks Invitational (Titans of Mavericks) Surf Contest break over an ocean reef off Pillar Point near Half Moon Bay. Buy tickets in advance to get parking passes and for access to the festival.

Watching the Mavericks Surfers Online

You'll get a much closer look at the surfers if you watch online than if you go to Half Moon Bay to try to see it.

Red Bull is the contest's sponsor. They broadcast the contest online at Red Bull TV is also available as a pre-installed channel on some streaming players. Some Smart TVs have Red Bull TV pre-installed, but on others, you may need to download the Red Bull TV app.

How to Get to Mavericks

During the off-season, it's easy to get a look at the Mavericks location. In the winter, you may see some of those spectacular waves, but the rest of the year, it's more of an ordinary ocean scene.

You can get to the coast on CA Hwy 92 or by taking CA Hwy 1 south from San Francisco or north from Santa Cruz.

From CA Hwy 1, take the South Capistrano Rd exit near the Half Moon Bay Airport. Follow the road past the harbor entrance. Turn left on Prospect Way and west onto Harvard Avenue. After it merges with West Point Avenue, follow the road up the hill to the Pillar Point Marsh lot and hike about one mile uphill, along the sandy footpath to the viewing area on the bluffs.