Most of my friends are into frozen water on a flat surface, not surfing. I was part of a very rare breed growing up as a hockey player in California, which makes me into both. I’ve never been to Mavericks in person and have only seen photos and videos of the avalanche that breaks just outside of Half Moon Bay. It’s a wave that can be measured on local Richter scales when the right swell direction arrives in the winter. People die there doing what they love.
I chose a good day to go. Not exactly a day, but a 3-day commitment with the drive North from Encinitas. Not the biggest Mavs ever, but great conditions with good light and offshore wind. A surfer and photographers dream and telling by the crowded lineup many people were on my plan.
With too much adrenaline and truck driver legs, the night before was predictable. Like something out of a movie. Strolled into a dive bar with guns hanging from the rafters called Old Princeton Landing. The place reeks surf history and I’m sort of embarrassed talking about it being my first time there.
I shared pints all night with the locals, the owner of the bar, and a crew of surfers from Basque Country Spain, also at Mavericks for the first time. They’re surfing though, I’m a spectator - big difference. After more than a few beers we would see each other again on the boat dock in just a few hours. I offered to give them a ride out on the 35’ Real Screamer 2 I had lined up for 6am. Needless to say, I was their new best friend. If not for my offer, it’s a gnarly hour paddle without a boat. A normal surfer has zero chance paddling to where he needs to go to catch a wave a Mavericks. Getting there is one thing. Catching a beast is another.
When we met at 6am the Spaniards multiplied. I’m the good vibe guy that wants to hook everyone up and I met so many people the night before that I don’t remember who I made what promises to. Doesn’t matter really, jump on, let’s do this.
I got the sense quickly that Captain Don was more used to fishing charters than Mavericks. A little gun shy on the throttle in the mongo swell at first. After a little banter Captain Don turned into Lieutenant Dan and we were right in the thick of things in the channel, perfectly poised to catch all the action.
I jumped up in the Tuna Tower before it turned 7am. Gunned with a Nikon D4S that shoots 12 frames-a-second there’s not a chance that I miss any of this shit. I was not disappointed.
It was a healthy lineup of great surfers in epic conditions that made my 8 hour drive up and countless IPA’s all make perfect sense to the reason I was there. In hindsight, I’m also stoked that I met the Spaniards. Since buddies of buddies were on the boat I made one of them join me on the Tuna Tower and I showed him how to work my video camera and hit record. My Sony FS700 shoots in slow-mo at 120 frames per second, and in that mode you record in “post”. Translation, I tell him to “hit the button” on what just happened, then we have it recorded. Editors dream to be honest because every clip is a likely keeper.
Lieutenant Don couldn’t believe I sat in that Tower for 6 hours without coming down. On the back of a boat in 30-foot swell it’s gnarly, climb 15 feet, you multiply that.
The trip and footage will not soon be forgotten. I linked up with many of the big wave chargers from the day after the fact through social media and was happy to share with them what I captured. I was also excited that Stab Magazine ran a few of the shots, including the cover photo for the story. The whole West Coast saw the best week of surf that I can remember, so I was stoked they ran mine with so many great options at their disposal.
The edit of the video coverage can be viewed at
It definitely will not be my only trip to Mavs and I’m looking forward to shooting other big wave locations I’ve never been to as well. Maybe Todos Santos next since it’s actually a quicker trip from Encinitas.
Thanks for reading.