View Full Version : Today's SF Chronicle: Do Jet Skis give Mavericks Surfers A False Sense Of Security?

02-02-2011, 05:17 PM

Back in the day, two skis and a dozen surfers were a crowd

Chronicle sports editor Bruce Jenkins normally follows the Giants. Except when the waves are breaking big and he can hear and feel them thundering from his Montara home along the San Mateo County Coast. His attention then turn towards Mavericks a few miles south. In today's edition of the San Francisco Chronicle he examines the latest brush with mortality there when Southern California surfer Jacob Trette was in the wrong place at the wrong time and tumbled ass over tea kettle into the boiling morass known as "The Boneyard" and nearly killed him.

Breaking just off Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay, Mavericks has grown exponentially over the years.

If not for the visiting surf photographer who was there "illegally" on a jetski, Jacob would had met his maker. Bruce's article, which will appear online on Friday, outlines the presence of Jet Skis at the legendary break and their ever growing numbers and perhaps the false sense of security they present.


There was a time when only one person was on a wave at a time

Typically on large days, a presence of Jet Skis patrol the water with permission from the governing agency NOAA. The Jet Skis were officially banned in 1994 in response to an onslaught of Jet Skis combing the California Coast in an effort to tow in to larger and larger waves, with little or no regard to the rules imposed within the National Marine Sanctuaries. By 1999, after contentious debate the officials relaxed the rules slightly to allow the use of Jet Skis at Mavericks on a couple conditons: Only during the three month wind of December, January and February and only when the National Weather Service has issued a high surf warning. (Waves 20' or higher with long period swell)

Bruce points out quite eloquently that while last months swell which nearly claimed Jacobs life, was large, it did not exactly meet the criteria in question. He also points out that the two stalwarts of the Mavericks rescue team, Doug Acton and Frank Quiarte, hard working surf photographers who magically appear anytime the swell breaks, have pulled out countless surfer from harms way over the year. Both have lobbied NOAA hard to relax the rules citing it makes the surfing there safer.

Ironically it's the presence of surfing photogs which is a bug light to many. A chance to hit it big as it were and score that amazing shot in sweet morning light that might land the surfer some major cred or even sponsorship or incentive cash which brings more and more surfers out. Many, literally over their heads.

Bruce, who has work with both Frank and Doug for years, and even authored Inside Mavericks (http://www.insidemavericks.com/) with Doug, appears to have finally come to the conclusion that dependency on watercraft to be there to
aide surfers isn't that great of an idea: He writes " To me after decades of observing and writing about giant surf, Mavericks isn't about a pristine morning with gorgeous waves and some 40-odd surfers bent on being photographed in perfect light. It's about late afternoon, with a bit of contrary wind and waves pouring in with 40' faces, the sun's glare so bright you can hardly spot anyone on the water. That's when a minuscule crew of hard core surfers, including Grant Washburn, Mark Rennaker, Bob Battlio and John Raymond defined the essence of Mavericks in recent years, armed with their no allies beyond their wits, their knowledge and a sense of bliss"


You got yourself into this mess, now get yourself out!

Bruce continues: " If you aim to surf Mavericks, imagine yourself in their company. Picture Jeff Clark, the Mavericks pioneer, surfing in complete solitude for 15 years. Gage your physical and mental state if the worse case scenario comes down. See if it brings a smile to your face. Tread not in fear"