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Winter Surf Destination: Mavericks

November 26, 2013 3 min read

winter surf destination: surf mavericks

Just a few miles from Pillar Point Harbor near Half Moon Bay out in the Pacific Ocean, lies Northern California's premiere winter surfing spot.  If you want to test your surf and survival skills, Mavericks is the ideal winter surf session.  But it is not for the faint of heart.  To surf Mavericks is to ride giants, become a legend and dance with the devil.

The waves you surf at Mavericks are something of an eighth wonder of the world.  Their hollowed perfection is matched only by their awe-inspiring size and power.  Waves can top out at heights as monstrous as 25 feet during heavy winter swells.  People first braved Mavericks with surfboards in the 1960s, and it has been a hot spot for big wave surfing ever since.

A History of Mavericks

In 1967, surfers Alex Matienzo, Jim Thompson and Dick Knottmeyer tried the unnamed surf for the very first time.  They brought a German Shepherd, named Maverick, along with them, who continuously tried to swim after them as they paddled out to the waves.  Eventually, they were forced to tie Maverick up at the shore because the surf conditions were so dangerous.  They decided to name the surf spot after the brave dog, and it is now known everywhere as "Mavericks".

Mavericks Surf Conditions

winter surf destination: surf maveriksYou're best bet for the biggest waves at Mavericks is in the winter, so any time between November and February.  Look for a northwest swell to give you the smoothest wave.  For a shorter surf, wait for a swell from the west.  Any gust bigger than a light, onshore breeze will very likely launch you from your board, as the wind adds an incredible amount of power to these monster waves.  Mavericks' rocky reef makes it very much a right-break surf spot.  Riders can also tackle Mavericks' left break, but it is not nearly as smooth or safe.  A low tide makes the waves at Mavericks even steeper and scarier, so try to plan your surf session during a high tide.  If you plan to jump into the icy waves this winter, be careful of the infamous "Bone Yard".  It's a collection of rocks located right where the waves break, and they are a nuisance for Mavericks surfers.

Mavericks Surf Gear

winter surf destination: surf mavericksIf you're out there watching the regulars surf before you jump in, you'll notice that most of them tend to ride the waves with longer boards between 9 and 12 feet.  As for your wetsuit situation, don't think for a second that you can get away with wearing a shorty or even a 1/2mm suit.  You'll need the works:  a sturdy 3/4mm suit (that's a minimum), a hoodie and even boots and gloves.  While some surfers at Mavericks may say a leash is a must, others may tell you they do more harm than good in these particular waves.  Surfers attached to their board when they wipe out may be able to right themselves get to the surface quicker.  However, a leash could very easily hold you under consecutive waves of your board is hopelessly wedged in the "Bone Yard" below you.  Mavericks is a big wave tow-in surf spot, so a buddy on a jet ski ready to rescue you after a wipeout wouldn't be a bad idea.


There you have it!  So if you're ready to brave the winter waves this holiday season and surf Mavericks, follow these tips for a safer ride.  Have fun and shred with caution!

Sarah Webb
Sarah Webb

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See the Stoke

684 reviews
Not sold on it

I had really high hopes. I have been able to use the Bula on a couple good days. I'm liking my old board better so far. But will try it a couple more times before I return it just to be sure. I have none of the below issues with my Enjoy planer, and thinking of going back.
1. The dam thing is not secure on my hand. No mater how tight I make it. It litterally pops off my hand while on a wave. Its getting really anoying having to constantly pay attention to it.
2. I switch my hand depending on the wave direction. It's tough for me to get a grip on the nose, pull it off then pull tightly on other hand in time. I've missed a couple good ones because of this.
3. The pad that goes accross the top of my hand doesnt cover my whole hand and the seam starts to rub on my hand and is uncomfortable.
4. Not a huge deal but wasnt happy that there were some small cosmetc defects on the board. Eslescially for the price
5. The board bag is kind of ridiculous. Its huge and picture on website isnt to scale, but I probably just wont use it. It was basically free.

I think the only thing I can say positive is I think it has good control... after getting used to the angle I need, and may be a bit more bouyant to pull me out of water for speed. But i need to try it a few times more and figure out how to keep the dam thing on!

I am giving these to my grandsons at the end of the month. I am sure they will love them.

Hand slyde

The leash works amazing i won't go out without my leash on....

Bula hand board

This handboard is exactly what I was looking for. The size and craftsmanship is fantastic! I have gotten some great rides with this board. Super fun.

Ready for the Senior Tour

I received my Slyde Phish just before 2 weeks of gloomy weather. Now that I’ve had a chance to road test it, I can’t wait to get back in the water.

Growing up in Long Island NY, body surfing was my first wave gliding experience. Typically we would drive straight to shore so surfing the diagonal has been a learning curve.

I look forward to many great sets this summer.

Matthew Papish (59)
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