Photo by Peter Buranzon of Greg Long sharing a wave with another surfer at Mavericks.

On October 21, 2010, San Mateo County Harbor District in northern California awarded the permit to run the iconic big-wave event known as Mavericks to a group of surfers and photographers calling themselves the Half Moon Bay Surf Group, taking the rights to the competition away from Maverick’s Surf Ventures.

According to local news in the area including the Peninsula Press, surfer Grant Washburn and a member of the group explained, “We were tired of seeing that “Super Bowl of surfing thing” where it looks good on the surface but underneath, you know it’s not working well. This is something we all want to be proud of.”

Ever since Jeff Clark first paddled out in 1975 a half mile offshore from Pillar Point to surf the giant swell which only rears its head during the big surf of winter, there has been controversy over the idea of big-wave surfing and the concept of a competition here. Ironically, Quiksilver, which hosts the Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau, the world%uFFFDs original big-wave surf competition held at Waimea Bay, Hawaii, hasn’t had nearly the controversy as Mavericks. Mavericks has been well, maverick when it comes to the competition component created around this unique monster swell.

Photo by Cestari/ASP during the 2009 Eddie Aikau of Kohl Christensen on a ride he will never forget.

TV coverage, corporate sponsors, and a prize money purse of $150,000 captured the attention of fans around the world, thrusting Mavericks and it’s surfers into the spotlight. But there has been tension between big wave surfers and surf photographers, and Maverick Surf Ventures which previously ran the event. Keir Beadling, the chief executive officer of Maverick Surf Ventures said he tried to get the Harbor commissioners to delay the decision until November to give him time to work with the surfers and possibly co-manage the event. Beadling also said he may explore a lawsuit citing trademark infringement and other wrongful conduct.

Under Harbor District rules, only one entity can hold the permit for this event and Half Moon Bay Surf Group, which includes Washburn and fellow big-name surfer Peter Mel; Clark’s ex-wife, Katherine; surf event organizer Darren Brilhart; and several surf photographers, were able to satisfy officials in terms of their plan for the event.

“[Half Moon Bay Surf Group] responded satisfactorily to all the concerns we had,” Harbor District General Manager Peter Grenell said, adding that the group’s finances appeared in order and it presented a sound organizational plan.

Safety has been a key issue with the event as well, not only for the surfers, but fans. Last February, 13 fans were swept into the ocean when an enormous wave went over the seawall. No one was killed, but most suffered broken bones, which indicated that fans were too close to the action. However big waves sweeping fans and photogs out into the ocean isn’t necessarily new, if you consider how this also happens on the North Shore of Oahu during big surf competition season in the winter. But in the Maverick’s case, it caught the attention of an incredible amount of mainland media.

Speaking for the group at the meeting with the commissioners, Katherine Clark, one of the original organizers, said “I feel confident we can put on the best event we’ve seen yet at Mavericks.” The new group now has little time to prepare for the opening ceremony which launches around December 1st. The event can run from December through February depending on the swell.

As for financing, Barracuda Networks, which previously financed the Mavericks Surf Ventures event, has pledged to work with the new management team and for the next three years. However the event will now be officially called the “Jay at Mavericks Big Wave Invitational.”