Mavericks Surf Awards: Jeff Clark Returns to Promote, Protect & Preserve a Wave that Matters

Luca Padua Mavericks Fred Pompermayer
For the new Mavericks Surf Awards, athletes will be required to show completion of the wave in order for the video submission to be accepted by judging panel. Photo by: Fred Pompermayer
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Mavericks Surf Awards Jeff Clark
Big Wave Surfer, Luca Padua surfing Mavericks in 2018 Photo credit: Fred Pompermayer

Exclusive Conversation with Jeff Clark on Mavericks Surf Awards

In a recent phone conversation with Jeff Clark, Jeff hipped me to the fact that he and Chris Cuvelier were creating a new contest for the legendary Mavericks Surf Invitational contest.  As you remember, Clark had been an integral part of the development of the Mavericks surf contest, having surfed the wave solo from the age of 17 in 1975. He later stepped away from having anything to do with the contest as the WSL and politics began to infiltrate the culture surrounding the annual competition.

In a quick recap, Jeff told me about how the contest became politicized by local politicians who – upon seeing the wild growing popularity of the Mav’s contest – took advantage of what they saw as an opportunity to fund the county (seriously?) and gain some notoriety with their constituents.

“It ain’t pretty,” Clark said of the fallout between local surfers, politicians and the World Surf League who took over the rights and permits of the contest in 2016 as a showcase stop on their Big Wave championship tour.  Since that date, no event has taken place due to political and logistical issues of this one-day contest.

Luca Padua Mavericks Fred Pompermayer
For the new Mavericks Surf Awards, athletes will be required to show completion of the wave in order for the video submission to be accepted by judging panel. Photo by: Fred Pompermayer

Permitting & Politics of Mavericks Invitational:  Why the WSL Walked

Apparently, the permitting for the contest alone ran about 100K with a good $30,000 going to the county.  As local politicians demanded more from the World Surfing League in order to hold the contest at the heralded Mavericks surf break, approximately 30 minutes north of San Francisco, the WSL lost interest eventually pulling out altogether.

“Mavericks represents the heart and soul of surfing,” says Clark of the creation of the new Mavericks Surf Awards & ceremony.  “I want to give surfing the respect it deserves and the people who do it right.”

He chuckled as he talked about the new video surf awards, saying of the once Invitational Big Wave Surf Contest, “Your invitation is out there in the bowl. Come and get it.

Jeff Clark Mavericks California
Big and bold and cold: the Mavericks wave represents a true rite of passage for many surfers. Paddling out into this elite line up is taking your own life into your hands. Deaths at Mavericks are a part of the culture.

Below is the official press release for the new Mavericks Surf Awards to be offered up at the close of the season in May 2020.

Jeff Clark Announces Mavericks Surf Awards:  Ceremony May 2020

October 22, 2019 – HALF MOON BAY, Calif. – With the first storms of the winter building energy in Northern California and getting ready to unleash its fury on Mavericks’ famous wave, local residents gather both financial and community support for a “virtual” contest that recognizes exceptional big wave performance executed at Mav’s throughout the entire big wave season.

Mavericks pioneer Jeff Clark and entrepreneur Chris Cuvelier are thrilled to announce the first annual Mavericks Surf Awards. Clark, who first surfed Mavericks in 1975 at 17 years old and founded the original Mavericks surf contest, is partnering with Half Moon Bay resident and founder of Zola, Chris Cuvelier, to form a video performance contest to honor Mavericks and the athletes who can surf it.

Jeremiah Klein Mavericks surf San Francisco
Looming large: the Mavericks wave has increased in popularity since Clark’s solitary days surfing it. Often surfers testing themselves are not ready, but seeking the glory of the ride. These contestants will be cancelled out by the “Wave Completion” rule implemented by Clark and Cuvelier. Photo: Jeremiah Klein

Honoring Mavericks and Celebrating the People Who Surf It

Our mission is to celebrate Mavericks and support the men and women who have dedicated their lives to surfing this amazing spot,” said Jeff Clark. “When the WSL decided to cancel the contest at Mavericks, it was yet another sign that the times have changed, and we need to change, too. The logistics and politics of running a one-day surf event make it incredibly difficult. This is an opportunity to rewrite the script, keep the surfing pure, and stay out of the way of the athletes who want to go out there and free surf for the pure joy of it. Every swell, there are photographers out there documenting amazing moments that no one even sees. Now we have a way to capture those moments and recognize the best of the best every season.”

Video Performance:  All Riders Must Complete Wave

The Mavericks Surf Awards consists of a video performance contest wherein athletes and videographers will submit their best surf videos from Mavericks throughout the season. Winners will be selected for various categories. All surfers – men and women, seasoned professionals and up-and-comers – are all eligible to enter.

A significant cash prize purse will be be divided across five categories:
1.  Male & Female Performer of the Year (equal prize money)
2.  Biggest Wave
3.  Best Wave
4.  Best Barrel
5.  Best Tow Wave

90% of the prize money for each category will be awarded to the athlete and 10% to the videographer. The window to submit videos is November 1, 2019, through April 15, 2020, and will culminate in an Awards Ceremony in Half Moon Bay in May 2020.

Jeff and I wanted to ensure we would properly honor the wave and the athletes,” said Cuvelier. “What we came up with are five key objectives that will guide our decisions: celebrating the wave; providing financial support to the athletes; promoting unity, inclusion, equality and environmental stewardship; providing value back to sponsors; and promoting water safety.

Kai Lenny Mavericks Fred Pompermayer
Kai Lenny’s cross-over fame onto the WSL Big Wave Tour puts him in a class of few elite paddlers who have busted down the door into the WSL. (Photo courtesy of World Surf League/Pompermayer)

Feedback from Athletes on Maverick’s Surf Awards

The event website will launch in November and will feature stunning photos and videos, profile the surfers and document life in and around Mavericks and the big wave community.

Big wave surfer, Maya Gabeira from Brazil is looking forward to the new format. “I am so excited to see what happens this season at Mavericks. After 4 years without an event, it’s about time the place gets attention and support through a new format. The Mavericks Surf Awards will be a way to continue to see the performance rise and get the athletes more support and deserving recognition. I hold Mavericks in a very special place in my memories.”

Mavericks is known to create 50-60 foot wave faces and is reputed to be one of the most dangerous waves in the world. Safety is, as always, paramount to the surfers. Clark was adamant that in order to qualify for entry the surfer must complete the wave.

Big wave surfer Luca Padua, a Half Moon Bay resident and the youngest person to surf Mavericks, is an official adviser to the contest. “Mavericks is one of the biggest and most dangerous waves on the planet,” said Luca. “I’m stoked that Jeff and Chris are placing such an importance on water safety and implementing rules about making waves to win. We want to see progression in the sport, not people paddling themselves into unmakeable waves. The platform these guys have created is perfect and I’m beyond stoked to get this season started!”

Stay Tuned for Judging Panel &  Launch of Website

Mavericks Surf Awards is meeting with a number of big wave surfers who have extensive experience surfing Mavericks as the official judges of the contest. A ceremonial paddle out to open the big wave season took place on October 25, 2019 in Half Moon Bay.

For more information or to stay in touch with upcoming events and big swells at Mavericks, visit or follow at @maverickssurfawards on Instagram.

Media inquiries contact: Nicole Landers at

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Evelyn O'Doherty, editor & publisher of the new Standup Journal 2.0 is a former school teacher gone rogue. She left her career as a teacher in order to spend more time near or on the water after learning to surf turned her life around (upsidedown?). She is a year-round surfer and paddler living on the eastern tip of Long Island in NY who is a certified SUP instructor, seasoned SUP racer and avid longboard surfer. Evelyn was hired as Online Editor to Standup Journal in 2016. Her passion for the project quickly led to her success and eventually taking over the mag herself in Oct. 2018. Today, as editor, publisher and chief bottle washer at Standup Journal, Evelyn keeps her toes wet writing, traveling, paddling, surfing, and learning to foil. You can find her most days paddling out on Gardiner's Bay or surfing Ditch Plains in Montauk, NY.