The World Surf League announced Saturday that the event will not happen Tuesday, as originally scheduled, due to an unfavorable forecast.
“After much research and analysis into the forecasts, we are calling the WSL Big Wave Tour Mavericks Challenge off for Tuesday, January 16,” said WSL Big Wave Tour Commissioner Mike Parsons. “We are specifically concerned about the S, SSW winds that are projected to come in on Tuesday morning. There is also potential for NW winds to come in. The models are showing a slight decrease in the swell size, as well. We still have the rest of January and all of February to get a better opportunity to run the Mavericks Challenge and will continue to closely track the conditions to hopefully run this season.”
A big swell is headed for Northern California — massive enough to signal the possible return of the Mavericks Challenge big-wave surf contest for the first time since 2016.
Initially, competing surfers were alerted by the World Surf League to be ready for a Monday event, but shifting conditions appear to have pushed the event to a Tuesday start.
“As usual with Big Wave Tour events, making the call is one of the toughest decisions there is,” WSL said Friday afternoon. “The goal is to have a large swell timed with optimal conditions. While there’s solid swell approaching on Monday, the risk of unfavorable south winds is high, leading (Big Wave Tour commissioner Mike) Parsons to determine that Monday is a no-go at this point.”
If conditions permit, the contest would begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday at Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay. Organizers are cautiously optimistic.
“Confidence (is) also slowly increasing that Tuesday will offer a larger and more consistent swell,” Surfline forecaster Kevin Wallace said. “Wind doesn’t look perfect by any means but looks manageable at this point. ... Neither day looks like slam dunks and both have risks/uncertainty, but Tuesday does look more promising at this point.”
He called for a building northwesterly flow of 8 to 12 knots over the afternoon with southerly wind possible in the early morning.
If the event is a go, it will be historic for two big reasons. For the first time since the event started in 1999, the World Surf League will be running the show after purchasing the naming rights and adding the event to its Big Wave Tour.
“Every big wave surfer and fan on the planet knows that Mavericks holds a special place within this community,” Parsons said in a news release in October after the Big Wave Tour acquired the rights for a reported $525,000. “It’s one of the best big wave locations in the world and the opportunity to put it alongside Puerto Escondido, Nazaré and Pe’ahi is massive for the Big Wave Tour.”
It will also be the first time women will compete in the event. The six women invited to compete are Paige Alms, Keala Kennelly, Justine Dupont, Bianca Valenti, Sarah Gerhardt and Emily Erickson.
“It’s been a long road to get into the event, and it’s really exciting because now we’re in. And so I feel like the past is the past, and it’s time to move forward and just be excited to see women finally have the opportunity to compete here,” Valenti told WBUR.
There are 24 men invited to the event.
The surf forecast calls for waves in the 20-foot range along the coast, but Mavericks, “due to its open-ocean location more than a quarter-mile offshore, tends to produce even larger surf,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
There is no way to watch the event in person from shore. The beach and bluffs are closed for the event located about 25 miles south of San Francisco, so the only way for big-wave fans to catch the action live is online at WorldSurfLeague.com.
If the event doesn’t run next week, it could be held anytime until Feb 28.