Big wave country draws its own group of devotees

Big wave riders are different than most of us, so I suppose it’s only natural they would have different dreams. To quote Bruce Brown from “Endless Summer,” the waves they ride could, “light a city the size of Honolulu for a week.”
I am not so poetic, but I like to say that just one of the waves ridden by this elite fleet could unload enough water to turn Encinitas into a swamp. Chasing down those shifting Himalayan skylines, a small group of big-waver riders track international storms for signs of massive surf.
Among that crew is Hawaiian resident Garrett McNamara. McNamara now holds the unofficial record for the biggest wave ever ridden, something he found off Portugal recently and he claims was 90 feet tall. Wave size is controversial, but even if that wave were a quarter that size it would still be bigger than anything that has ever broken in North County. Congratulations Garrett.
The closest thing we in California have to a surf spot capable of producing a 90-foot wave is Maverick’s in Half Moon Bay. While the wave at Maverick’s is a widow maker all on its own, jacking up in deep water then condensing all of its power in an underwater canyon, there are still other obstacles to contend with.
Once you’ve survived the wipeout of your life and had your leash and maybe your board broken, you may find you have been dragged into a rocky cauldron that its difficult to escape from. There are also sharks to consider and water so cold it hurts to think about. With wetsuits running in the 5 mm range, hoods, gloves and booties, you are now as buoyant as a cork. That sounds good until you need to swim beneath one of those monsters and all that rubber keeps you bobbing on the surface like a cork. Maybe adrenaline gets you where you need to be.
I paddled out at Maverick’s once on a tiny day, just to check out the setup. From my limited experience, I can tell you, it’s not for everybody. Still, I wouldn’t mind living in the area, watching the seasons being marked not so much by falling leaves, but wave sizes as the Aleutian Islands roar to life each winter with violent storms that wreck havoc in shipping lanes and eat up massive pieces of valuable real estate.
My friend Blaze, aka Doctor Behzad Baniadam, is a local big wave surfer who likes to charge spots like Baja’s Todos Santos in his spare time. I guess it’s natural that he bought property on the cliff at Moss Beach, right near Maverick’s. He’s even gone so far as to have plans drawn up for a house there. The lure for me living near Maverick’s wouldn’t be in riding the wave, but in seeing an ocean alive with swell while sipping mint tea, still in my pajamas. That, the quaint town of Half Moon Bay and the surrounding nature reserve are enough for most of us. To others like Blaze, that’s just the beginning of the journey, as the waves call out a challenge few will answer.
Maverick’s has been asleep for months now, but is about to roar to life again soon. I plan a trip up there this winter to watch the big waves from the safety of land. If that’s not enough for you, Blaze has his property for sale. Those interested can contact him via e-mail elizablaze@pol.net

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