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Waves Don't Show Up for Surfing Contest

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Waves Don't Show Up for Surfing Contest


Waves Don't Show Up for Surfing Contest

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is the next to the last day of the International Mavericks Surf Contest. It's held every year in Northern California at Half Moon Bay.

We're speaking to surfer Grant Washburn, who is out on the beach. He's actually a little ways up the coast from Half Moon Bay, but the story is the same everywhere. Grant, the surf is not up.

Mr. GRANT WASHBURN (Surfer): The surf is not up and I can definitely attest to that.

CHADWICK: And you know, isn't Maverick - isn't this supposed to be the place where the big waves come very reliably all the time?

Mr. WASHBURN: Well, you know, very reliably is a tough word to put on it. But yeah, I mean Mavericks is one of the most consistent big wave spot in the world. And we did have some big waves in December, but since then it's been small.

CHADWICK: When you schedule these surfing contests, do you schedule them for a specific time or are they kind of in a sliding window? So you kind of - you go when the big waves are there over a period of a couple of months or something?

Mr. WASHBURN: Yeah, it's really hard to pinpoint exactly what day will be good. So what they usually do with the big wave contest is have a wide-open period with months of waiting and at some point the organizers decide to pull the trigger and call a green light and then all the guys will fly in. So whether it's Hawaii or Africa or Half Moon Bay, when we're going to big wave contest, that's how it works.

CHADWICK: And how long have you been waiting?

MR. WASHBURN: Well, we waited all through January, February and March. And we really got nothing even close to what we were hoping to get.

CHADWICK: Three months?


CHADWICK: Three months you have - what's going on?

Mr. WASHBURN: I don't know. Global weirdness. I think if anybody who follows the weather sees that there's some strange pattern, then, you know, for Mavericks the pattern had been smaller waves in the spring and normally we would get giant surf in February and this time we didn't.

CHADWICK: But this has happened before. What, three or four years ago I think maybe you also cancelled then. So…

Mr. WASHBURN: It does happen. And there's also some other, you know, things with the - the wave period only being three months. And it seems like a long time, but actually, you know, for Mother Nature that's asking her to really show up when you want. And December was a good month this year. And we had some big waves and coincidentally like the three biggest (unintelligible) waves of the year were at Mavericks this year. So in the whole world, this was not a bad spot to be; it's just not in January and February.

CHADWICK: When you say these are the three best waves of the year, you actually know something like that?

Mr. WASHBURN: Yeah, because there's a prize where the guys from all of the world submit their photos and images of those surfs and they annually award the biggest wave of the year, and Mavericks is in the running every year and including this year. So even on the down here, we did pretty well.

CHADWICK: How big were those waves this year?

Mr. WASHBURN: They were close to 60 feet.

CHADWICK: Sixty feet?


CHADWICK: Would you ride a wave that big? You wouldn't, would you?

Mr. WASHBURN: Yeah, yeah, if you I get a good one.


Mr. WASHBURN: You don't want them when they're mean, but if it's friendly, a nice 60-footer is actually a lot of fun.

CHADWICK: Well, now you're seeing not 60-footers, you're seeing six-footers, and that's just not enough for the Mavericks Surf Contest.

Mr. WASHBURN: Yeah, I'm actually looking at like two-footers, which is good Jersey, basically, you know? It's not the right day. That's for sure. So yeah, unfortunately it's not cooperating for us this year.

CHADWICK: Well, what happens in international surfing when you have to call off the Maverick contest?

Mr. WASHBURN: Well, the guys are still here. I mean we're still ready to surf. So even though the waiting period is going to close, if we get great swell next week, the surfers will be out there and we're already looking ahead to the next area. And June and July is a great time to surf big waves in the southern hemisphere. So a lot of guys will be going down to Cape Town or Chile, South America.

CHADWICK: Tough life, Grant. But keep going, and good luck.

Mr. WASHBURN: All right.

CHADWICK: Good luck finding a wave, all right?

Mr. WASHBURN: Yeah, no problem. Thanks.

CHADWICK: Surfer and filmmaker Grant Washburn speaking with us from a coast near San Francisco. Grant, thank you.

Mr. WASHBURN: You're welcome.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: Let's go surfing now, it's DAY TO DAY.

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