After months of tracking the patterns of Mother Nature, contest director Jeff Clark gave the official greenlight for the 2007/2008 Mavericks Surf Contest. With less than 48 hours to check in, 24 of the world’s most accomplished big-wave surfers dropped what they were doing and hauled ass to one of the most infamous breaks on the planet. The Mavericks Surf Contest was held in solid 25-30 foot swell & culminated in a hard fought victory for San Clemente native, Greg Long. Grant “Twiggy” Baker finished second and Jamie Sterling was third. A record number of surf fans enjoyed the action at the beach as thousands descended on Pillar Point. Even more enjoyed the alternate viewing options as more than 250,000 viewed the free-live webcast on Myspace.com and more than 1,000 people watched the competition on the big screen at the live viewing party at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Following six intense heats featuring some of the finest watermen on the planet, in ideal Mavericks conditions, the finals are already being recognized as one of the most competitive and inspirational in the Contest’s history. Despite the high stakes and back and forth lead changes, camaraderie ultimately stole the spotlight when, at the post-event awards ceremony, it was revealed that the six finalists, while looking out at seemingly flat water, agreed to split their shares of the prize purse evenly no matter the outcome. “It was a little slow out there,” Greg said. “We were just laughing and talking about how amazing our lives are. I think we all agreed: It’s not about the money; it’s about the love of it. The finalists included San Francisco’s Grant Washburn, Hawaii’s Jamie Sterling, South Africa’s Grant Baker, Santa Cruz’s Tyler Smith and Southern Californian Evan Slater. Their agreement in the lineup had no ill effects on the competition between them , if anything it seemed to raise the bar in the water.
Soon after the men made their pact, the inconsistent 15 to 20 foot waves gave way to some of the afternoon’s heaviest sets. Greg took on one of the largest. He spotted it on the horizon, he took a few strokes out, spun around on his board and charged hard. “I got up and the wave started sitting up more. I was thinking ‘Did I blow it?’. Had he failed to pull off the critical drop, the answer would’ve been yes. But Long landed it, along with a perfect-wave score of 10 from the judges.
Greg Long, At 23 has a list of achievements in the Big Wave Riding world that is more than just impressive, it’s freakish. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Be it, Cortes Bank, Todos Santos, Oregon, Chile, South Africa – wherever big waves are happening… he’s there.
Greg won the 2004 Red Bull/South Africa Contest at Dungeons, one of the most dangerous breaks on the planet, and finished second in the 2005 Mavericks Surf Contest. Winner of the 2007 Billabong XXL biggest wave of the year award. And now Champion at Mavericks. “It’s an honor, when there are so many big-wave surfers out there, to have your name recognized as one of the top 24 big-wave surfers in the world.”
Perhaps you may have been one of the millions around the world that caught the youtube video of Mike Parsons towing into the biggest ‘Devil Wave’ ever. An 80 foot behemoth caught recently out at Cortes Bank? “Yeah, I was there” Greg casually remarked during our interview, “It was me, Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker, Brad Gerlach and Mike Parsons”. He refers to Cortes Bank as his “Everest”. He spoke of the thrill of ‘The Process’ The whole ‘process’ of researching, planning & perfectly timing the trip. Then the actual trip out there. Then surfing a wave like that (successfully) & after all that…getting back. The whole ‘process’ is what makes that location such a monumental event. Talking to this young champion was extremely cool. You can really hear how much he enjoys what he does. He has a humble, modest nature about him that truly radiates sincerity. He takes nothing for granted. He’s living the dream.
We caught up with the young champion just days after he won the Mavericks Surf Contest. He had just wrapped up a speaking engagement at Marin County Day School. A day spent stoking young minds with stories and images of his sport. Possibly a day that inspired the next generation of Big Wave Rider.
RIS: HOW DOES RIDING IN THE MAVERICKS CONTEST DIFFER FROM THE OTHERS? WHAT GOES THRU YOUR MIND?
GL: I only surf big wave contests. Each session is different, each contest is different. Going into big waves is unlike anything else. There’s nothing that I can compare it to. Everything around you drops out of the picture. Hard to explain.
RIS: SO WHAT IS YOUR DREAM SESSION?
GL: I just had it. I used to dream about just being invited to Mavericks…then I was. Then I dreamt of getting into the finals….and I did. Now My dream of Winning at Mavericks is a reality. Good friends, good vibe, good waves. That’s the dream sesh.
RIS: CORTES BANK, TODOS SANTOS, DUNGEONS, MAVERICKS…ALL DANGEROUS. ALL HUGE. WHICH DO YOU PREFER?
GL: All of those that you mentioned are great, huge breaks and each one has it’s own personality. Todos Santos is like my (Big Wave) home break. I grew up hitting that break on a regular basis, so Todos will always be close to my heart. Jaws is the biggest & best break for tow in. Cortes…that’s my ‘Everest’. But Mavericks? Guess that’s the heaviest around. The wave just packs more energy. It’s so focused in one spot.
RIS:WHO’S BEEN SHAPING YOUR BOARDS?
GL: Chris Christenson. He’s from San Diego. I’ve been working with him for about four years now. I think we have seven different big wave boards but we settled on the one that I was riding at Mavericks. Pretty happy with it.
RIS: WHAT’S NEXT?
GL: I’m gonna go home and relax
RIS: WANNA GET A SHOUT-OUT TO ANYONE?
GL: Yeah, thanks to my family for their support. Thanks to my friends for pushing me. Thanks to Ocean Minded & a BIG thanks to Chris Christenson, for all his time and effort spent creating the best boards for me. Check out his website at www. christensonsurfboards.com
The 2008 Mavericks Surf Contest has been made possible due to the support of its partners: SURFER Magazine, Clif Bar & Co, Pinger Inc., REACTOR Watches, Hotline Wetsuits, Capture Technologies, Mavericks Surf Shop, Vertical Response, Stormsurf.com, Hard Rock International, MySpace.com, The Corporate Law Group and Doc’s Proplugs.
For Contest day video highlights & photos visit www.mavericksssurf.com or check out www.myspace.com/maverickssurf.
The 2008 Finalists. • photo by Peter Buranzon
Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker, makes the drop • photo courtesy of isiphotos.com
Greg Long sharing a wave. photo courtesy of isiphotos.com