Big Wave Updates
Brian Milne reports from the channel on Nic Lamb's amazing win
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 14 February, 2016 - Half Moon Bay - As the boat started to back away from the dock, you could see the nerves start to take hold of everyone on board.
Empty handrails were replaced with white-knuckle death grips, and the early-morning banter quickly gave way to silent stares to the breakwater … where booming waves sprayed the rocks below Pillar Point Air Force Station.
The Salty Lady was heading out to Mavericks, and everyone had their game faces on – and this was just the fans’ charter boat.
“This is going to be intense,” the photographer next to me barked as we sped into the double-overhead swells meeting us outside the breakwater. Imagine what the 24 big-wave surfers were thinking on their way out to the 25-foot waves on this foggy Friday morning for the Titans of Mavericks surf contest.
“I’m just focused on the event today,” Nic Lamb said prior to the opening round. “This wave is like Mt. Everest meets Niagara Falls. It’s going to be intense. It’s going to be the most compelling show on earth, and I’m ready and feel good. Let’s do this.”
Water Patrol © Brian Milne
The Venice Beach-based surfer was focused all right, consistently charging from the deepest, heaviest position to capture the inaugural Titans of Mavericks contest title at Pillar Point, holding off second-place Travis Payne of Pacifica and Greg Long of San Clemente to take home the Titan trophy and $120,000.
A 2008 Mavericks champion, Long just missed coming from behind to win the title, landing an unbelievable airdrop on a massive set wave that rolled in just after the final horn sounded. Instead, it was the former Mavericks alternate who made the most of Friday’s entry, taking home his first Mavericks title before a few hundred fans in the water and thousands more watching online via RedBull TV.
Long, however, was rewarded with $10,000 for the “boldest drop” award from another harrowing drop earlier in the event, while James Mitchell nabbed $5,000 for the “best barrel” of the day.
From the channel © Brian Milne
“My last wave that I caught felt like a really good wave,” Lamb said amid reporters, fans and competitors at the dock. “These guys are the best in the world, so it feels good to be on top.”
Most all of the surfers took a beating on this day, particularly Lamb who got stuck on the inside for three relentless set waves after a wipeout in the morning session.
Fortunately, Lamb was equipped with an inflatable life vest and has trained for Mavs’ harsh conditions, having surfed there since he was a 14-year-old kid in Santa Cruz.
“It’s tricky to know what’s going on out there,” he said. “There’s a lot of water moving. There’s a lot of moving parts.”
Nic Lamb during the finals © Brian Milne
After the contest, a number of surfers, including RedBull TV announcer Mike Parsons admitted, “We’re just happy everyone is in one piece.”
The only real injury reported from the competition was Ken Collins’ ruptured left ear drum, which occurred when he dropped in on one of the biggest waves of the morning prelims and was taken out from behind by the lip. The blow knocked him out of the event, but it could have been much worse if not for his life vest.
“I got slammed pretty hard,” he said. “When I was underwater, I was spinning around. I could feel water going inside my head. I blew my eardrum wide open. My equilibrium was going all directions. I didn't know which way was up. If I didn’t pull that cord, I would have had a hard time getting to the top.”
A crowd of a few hundred took in the event from the water, paying between $250-$600 a head to watch from the two dozen charter boats located just outside the break.
Other than the charter boats and helicopters, fans either had to paddle out to the break on their own power (like a few kayakers, SUPs and free surfers did), or watch the event online on RedBull TV. No spectators have been allowed to watch from shore since the 2010 contest when a dozen onlookers were injured by a sleeper wave over the harbor breakwater.
Friday’s event saw some 250 event staff members and included dozens of fast-acting water safety crew members, not to mention a number of harbor patrol and county sheriff boats and Jet Skiers.
And this time around, there were no major injuries reported by the contestants, or the white-knuckled fans on the charter boats.
“It’s the best wave in the world,” said a relieved Lamb, jumping up and down on the dock among equally relieved friends and family. “I’m elated, and just over the moon right now.”
Brian Milne is an adventurer and an AP award winning outdoors writer. His first short surf film, the El Nino Effect, is due out this spring. Learn more about the film and follow his outdoor adventures at ChasingSurf.com or connect on Twitter at @BMilneSLO.