Early manifestations of the Mavericks Challenge big-wave event were largely dominated by local surfers. The bulk of the invited roster was comprised of surfers who inhabited the stretch of coast between Santa Cruz and San Francisco, with a sprinkling of chargers from points to the north and south. These were characters following in the footsteps of Mavs pioneer Jeff Clark -- people who dedicated their lives to tackling the notorious break in the days before rescue teams and inflatable life vests. Surfers like Peter Mel, Darryl "Flea" Virostko and Grant Washburn were just a few of those who took on the wave in the early days.
With this year's Mavericks Challenge now part of the WSL Big Wave Tour (BWT), the list of invitees to the 2018 event has a much more global profile, comprised of the Top 10 surfers on the BWT rankings; standouts from the Big Wave Awards; BWT wildcards (not necessarily locals); BWT alternates; and the hotly contested field of local wildcards. For that last group, like at every other Big Wave Tour location, the six slots are reserved specifically for locals at the event's break. So when it was time, BWT Commissioner Mike Parsons asked a small group of Mavericks pioneers to make this year's picks. Two key members of that panel were Washburn and Flea, who opened up about the process:
"Now that three quarters of the surfers in the event are coming from the WSL, the last six guys are regional invitees. People who either grew up here or surf here a lot and live here. It's a brutal culling to say, 'How do you balance young, up-and-coming talent who clearly have earned a spot against older guys who have always been out there and over and over have done well on every big swell?
"A lot of frustration from the older local crowd is that these guys are coming from elsewhere and they just sell out into the biggest wave that they can get into and blow themselves up. And then they get rescued immediately and get brought right back out. So you're taking up a bunch of waves that other people would have wanted and you're really endangering everyone by that approach. So if that's how it goes, that's not going to get you a spot in the event. If you take big waves and just kind of eat it, or if you take a kind of hopeless, Evel Knievel-style approach, that's not going to get you a spot. We're looking for guys that are making the waves, taking extreme, challenging drops, but with an opportunity to make it, not just a hopeless attempt.
"Ben Andrews is a great example of the right regional guy. He didn't grow up here, but he's lived there [Half Moon Bay] for 12 or 15 years and he pretty much lives in that harbor [there]. He's around there all the time and on any big Mavericks day he catches big waves, especially for the last couple of years. He's been an XXL nominee, and he's not just catching a big wave, he's making a big wave. That's one of the things we all talked about, 'What kind of surfing is it that lends itself to getting invited?'"
Darryl "Flea" Virostko:
"What I look for is someone who is really dedicated to Mavericks, dedicated to big-wave surfing and catching the biggest waves out there and making them. I'm looking for a guy like [Santa Cruz legend] Richard Schmidt, a guy that's always in the spot, doesn't go on these horrible waves that are just straight rides. Someone that is really calculated in their surfing. I want to see guys take off in the bowl and pull in and make it. That's what's exciting for me.
"We have three local guys from Half Moon Bay and Pacifica -- Ben Andrews, Travis Payne and Jason Stark. Those guys are all chargers at Mavs, they catch a lot of the biggest waves and are pretty much going and making waves. So that's pretty critical for what we're looking at in our picks. And then there's three guys from Santa Cruz who have been putting in their time -- Anthony Tashnick Pat Shaughnessy, and Tyler Fox. I think it's a really cool local group we have going into this year's event. All of them are chargers, all of them get big waves, make big waves and have been dedicated to Mavericks their whole lives. For the most part, they're always there when Mavs is breaking and basically just love the place."
2018 Mavericks Challenge Regional Wildcard Invitees:
Ben Andrews -- Half Moon Bay
Tyler Fox -- Santa Cruz
Travis Payne -- Pacifica
Pat Shaughnessy -- Santa Cruz
Jason Stark -- Half Moon Bay
Anthony Tashnick -- Santa Cruz
THE REST OF THE ROSTER
WSL Big Wave Tour Top 10:
Grant Baker, Pedro Calado, Greg Long, Jamie Mitchell, Billy Kemper, Nic Lamb, Will Skudin, João De Macedo, Cristian Merello, Kai Lenny
Big Wave Award Performers:
Lucas Chianca, Francisco Porcella, Tom Lowe, Peter Mel
Big Wave Tour Wildcards
Three surfers to be announced upon Green Light
Performer of the Year Alternates
Nathan Florence, Alex Botelho, Jojo Roper
Local Mavericks Alternates
Ben Wilkinson, Nathan Fletcher, Ryan Seelbach, Matt Becker, Colin Dwyer, Luca Padua