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“Mavericks Up Close” Contest Offers Best Big Wave Seat in the House

Fundraising effort by Mavericks Awards will help raise prize money, winners announced Oct 1 at season kickoff party, Mavericks Festival


The view from the channel. Photo by Audrey Lambidakis courtesy of Mavericks Festival & Awards

The Mavericks Festival & Awards organization has been making a big wave event at Northern California’s historic Mavericks break possible since the pandemic.


Each year has shown growth for the event: what started as an all-online event in 2020 became a small in-person gathering at the 2021 season’s opening for video submissions of big waves ridden, which then grew into a full-day festival complete with three lives bands performing as well as local businesses, community groups, and nonprofits serving approximately 10,000 attendees who got the learn more about the wave, along with the athletes and photographers who meet it when it breaks.

The tickets sold at last year’s Mavericks Awards raised the funds for the $25,000 prize purse distributed among the winning surfers and photographers/videographers that captured them, as well as thousands of dollars raised for participating nonprofits like local environmental group SeaHugger.


This year, with the goal of being able to increase the prize purse to “$50,000, or even $100,000,” The Mavericks Festival was expanded to a two-day event on September 30 and October 1, and the “Mavericks Up Close” contest was also announced on August 18, according to Chris Cuvelier, cofounder of The Mavericks Festival & Awards.

Cuvelier explained that “Mavericks Up Close” will give two big wave fans the opportunity to be on one of the boats sitting in the deep channel during a Mavericks swell, allowing those who connect with the sport or the location to be amongst the athletes, the photographers, and the safety personnel saving lives in massive waves.

“You’re right there in the channel watching some of the best people who’ve surfed it in the world take off on these 30 and 40-foot waves,” Cuvelier said of the coveted first prize, whose winner will be chosen at the Mavericks Awards using random leveraging electronics.

When visiting the Festival’s webpage, the opportunity to enter the contest is the first thing to pop up. From there, entrants can select one of three entry levels where number of entries is tied to the size of the donation towards the Mavericks Awards prize purse: $50 for one entry, $100 for five entries, $150 for 10 entries, and a free t-shirt included at the top two entry levels and a chance to win one at the $50 level.


Three winners will be randomly electronically selected at the second day of the Festival, with first prize receiving the boat trip in the channel along with a hotel stay, dinner, and a swag bag, all of which is valued around $4,000.


Involving event partners on the next two awards, second prize is a OneWheel GT board with the tire of the winner’s choice and a Freeride Bundle with accessories for the board, and third prize receives a $500 RVCA gift card, Cuvelier said.

The McFishy. Photo courtesy of Mavericks Festival & Awards


The boat carrying the winning pair, The McFishy, is owned by another local behind the Mavericks Awards, Mike McLaughlin, and is a 2016 Hewescraft Alaskan. The 28-foot welded aluminum boat was “tested on the waters of Alaska,” McLaughlin said, adding that it’s, “bigger than some of the other boats, but just as nimble.”


Just as valuable as the boat’s quick maneuvers is the three years of experience McLaughlin has in the Mavericks channel with The McFishy.


“A veteran captain is in charge,” said Audrey Lambidakis, a local photographer who has been shooting from the water at Mavericks for years.


“Safety issues arise when boat captains go out to Mavs and don’t understand the channel movements, how fast things change and/or cut in front of the safety team. This won’t be the case, so I see no issues. It’s a fantastic opportunity and people should jump on it.”

Cuvelier said the actual boat trip will be chosen and supported according to the winner’s specific needs, especially if they need to come in from out of town and need to be kept in the loop on swells to plan a long-distance trip.


If the winners aren’t lifelong boat people with sturdy sea legs and a strong gut for the rolling waves, they can be brought in at any time, and the ideal conditions will be “as user-friendly as possible,” he said, acknowledging that Mavericks can be known for its fog and wind accompanying the big waves, but for many fans of this particular break, that’s part of the appeal, and all of it will be captured by a hired videographer who will document the trip and edit a video for the winners to keep.


Photo by Audrey Lambidakis courtesy of Mavericks Festival & Awards


“Some people love talking to the athletes, some people are drawn to the ocean, some people love seeing the rescue people out there,” Cuvelier said. “Some people love seeing the wildlife, some people might be photographers and want to get out there and take their own pictures. Our goal for a great experience is to capture all of it.”


This year’s “Mavericks Up Close” is a test run to hopefully continue offering this opportunity in the future, further solidifying this new, safer format for the Mavericks contest as a digital submission competition which — in addition to providing athletes with more opportunities to catch bombs in a more inclusive atmosphere that offers worldwide viewing options —is safer for the environment and the spectators themselves.

“A lot of times, the day of the one-day contest, a lot of people that were on the beach, that were on the jetty, and up on the cliff [experienced] a lot of injuries in the past,” Cuvelier said. “There’s been rocks that have fallen down the cliff and people have died. One year, there was TV cameras and a lot of people down on the beach and a rogue wave came in and took out all the TV cameras and washed people all over the jetty. There were broken legs and a ton of injuries, and it could have been a lot worse.”


“The more people you have standing up on the cliff, the more it’s adding to erosion,” he added. “So if people have the ability to watch these waves from the comfort of their own homes or on their [devices], more people can be involved in it and see it with less negative impact on the environment.”


Photo by Audrey Lambidakis courtesy of Mavericks Festival & Awards

Everyone following the digital Mavericks Awards is engaging with Mavericks in a way that’s best for the wave, but the two people on the boat get the best seat in the house.

“It’s one thing to see it on video, and video captures a lot, but it’s different: the sounds when those waves are crashing are so big and bold. And the spray, your face is getting wet from the spray of the waves. And just being able to smell the ocean air and talk to the surfers who are coming up to the boat and saying hello, engaging with the rescue and getting their first-hand [feedback] on surfers who came up seeing stars,” Cuvelier said, explaining that not just anyone gets to be in the channel — it’s just athletes, photographers, and safety. “To be able to see the behind-the-scenes things we’re doing from the boat is what makes ‘Mavericks Up Close’ really special.”

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