Thoughts on the ocean, the environment, the universe and everything from nearly a mile high.

Panorama of The Grand Tetons From the top of Table Mountain, Wyoming © Alan Holyoak, 2011

Monday, November 19, 2012

Chasing Mavericks - Great movie and awesome wave


Chasing Mavericks is a fantastic movie!  It triggered a whole pile of memories and thoughts about waves, surfers, etc.

DISCLAIMER:  Though I lived in Santa Cruz 1987-1992 I do not pretend to be a surfer, because I am not one. I have, however, spent a lot of time in the water body surfing and body boarding (boogie boarding) in Hawaii and Santa Cruz. Plus as a marine biologist I have spent considerable amounts of time near, in, and on the ocean. With that being said...

"Chasing Mavericks" is probably the best surfing movie I have ever seen. This biopic of young Jay Moriarity and his reluctant mentor Frosty Hesson delves into the psyche of surfing better than any other surfing movie I've ever seen.

I've liked Gerard Butler in just about everything I've seen him in and once again he didn't disappoint.  He plays a sage surfer who reluctantly agrees to train a teenager to surf one of the most dangerous waves in the world - Mavericks.

To "get" this movie you have to understand this wave.

Mavericks is a surf break at the north end Half Moon Bay, CA.  It breaks big there only when waves are big enough and they come from the right direction.  This combination of factors produces waves that can be 20-80' feet tall, and is one of the most dangerous places in the world to surf.  There are only a few places in the world with waves in this size class. 

This Google Earth image shows the location of Mavericks in relation to San Francisco Bay and the central California coast.  Santa Cruz is BTW at the very bottom edge of the image.

This Google Earth image shows Pillar Point at the north end of Half Moon Bay, CA, where Mavericks breaks.

Most offshore breaks occur over reefs that are 20 feet deep or less (e.g., Pipeline, on the north shore of Oahu), but the reef at Mavericks is much deeper.  This means that it takes a truly huge wave to break there.  In addition to the deep reef at Mavericks, there is an unusual underwater rock formation that helps the big waves there set up and break. 

The image above shows a rocky ramp sloping upward toward a point SSW of Pillar Point.  This is where Mavericks breaks on big days.  Waves slow down as they move over increasingly shallow water.  As a wave slows it gets taller.  The part of the wave on either side of the rocky ramp, however, is deeper, so waves there don't  slow as quickly.  This focuses the power of the wave inside the box shown above.  (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The photo above shows Pillar Point, at the north end of Half Moon Bay, CA.  The white water is inshore of where Maverick's breaks when it is big.  The rocks in the water are called the Bone Yard.  The Bone Yard is not where you want to be with the wave breaks big - or anytime, really. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The series of photos above shows Mavericks breaking on a big day.  A single wave at a time sets up over the deep reef and rocky point and breaks right and left.  The helicopter and boats give the wave a size perspective.  Mavericks is not only a tall wave, it is incredibly thick, releasing massive amounts of energy as it breaks.  

OK, back to the movie. Young Jay Moriarity, like just about every other surfer along the central California coast those days had heard rumors of a giant wave, but it was dismissed largely as myth. One day though, Jay discovers someone who rides that wave - Frosty Hesson - and Jay sees the wave and Frosty and his surfing partners riding at Mavericks. It takes some doing, but Frosty is finally convinced to train young Jay for Mavericks.

This movie is about what it takes to survive Mavericks when everything goes wrong, not how to ride it when everything goes right.  

There is a good dose of surfing in the movie, and while there is a strong mental and spiritual component to the movie, it does not come across as eclectic or preachy. it's just downright amazing!

The sheer force and presence and bone-shaking power of the wave is awe-inspiring, and the willingness and ability of a small handful of big-wave surfers who challenge and ride it are beyond impressive. What they do borders on the miraculous.

I've been held down by a a couple of waves in the 6-8' range in Hawaii, and that wasn't fun, so it's nearly impossible to imagine the amount of force in a wave the size of Mavericks.  It's a wave that you feel more than you hear or see it. Sheer power!

It's difficult to imagine the power that is in these waves.  I've been held down by much smaller waves in Hawaii, so it's nearly impossible to imagine the amount of force in a wave the size of Mavericks. It's a wave that you feel more than you hear or see it. Sheer power!

It's important to know when to get in the water and when it's time to sit on the shore and just drink in the power that is out there.

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