In Kai Lenny’s “Day of the Days” at Mavericks
Like everything in trend for 2020, the winter forecast was for the upcoming big wave season. Surfers expected less favorable conditions due to the weather conditions in La Niña affecting the Northern Hemisphere, which generally resulted in less swell and colder water.
However, on December 8th, the Mavericks woke up from a long sleep, seemingly out of nowhere, and began firing at all the cylinders.
Located just outside of Half Moon Bay, California, the storey wave has a reputation for having consequences that precede it. Despite its differentiation, the spot is finicky and usually only works in strong waves from west to west-northwest with minimal wind.
According to Kai Lenny, the youngest winner of the WSL’s XXL Biggest Wave Award, the swell came from a different direction than normal. Lenny, who had traveled from Maui for the conditions, said the swell had spread from the north and broke the waves over the reef – a point that hadn’t produced such ideal conditions in a decade. In addition, the sun was outside and the wind stayed weak, hitting a top speed of 1.5 miles per hour in the afternoon, allowing 30 to 50 feet of surfing throughout the day.
“By all accounts, it was one of the best days ever,” says Lenny. “They called it the ‘day of days’. This was a swell that you could surf perhaps the biggest wave you have ever paddled in from sunrise to sunset. “
Lenny wasn’t the only outsider who flew in because of the swell. In addition to a number of boats and jet ski safety teams, the lineup was equipped with legendary big wave chargers such as Grant “Twiggy” Baker, Ian Walsh and Peter Mel. The majority began towing starts in the morning. As soon as the light struck they swapped the towboards for their large cannons and spent the rest of the day paddling in.
Lenny rode in the water for 12 hours that day and only broke 15 minutes to have a burrito before paddling back out.
“When those days come it’s almost impossible for me not to want to maximize it because I know how quickly it will go,” says Lenny. “I’d rather try as hard as possible and rest later.”
As Lenny puts it, Mavericks is a testing ground for the young guns trying to make a name for themselves. In addition to a number of big wave veterans, there were a few groms who reached their limits. A special highlight was the 18-year-old Luca Padua, a local from Half Moon Bay, who leads the indictment for Californians and is sure to be a regular in the Mavericks line-up for years to come.
“I remember being there myself: hot and hungry, but also scared and nervous,” says Lenny. “It’s fun to share sessions with these guys and watch them learn, grow and experience what big wave riding is all about.”
Lenny predicts that paddling in big wave surfing will progress to a point where surfers will approach giant waves with more comfort and ease: riding the run and making dynamic turns more typical of waves of mortal size. For tow-in surfing, he imagines that surfers will cover the surface of the waves, as professional snowboarder Travis Rice in Alaska loads massive lines and combines speed with freestyle tricks.
It is unclear when the next big swell will hit Mavericks. Although the terms on the books lasted only two days in early December, many called this big Tuesday a “career day” and agreed that they had some of the best waves of their lives.
“I had a really big wave early in the morning and I was on the ground and could see a lot of my friends in the canal with their arms in the air,” says Lenny. “They were so far away that I was kind of alone, but they were with me too. Big wave surfing is a lot of camaraderie, and with that swell at Mavericks, everyone just wanted to see each other make big waves. “
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