Big wave surfing has always held a mystique beyond the average sunny day at Cowell's or Pleasure Point. There's something about waves the size of skyscrapers, freezing cold water, jagged rocks and shark-infested waters that challenge our idea of human potential.
An upcoming photography show, "Maverick's: Everest of the Sea" taps into the allure of big wave surfing by offering the public a peek into Maverick's shifting lineup, private moments between nature's raw power and the individual, and those endless free falls down the face where time seems to stand still.
"Maverick's is awe-inspiring, and this exhibit brings that energy into the gallery," said event coordinator and longtime Mavericks photographer Ed Grant.
The event, held annually since 2009, offers the public an insider's view of the world of Northern California big wave surfing. In attendance will be big wave surfers and the photographers themselves.
"I'm emphatic about the power of these images," Grant said. "They are exciting, they are compelling, and they inspire and reach people. These photographs will bring you right into the wave."
For the many talented surf photographers whose shots are featured in the show, Maverick's has become an artistic obsession. The evidence is on display at Half Moon Bay's Coastal League gallery.
For former Sports Illustrated and San Francisco Chronicle photographer Martha Jenkins, the media's discovery of Maverick's during the breakout winter of '94-95 was the beginning of an enduring relationship with the break.
Jenkins, who lives in Half Moon Bay with her sportswriter husband, Bruce, was no stranger to big wave surfing. Today, she feels pride in the big wave break and the local surfers who have made a name for themselves there.
"Big wave surfing has really come up in the world of surfing, and we are on the map as one of the best spots in the world," Jenkins said.
The photos Jenkins has on display at the Coastal League gallery include images from the early days of Maverick's.
"I was really touched by the movie 'Chasing Mavericks' because it brought back old memories of those days," said Jenkins.
She added, "My photos went from being old to being classic."
The shooting and release of 'Chasing Mavericks' made the surf spot a media darling last year. The Hollywood adaptation of the life of Santa Cruz surfer Jay Moriarity starred Gerard Butler and a crew of real-life Maverick's surfers including Santa Cruz natives Peter Mel and Zach Wormhoudt.
"Photographers who were the first to shoot Maverick's in the early '90s were inspired by 'Chasing Mavericks' to share their amazing images in a public gallery for the first time," Grant said. "The photos include stunning images of Jay Moriarity and Maverick's pioneer Jeff Clark."
Hollywood star Butler may have made paddling out at Maverick's look easy in the movie, but just ask him about his two-wave hold down. Not everyone can surf Maverick's.
"The release of 'Chasing Mavericks' had an amazing impact on raising public awareness and interest in Maverick's, Half Moon Bay and big wave surfing," Grant said.
For local teens, the event has evolved into an opportunity to meet professional photographers and some of their surfing idols.
"We don't promote surfing Maverick's as a goal for the team, but some of the kids seek it out and pursue it through the local surfers, borrowing a board, and so on," said Mike Wallace, Half Moon Bay High surf coach. "But once you're in the lineup and a set comes through, it doesn't matter how many other surfers are out there with you. You really are on your own."
"Maverick's: Everest of the Sea" is a fundraiser for the school surf team program.
"This is an event that gives right back to our community," said Wallace. "Not only do the proceeds of the raffle directly benefit the local school surf teams, but the photographers and big wave surfers have really embraced the team, offering mentorship and clinics."
Gretchen Wegrich's surf column, Stoked & Broke, appears every other week in the Sentinel. Send her ideas and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
Mavericks: Everest of the Sea
WHAT: An art and photography show about Maverick's surf break
WHEN: Friday to Feb. 24; Champagne and wine reception 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26
WHERE: Coastal Arts League, 300 Main St., Half Moon Bay
COST: Free, raffle to benefit Half Moon Bay high school surf team
SURFERS and ARTISTS: Jeff Clark, Lawrence Beck, Fred Pompermayer, Art Gimbel, Tom Rissacher, Martha Jenkins, Ed Grant, David Evans, Tony Canadas, Seth Migdail, Rob Brown, Eric W. Nelson, Grant Washburn, Bob Barbour
CALL FOR PUBLIC ART: The show invites the public to share a favorite Maverick's photo or artwork. Space in the gallery will be provided for a piece per person to be displayed. Art must be dropped off at the Coastal Arts League on Jan. 16 -17 between noon and 5 p.m. There is no fee.
DETAILS: www.coastalartsleague.com, (650) 726-6335