It wasn't the biggest, gnarliest, most dramatic Mavericks there ever was, but 2016's Titans of Mavericks big-wave surfing competition wrapped up Friday with more than a few wipeouts and only one winner. Nic Lamb, a 28-year-old surfer who grew up in Santa Cruz and now calls Venice Beach home, won the top prize in the prestigious competition, besting 23 elite competitors and taking home the $120,000 top prize, as well as the biggest of the three wave trophies you can see below.
All three top finishers among the international array of competitors were local California boys too, so that's rad.
Lamb won despite a wipeout, and as he said to ABC 7, "Any time this wave breaks, it is life or death, man vs. nature. Mount Everest meets Niagara Falls." He's been surfing Mavericks since he was 14 and said after winning, "I'm elated. I'm over the moon."
Waves on Friday began at around 15 feet and grew to 30 or 40 feet during the day, making it a great day for the competition though perhaps not as perfect as the swells seen last week that had to be passed over because of a certain football game we shall not speak of ever agin.
Below, some raw video ABC 7 posted with some goofy Creative Commons surf music as background.
Also getting to surf, kind of by surprise, was San Francisco Fire Department paramedic Travis Payne, 31. The New York Times explains:
The field of 24 was narrowed to 12 semifinalists by lunchtime. Six made the finals. Among them were Brazil’s Carlos Burle, the 2008 winner Greg Long, and Travis Payne, a 31-year-old San Francisco Fire Department paramedic who has been surfing Mavericks since he was a teenager. He was the first alternate on the invite list until a competitor pulled out on Thursday night.
Payne ended up coming in second place, and here he is below, coming off a wave and looking pretty stoked.
Finalists were judged on their two best waves, with their best scoring double. Finishing third was another Californian, Greg Long originally of San Clemente,* who won the "biggest drop" award but who also suffered a spectacular wipeout in the third heat, as seen below.
There were plenty of wipeouts, including a major one early on by frontrunner Ken Collins. Collins had to withdraw from the competition after nearly drowning after falling down a 30-foot face. Were it not for his inflatable life vest, he might not be alive. "It felt like the whole ocean landed on me," he said, as the Mercury-News reports. "It blew my eardrum wide open. I thought it was a concussion at first. Water was going inside my head and down my throat."
And once again, spectators couldn't get anywhere nearby to watch no one is allowed on the nearby bluff or beach anymore after a rogue wave took out 13 spectators during the 2010 competition.
This was the 10th ever Mavericks competition in the 17 years since it began, requiring, as it does, high surf and perfect conditions, which this El Nino winter brought us in spades.
Until next year... maybe.
* This post has been corrected to show that Greg Long is from San Clemente, not Santa Cruz.