Mavericks Surf Contest organizers begin their wave watch this week one month later than usual due to diminished sponsorships for the competition held near Half Moon Bay.
Like most businesses, households and organized events, the renowned surfing competition is feeling the recession's pinch.
"It's been a really tough year to raise money to put an event on," contest director Jeff Clark said today. "The first thing to go for a company is the advertising budget," even for highly visible events like this one.
The contest will be held some time between Thursday and March 31, when Clark determines water conditions are ideal. Starting Thursday, the contest's 24 invited participants await notification, which will occur 24 hours before the competition takes place at the Mavericks surf break, an ocean reef near Half Moon Bay.
In previous years, the contest window began on December 1, or even November 1. However, Clark is optimistic that the truncated time frame will still yield waves of 30 feet and up. Since the contest began in 1999, the competition has always happened after January 1, he said, and as late as March 3.
Regardless of the time frame, weather remains "a concern every year," for Clark. Two years ago the ocean failed to produce sufficient waves and Clark never called the contest.
"You never know what Mother Nature is going to give you," he said. "We'll just keep our fingers crossed and our eyes focused on every storm and swell to see if she'll give us a good day."
The season has already produced some optimal conditions. On November 29 and 30 the waves were so high that several Mavericks competitors skipped a major surfing competition in Oregon, Clark said, to surf Maverick. Many participants are local, but others come in from Hawaii and South Africa.
Clark will be tracking wind and water conditions even more closely than usual from his surf shop in Half Moon Bay. While traditional weather forecasters focus on air conditions, Clark is mainly concerned with its impact on water.
"When I see that a storm made an impression in the water and is pointed towards, us I can follow it via satellite image and buoys," he explained.
The NOAA is also working with contest organizers to ensure the 50,000 onlookers expected to turn out for the competition don't damage the surrounding Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Because shoreline visibility is extremely limited, the competition will be webcast at www.myspace.com/maverickssurf, and in high definition at www.fuel.tv/maverickssurf. Contest organizers also encourage surf fans to attend a live simulcast party at San Francisco's AT&T Park.