Mavericks Forecast: Gnarley Waves

Big wave surfers may not have to wait long for the 2009 Mavericks Surf  Contest.

A gale spawned off the coast of Japan late last week is making a beeline for the Hawaiian islands.

If it stays on course, it will hurtle waves toward Northern California with the potential for 40 foot waves on Friday or Saturday.

Once the contest start is announced, surfers have 48 hours to get to Half Moon Bay and surf the waves.

24 surfers have been invited to paritcipate. They will be notified 24 hours before the competition.

The contest window is open until March 31.

 Since the contest began in 1999, the competition has always happened after January 1, he said, and as late as March 3.

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.

Surf forecasts are available at Clark also monitors buoy data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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, and in high definition at Contest organizers also encourage surf fans to attend a live simulcast party at San Francisco's AT&T Park.

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