Waves Up to 45 Feet Predicted as Mavericks Surf Contest Begins

With the best of conditions under sunny skies, the Mavericks Invitational, the so-called Super Bowl of surfing, kicked off Friday morning off the coast of Pillar Point north of Half Moon Bay, Calif.

UPDATE: Grant "Twiggy" Baker wins Wins 2014 Mavericks Surf Contest

Forecasters predict waves could reach an astounding height of up to 45 feet.

The surfing conditions were so ideal, that Hawaii-based professional surfer Mark Healey told NBC Bay Area that there are "no excuses" for surfers not to do well during the contest, where 24 surfers with names like "Twiggy" and "Skindog" try to win first prize during the invitation-only event.

First place is $12,000, second place is $6,000 and third place is $5,000, according to Mavericks Invitational spokeswoman Jessica Banks.

Surfers this year are from Santa Cruz, Pacifica, San Francisco, San Clemente South Africa, Hawaii, Brazil and Australia.

Crowds began gathering on Thursday because they were anxious to snap and sketch pictures of practicing surfers from a vantage point they won’t be able to get on Friday because of restrictions that keep the public away from the beach.

In 2010,  several contest onlookers were injured by large sneaker waves.

That’s why, this year, spectators will only be able to watch at a beer garden being constructed outside the Oceana Hotel, or one of the many bars and restaurants anxious for this year's Mavericks.

But Mavericks pioneer Jeff Clark said the upwards of 40-foot waves are exactly what make his Mavericks competition so challenging and the trophy such a prize.

"I would say this is pretty close to the Lombardi trophy for surfing,” Clark said. “It takes everything you know about the ocean to compete and survive and be successful at Mavericks when it's this big."

PHOTOS: Waves Wipe Out Mavericks Spectators

 You can watch the contest streaming live online. In addition to broadcast coverage, the entire contest will stream live on universalsports.com and mavericksinvitational.com. NBC Bay Area is also livestreaming the contest from a helicopter through 3 p.m.

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