Who Surfed Maverick's Best This Year? - Stab Mag
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Luca Padua loves lefts, even at Maverick's. Framegrab by Dom Padua.

Who Surfed Maverick’s Best This Year?

The panel has decided.

elsewhere // May 9, 2022
Words by August Howell
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Maverick’s hasn’t hosted a surf contest since 2016. 

That’s due to a long list of factors, including a mind-numbing permitting process through various powers-that-be as well as a fair amount of political infighting. When the WSL walked away from Maverick’s by not adding it to the Big-Wave Tour in 2019, it rubbed some locals the wrong way. 

So, a few of them came up with the idea to provide monetary incentive and support surfers themselves. Similar to Surfline’s Wave of the Winter and the Red Bull Magnitude, the Mavericks Surf Awards is an inclusive video-based competition that showcases the best performances over a five-and-a-half month window at the famed break in Half Moon Bay.

Last Saturday was the second time the judges handed out awards, but it was the first time with a live audience, and it felt like the first legitimate Maverick’s event in six years. Created by Maverick’s pioneer Jeff Clark and local entrepreneur Chris Cuvelier, last year’s award show was a pre-packaged virtual affair that felt flat and distant. Saturday’s event was just the opposite, a communal affair with well over one hundred people packed into the backyard of the Old Princeton Landing, the de facto post-session watering hole for Maverick’s surfers far and wide for the last dozen years. 

The whole night had reunion vibes. Hundreds gathered to whistle, yell and hoot as award winners came to the stage and a highlight reel played the season’s best feats. This latest winter was a far cry from the 2020-21 barrage that saw haymaker after haymaker land off Pillar Point for nearly three months straight. But there were plenty of quality moments to celebrate.

The five judges determining top honors were Clark, Maya Gabeira, Grant Washburn, and former contest winners Darryl “Flea” Virostko and Chris Bertish. No incomplete rides, wipeouts, or tow waves counted. Just paddle and pray you make it to the channel. Each winner got $5K to be split 60-40 with the filmer who sent in the clip.

One of the key differences the second time around is that the show gave three awards per gender. It’s an equal playing field for the men and women, with each gender vying for Ride of the Year, Biggest Wave, and Performer of the Year titles. 

Local star Luca Padua took top honors with Male Performer of the Year for being an all-around bad-ass at his home break. It was a special moment for the 20-year-old goofyfoot, clearly humbled by the validation in front of his family and friends. 

“There are a lot of young bucks coming up and it’s inspiring,” he said. “I look forward to many more years with this community. It’s a blessing to be standing here.”

Bianca Valenti swept all the women’s categories, further cementing herself as one of the best big-wave surfers in California. Jamie Mitchell got a screamer that earned him the Ride of the Year while Grant “Twiggy” Baker was awarded the Biggest Wave for a bomb in the 25-30-foot-ish range.

Jamie, still recovering from a broken back courtesy of Nazare in February, flew from Hawaii to attend Saturday’s festivities with his family. He gave heartfelt thanks to his family, the Paduas and Santa Cruz shaper Bob “Arrow” Pearson.

“I’ve spent way too much money at this place,” he said. “I’ve had way too many hangovers here in the past, but not tonight.”

“Yeah, right,” said someone in the back.

Permits aside, it was good to see some semblance of recognition and a paycheck for people’s efforts, from the watermen on the skis to the women making moves to the groms on the edge of the bowl. Until next time, Mav’s.

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