Mavericks big-wave festival event kicks off this weekend in Half Moon Bay

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For more than 20 years, Half Moon Bay surfer Jeff Clark has kicked off the start of big-wave season each fall by leading an annual paddle-out of dozens of surfers into the waters where the famous Mavericks waves break.

It’s always been a communal gathering meant to pay tribute to Mother Nature and beseech her to deliver the 60-foot waves that draw elite surfers from around the world to the coastside.

Now, Clark and his business partner, Chris Cuvelier, are expanding the annual gathering into a full-fledged festival for surfers, water enthusiasts and anyone else. It’s being held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1, right around the bend from Mavericks at Pillar Point Harbor. It’s free.

“The whole goal all along has been to share Mavericks with the world,” Clark said.

Clark famously pioneered Mavericks alone back in the 1990s and was involved in the oft-difficult process of pulling together a surfing contest there for decades. The rights to the contest have changed hands over the years, most recently ending up in the possession of a San Francisco tech worker who hopes to revive the affair in the 2023-24 season .

But Clark and Cuvelier aren’t affiliated with the effort to host a one-day contest event. Instead, they’ve recently created a season-long video competition for surfers and photographers who charge Mavericks to showcase their performances. It’s called the Mavericks Awards ; the first awards ceremony was held in May.

The fall festival, which Clark and Cuvelier hope becomes an annual mainstay at the harbor, is meant to commemorate the start of surfing season. It’ll feature a live-music stage, local food and beverage vendors, merchandise and a big screen cycling through footage of last season’s raddest rides.

“That’s the blueprint going forward: kick off the season with a big community celebration, open the surfing window, then cap off the season with a big event in May to celebrate the athletes,” Cuvelier said.

Jeff Clark leading surfers in the Mavericks opening ceremony at Mavericks Beach in 2013.

Jeff Clark leading surfers in the Mavericks opening ceremony at Mavericks Beach in 2013.

Mathew Sumner, Special To The Chronicle / Special to the Chronicle

Mavericks surfers will also make appearances, backed by racks of their surfboards. The idea is to welcome questions from festival attendees and connect the athletes to their fans.

“Some of the best professional big-wave surfers in the world will be there for you to walk right up to, to talk to them about the boards they’re riding. That’s pretty special,” Cuvelier said.

Though the festival doesn’t officially begin until 11 a.m., Clark’s paddle-out event will commence at 9 a.m. on Mavericks Beach, at the base of Pillar Point, and is open to all. Then at 10 a.m., the U.S. Coast Guard will demonstrate a helicopter water rescue in the harbor, Cuvelier said.

“People are hungry for a Mavericks event,” Clark said.

Festival entry is free. Parking, available in a lot at the harbor, is $10. Bike racks are on site.

Gregory Thomas is the Chronicle’s editor of lifestyle & outdoors. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @GregRThomas

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