Legendary big wave surfer and Mavericks founder, Jeff Clark talked to Sarah & Vinnie about growing up surfing on Northern California’s rugged coast, getting started at Mavericks, and the upcoming film “Of Men And Mavericks” with Gerard Butler.
Not many people in the world have the stuff to ride the legendary waves at Northern California’s Mavericks Point. Jeff Clark started surfing the notorious break in 1975 at age 17 and has seen Mavericks popularity grow to a world wide phenomenon including a competition and now a Hollywood film with Gerard Butler.
When asked how he got started surfing, Jeff said, “As a youngster my parents always spent time at the beach – fishing and family picnics – and one of these guys said, ‘Here’s a board – come with me. Go out in the ocean.’ I was terrified when I was a kid sometimes but that didn’t stop me. You know it is all about what you do with fear. Does it motivate you or stop you in the tracks. And apparently it motivated me.”
Clark told Sarah and Vinnie that early life in Half Moon Bay lead him to finally surf a spot that was at the time mostly uncharted territory.
“You grow up next to Everest, one day your going to take a walk up there. And that’s what it was for me with Mavericks.” Clark said. “The beach is our playground and when we opted out of school – we spent all our days at the beach.”
“Finally it just led me to challenge it. The better I got at surfing, the more time I spent in the ocean, the more I was comfortable with it.” Clark continued, “The more I could see my place in those waves. My friends couldn’t.”
Even though he had conquered the monster wave at Mavericks, Clark spend the next decades surfing the break mostly alone.
“My friend Brian was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll call the Coast Guard and tell them the last place I saw you.’ That was the kind of support I had.”
Even after news of the spot got out to the surfing community in the early 90’s the waves at Mavericks continue to be for a small minority of surfers.
“Early on they [pro surfers] really questioned the validity of Mavericks and now we’re finding the best.” Clark said. “You know we lost Mark Foo 15 years ago and last year Sion. It put some fear and questions. But this year we some some of the most amazing waves ridden.”
In 2011, the feature film “Of Men and Mavericks” began shooting in and around Mavericks with Hollywood star Gerard Butler and Jeff Clark as a consultant.
“I drove a boat with half a million dollars worth of camera gear and equipment in it. And we had waves spitting on us and whitewater coming up to the edge of the boat – from 40 foot waves. Just as tight and as good of shots you can get. I’m really excited to see this.”
Butler was famously hospitalized during the shooting after an accident in the water – an accident that Jeff Clark was present for.
“I love Gerard [Butler]. He wanted to give it the authenticity that this film deserves. So he tried to do and did a lot of his own wave scenes. And they’re doing a paddle in scene by the rocks and I’ve got a boat with 6 people on it and I hear ‘Outside!’ and everyone starts whistling. This was the biggest set of the day. Get to deep water as quick as you can.”
Clark continued, “So I’m making a u-turn heading for the channel and I look inside and these guys they got to get out of there. They are padding as hard as they can for deep water and this thing catches them all. It was heavy. And for Gerard having not ever dealt with a 20 wall of whitewater. I mean the wave was bigger than that – i mean – a lot bigger. He’s getting run over by this wave and the next one.”
“Later, Zach Wormhoudt, one of our seasoned veteran and competitors and finalists, said it was on of the top ten worst hall downs he’s ever had out there. And Gerard went through the washing machine with him. I gotta hand it to him.”
This year’s Mavericks Invitational competition was cancelled due to poor conditions but determined to continue the legacy, Clark is putting on the Mavericks Invitational Festival. The Festival will honor some of the big wave surfers at the inaugural Mavericks Awards plus bands and festivities all day long.
THE MAVERICKS FESTIVAL
Saturday, March 31, 2012
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Outdoors on the grounds of the Oceano Hotel & Spa
— Bradford Hornsby, Alice@97.3/San Francisco