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Mavericks surf contest set for Friday

Grant Washburn rides down the face of a wave during the Mavericks Surfing Competition at Half Moon Bay on Tuesday, February 7, 2006. Washburn has riden Mavericks more often than anyone else on the contest list and is expected to compete in the 2016 Titans of Mavericks.
Grant Washburn rides down the face of a wave during the Mavericks Surfing Competition at Half Moon Bay on Tuesday, February 7, 2006. Washburn has riden Mavericks more often than anyone else on the contest list and is expected to compete in the 2016 Titans of Mavericks. Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

Days after one Super Bowl, the Super Bowl of big-wave surfing will hit the Bay Area.

After weeks of epic waves, Titans of Mavericks will be held Friday at the world-famous break off Pillar Point north of Half Moon Bay. The first heats will be held shortly after 8 a.m., with the finals expected in the early afternoon.

Unlike past contests when more than 100,000 spectators swarmed the beach and nearby bluff, no fans will be allowed in viewing areas at Pillar Point. Instead, fans can watch free live streaming video via RedBull.TV, including in-wave views from tiny cameras mounted on the surfboards. Several Half Moon Bay restaurants and bars will host viewing parties. For full details, go to www.titansofmavericks.com.

Contest officials made the call Tuesday afternoon after analyzing data from across the Pacific. Forecaster Mark Sponsler predicted surf with 36- to 38-foot faces will arrive Friday morning, driven by a huge swell developing in the Pacific.

“There are really big seas (off Hawaii) with 50-foot swells,” said surfer Grant Washburn, one of this year’s invitees. “By the time they make it to this point, they’ll still be 40 to 50 feet.”

Anticipation has been building steadily all winter for this contest along with the waves, thanks to the El Niño weather pattern. This will be only the 10th Mavericks surf contest in 18 years and the first since 2014.

“It’s been crazy,” said Washburn, a three-time finalist in the contest. “I’ve surfed Mavericks 40 days already this (season). In a bad year, you won’t see half that many. But this is a once in 10 years kind of year.”

The decision to hold the contest came after several days of breathtaking breakers at the legendary surf spot. Last week, Mavericks boasted perfect contest conditions with 20- to 40-foot surf under warm, calm skies. But the contest stayed on hold due to permit restrictions. Because of limited law enforcement personnel, authorities requested the contest not be held during Super Bowl week.

“Last week would have been perfect,” said Washburn, who has surfed every Mavericks contest since the first in 1999. “But people don’t realize, so many other variables go into this contest besides the waves. We’ve already been waiting a couple of months (since the contest period started Nov. 1). You can’t be too picky or you won’t get to go.”

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington

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