The 2010 Mavericks was big wave surfing at its biggest, with 40-foot swells and high winds. Nick Polansky got an on-the-water view.

THE COMPETITION WAS called on Thursday afternoon. By the end of the day, four friends and I had confirmed a spot on one of four boats scheduled to leave from San Francisco harbor. By Saturday morning, three of the four captains had backed out, as conditions were too dangerous.

After taking five headcounts of the 30 people on board, the captain of Whacky Jacky set off for the two hour journey south to Half-Moon Bay. 12 of the 30 got sick within the first 20 minutes, but seeing the surfers was well worth the journey on the NorCal Pacific.

All photos by Nick Polansky and Luke Groesbeck. All rights reserved.


Early start

Leaving the harbor at 6:30 AM.



>Dense fog and poor visibility left San Francisco Bay eerily barren, with Alcatraz lurking in the distance.


Cross the gate

The clouds began to break as we crossed the gate into the 25-foot swell.


Getting ready

We arrived just after the first heat, when the surfers were preparing for the next round.


Keeping watch

Five other large boats, including ones belonging to the the sheriff and Coast Guard, sat in the channel.


Search & rescue

Search and rescue crews were constantly dragging surfers out of the white water.


40 foot waves

The waves at Mavericks were pushing 40 feet.



Takeoff points were inconsistent, and positioning was critical.


Down the face

Riding down the face of a mountain.


Not quite

Some couldn't make it down.


Just right

Others pitched it perfectly.


Ion Banner

Surfer Ion Banner finishes a ride as the wave breaks in a wall of water behind him.