How Many People Have Died at Mavericks?

January 31, 2024

Mavericks is one of the most challenging — and deadly — surf spots on the planet. It’s a huge right-hand wave that breaks off Pillar Point at Half Moon Bay, Princeton-by-the-Sea, California. It instills high doses of fear, anxiety, lack of confidence and cold water into the veins of advanced surfers who paddle out on its brutal days.

The spot’s biggest waves draw the world’s elite surfers to a winter competition that has been held there since 1999. They’re created by powerful winter storms that generate undersea topography in the area that causes Mavericks to churn. Waves routinely crest at more than 25 feet and can be so massive they can be recorded on seismometers.

The death of big-wave surfer Mark Foo last year shook the surfing community. The 36-year-old from Hawaii was the Joe Montana of big-wave surfing, a do-it-all who competed and filmed waves around the world as well as writing health and travel articles for magazines and newspapers.

When he died after paddling into the monster wave on December 30 of last year, a large crowd of surfers and supporters showed up at Waimea Bay in his honor. One of the surfers carried a container of Foo’s ashes into the water at Mavericks and placed them in the ocean. A segment of the film Riding Giants documented the moment.

This winter brought another major swell to Mavericks, and it’s been a busy spot for surfers and spectators. The contest started on January 8, and the swell and conditions were epic, drawing dozens of surfers and a gallery of photographers to the site. The contest was won by Santa Cruz local Peter Mel, who beat out competitors from all over the world including Shane Dorian, Jeff Clark, Flea Virostko, Zack Wormhoudt and Brock Little.


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