Puerto Escondido, Nelscott Reef, Dungeons—burly big wave locales virtually anonymous to the casual surfing fan. But Mavericks, an exposed A-frame in Half Moon Bay, Calif. 40 minutes south of San Francisco, has transcended mainstream consciousness with its surfing tradition and lore, becoming a franchise all its own.
And the hype is well deserved. “Mavericks is one of the scariest waves on the planet,” says Shane Dorian, a preeminent big wave charger who nearly drowned here following a 2010 wipeout.
Originating in deep water, Pacific swells slam into this rocky coastline with a dark, ferocious power, creating consistently rideable, 30-foot walls of water.
Each winter, a handful of dedicated surfers travel from all corners of the globe to harness the wave’s awe-inspiring power. With a Jan. 1–Mar. 31 holding period, the Titans of Mavericks surfing contest will showcase 24 members of surfing’s big wave fraternity. And not a single one is taking the opportunity lightly. Here’s what some of the Titans invitees are doing to prepare their minds—and bodies—for one of surfing’s most dangerous challenges.