The waves at Mavericks were, by their typical standards, modest on Feb. 12 for this year’s annual contest, topping out around 30 feet.
Even on small days, though, the surf can be bone-crushing for someone who makes the slightest wrong move, with shallow water and teeth-like rocks just beyond the break. This year’s trophy went to Nic Lamb, 28, a model big-wave surfer who grew up in Santa Cruz and now lives in Venice Beach.
“It’s like Mount Everest meets Niagara Falls,” Lamb tells GT via email, of the Titans of Mavericks contest. This year’s invitational was the first under its new name, as well as with the guidance of Cartel Management, its latest organizer.
Lamb, who first surfed Mavericks at age 14, also took part in a film documenting the 48 hours leading up to the unpredictable event; he hopes it will be released soon on Netflix or HBO.
The choppy conditions that day led to a handful of mishaps, including wipeouts from Lamb and Santa Cruz local Ken “Skindog” Collins, who suffered a ruptured eardrum and later told reporters that he almost drowned.
As if that isn’t enough to send a chill down competitors’ spines, it had been only one month earlier at this same break that surfer Garrett McNamara, who holds the record for biggest wave ever surfed, skidded down the face of the wave and got eaten by the giant swell. McNamara survived after being rescued and having his arm, which snapped out of his shoulder, surgically repaired.
Lamb took home a $30,000 prize along with his trophy. Joining him in the contest’s semifinal round were fellow Santa Cruz surfers Tyler Fox, who finished fourth overall, Zach Wormhoudt and Anthony Tashnick. Santa Cruz locals have a history of performing well, and Lamb credits that to their advantage of having the incredible waves in their own backyard.
“I’ve always felt I’ve had the ability, but in the end it’s up to the ocean to cooperate,” Lamb says. “The human body can only do so much. The ocean has to do the rest.”