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Surfers Gather to Surf 25 Foot Waves

By RON HARRIS, Associated Press Writer

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (AP) – Surfers from around the world gathered Wednesday to attack 25- to 30-foot waves at the famous surf spot known as Mavericks.

Early in the day, surfers suffered vicious wipeouts and one board snapped in half.

The defending champion, who had been expected to compete, withdrew from the contest, citing nagging injuries from an earlier contest in Hawaii.

The rest of the world´s top big wave surfers waited anxiously, with cash and glory on their minds as the toughest one-day surf contest takes place.

It´s a wild and wet version king of the hill, where 50-foot tall monstrous waves can pin a surfer down on the sea floor, or flip him “over the falls” off the back of a wave to seriously rough landing.

The break at Mavericks is billed as the “Most Dangerous Wave on the Planet,” the vicious culmination of huge columns of water that meat a rapidly rising sea floor and have nowhere to go but up. Waiting on the side, surfers paddle or are towed into the growing face of the wave, aiming their long surfboards known as “guns” downward and attempting to ride it out as the water races up the face of the wave.

Each winter, top surfers from Brazil, Australia, Hawaii and the United States descend on the once-secret surf spot a half-mile off the coast – if the waves are big enough for the contest to be called into action.

And, this year, Mavericks is on.

The contestants include Carlos Burle, Brazil´s most famous big-wave rider, and Australian standouts Tony Ray and Ross Clarke-Jones.

Local rider Darryl “Flea” Virostko, who withdrew at the last minute, is a three-time Mavericks contest winner. He beat the competition in the only years the contest has been held: 1999, 2000 and 2004.

Jeff Clark discovered the Mavericks break in 1975 and surfed there alone for more than a decade until he began to share his secret with others. It remains primarily the playground of only experienced big wave riders.

Newcomers can be held down on the sea-floor by sequential waves or rattled around in a rocky area known by locals as “the boneyard.”

Hawaiian big wave rider Mark Foo died surfing Mavericks in 1994.