Maverick’s surf point near Half Moon Bay, California, is a winter destination for the high-risk, high-adrenaline athletes that surf the world’s biggest waves. Mark Kreidler’s new book, The Voodoo Wave: Inside a Season of Triumph and Tumult At Maverick’s, takes readers inside the minds of these daredevils. Kreidler introduces Jeff Clark, the man who first dared to ride Maverick’s, and the other organizers of Mavericks Surf Contest, known as the Super Bowl of big-wave surfing. He also profiles Chris Bertish, who captured the 2010 contest amid jaw-dropping swells.
Mark Kreidler’s new book presents a subculture of which the author does not wish to be a part.
The surfers who brave the gigantic waves at Maverick’s, a site near Half Moon Bay in Northern California, are, in Kreidler’s own words, “risk-addicted.” Some of them find enlightenment atop those waves, and at least one guy claims to have seen the face of God in the sunlight reflected off the wave he was riding. But when I asked Mark Kreidler if celebrations and epiphanies like that made him want to paddle out to Maverick’s and catch a wave, he laughed.
The Voodoo Wave presents the story of the people who created a competition unlike any other surfing event. The site is terrifying. The weather is so spectacularly unpredictable that in a given year, nobody is quite sure when (or if) the competition will occur. The 2011 event has been postponed into 2012, when it may or may not happen, depending on whether the surfers themselves feel the waves are big enough. If they do, they will put out the word, and potential competitors who don’t happen to be at Half Moon Bay will have a day or two to get there.
Kreidler also presents the conflict between those who regard “big-wave surfing” as a pure spiritual challenge and those who value the tournament as an opportunity to create a brand and sell merchandise. In that sense, The Voodoo Wave is story that transcends the Maverick’s, and there’s no question about Kreidler’s own bias. His book is strongest when he’s celebrating the surfers who ride some of the world’s most spectacular waves when nobody’s watching.