Surfers plied the waters just offshore of Mavericks Beach for years but felt the huge waves further out were too dangerous. In 1975, a 17-year-old student at Half Moon Bay High School named Jeff Clark dared to paddle out over a mile to be the first to ride the 20- to 25-foot waves now considered to be some of the most challenging waves in the world. For 15 years big-wave surfers worldwide did not believe this kind of wave existed in California until a picture was featured in Surfer magazine, and the rest is history. Now when these massive waves that occasionally reach 80-feet occur after storms in the North Pacific, experts from around the world fly in to surf these waters.
When large waves are predicted, expect the parking lot at Pillar Point Harbor to fill up and crowds of people to line the bluffs watching the distant wave riders. Since the waves are 1 to 2 miles out, good binoculars a big telephoto lenses are required to get the most from the experience. Even without these, Mavericks Beach is an interesting and scenic spot to watch surfers go out and enjoy the harbor and beach. An easy, graded trail follows the shore for about a half-mile to the beach. Alternatively, the Pillar Point Bluff Trail follows the coastal ridge to the north where higher views of the waves are possible.