PRINCETON-BY-THE-SEA -- Only a couple TV crews set up shop at Maverick's Beach on Friday, and no boats could be seen hovering by the big wave break. A lone helicopter made a brief pass through in the sky above, but didn't stay long.
As 16 of the 24 surfers invited as contestants in the Mavericks Invitational and numerous alternates trekked out to the beach for the opening ceremony of the 2012-13 big wave contest, not one sported movie cameras on their boards, nor the green dots and face paint used by stunt doubles to superimpose an actor's face onto their own.
Yes, things are back to normal now. All the craziness that surrounded last January's event kickoff, which was interrupted by the filming of the mid-budget motion picture "Chasing Mavericks," seems to have been washed away by the tide. But many contestants and organizers are hoping images of the break's monstrous waves as portrayed in the film that opened nationwide two weeks ago, and the men who ride them, have permanently captured the world's attention.
"Pretty much everyone in the world wants to see someone eaten by a tidal wave," said Anthony Tashnick of Santa Cruz, who showed up to the last opening ceremony in face paint because he had spent the day surfing stunt scenes for the film's main character, Jay Moriarity. "Hopefully, more opportunities will come from it."
Organizers and surfers alike are banking on it.
Though the Mavericks Invitational became part of the Big Wave World Tour last year, sponsors of the event -- which calls in 24 of the world's best big wave surfers on 24 hours notice to compete on waves larger than houses -- were hard to find. To the contrary, San Mateo-based Go Pro cameras and Sierra Nevada beer have already thrown their support behind this year's event, and other sponsorship deals are in the works. Surfers, meanwhile, hope the extra attention the break is getting will translate to extra cash from their sponsors if they get a chance to compete on the break.
The break's starring role in the coming-of-age film, which portrays Moriarity's push to surf it, is also expected to attract more lookiloos. Mavericks Invitational CEO Rocky Raynor said he expects nearly a third more people to attend the contest this year than any previous year.
"There is more excitement about the movie," Raynor said. "I think the day the contest happens the agencies are planning on 30,000 people being here, compared to 20,000 I think our best year was. So, we're talking about having a big number."
Few of those people will be able to watch the event with their own eyes, however.
Ever since a rogue wave in 2010 injured more than a dozen fans who had gathered on the beach and cliffs to watch the contest, the San Mateo County Harbor District has put a contingency on the contest permit, requiring organizers to close those areas to spectators. Raynor said about 15,000 fans can purchase tickets to the Maverick's festival at the Oceano Hotel and Spa, which will feature video screens with a live feed of the event. The rest can watch the broadcast at other restaurants near Pillar Point Harbor or on the event's webcast on their own computers.
More eyes watching could mean more pressure on organizers to run the event, which officially hasn't had contestable waves since Chris Bertish won it in 2010.
Raynor said that isn't a problem.
"No matter what, we'll have the contest," he declared. "The weather forecasters and our wave forecasters see a lot of stuff going on in the atmosphere, so maybe the contest could go off before the end of the year. We hope so, if it doesn't, it doesn't, but we definitely will have a contest this year."
Invitee Tyler Smith of Santa Cruz, a contestant every year since 2005, said that's good news. Smith -- who wasn't in and hasn't seen "Chasing Mavericks," but plans to -- tolerated all the hoopla that came with the filming of it. Now, though, he's happy to have everyone thinking about the contest again.
"Hopefully it brought the wave and contest and people involved into the mainstream spotlight," Smith said. "It might have taken away from the contest last year -- they didn't run it and people weren't able to focus on it. I think they wanted to do the Jay movie, and it deserved everyone's undivided attention.
"It worked out for them, but now it's back to business."
Brooke Wright contributed to this report.
Heat 1: Peter Mel, Dave Wassel, Mark Healey, Kelly Slater, Ken Collins, Rusty Long
Heat 2: Chris Bertish, Jamie Sterling, Grant Washburn, Shawn Dollar, Nathan Fletcher, Matt Ambrose
Heat 3: Tyler Smith, Ryan Augenstein, Zach Wormhoudt, Shane Dorian, Greg Long, Ryan Seelbach
Heat 3: Alex Martins, Anthony Tashnick, Grant "Twiggy" Baker, Ben Wilkinson, Carlos Burle, Shane Desmond ___
(c)2012 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.)
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