Surf­ing con­test spec­ta­tors swept from sea­wall by waves that ‘came out of nowhere’


this doesn’t hap­pen again.”

The waves knocked out bar­ri­cades, a spec­ta­tor plat­form and a large scaf­fold hold­ing speak­ers broad­cast­ing the Mav­er­icks Surf Con­test, held in this tiny har­bour town 25 miles (40 kilo­me­tres) south of San Fran­cisco along High­way 1.

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice posted a high surf warn­ing un­til 10 p.m. Satur­day — af­ter the un­ex­pected large waves swept in dur­ing high tide. The weather ser­vice had pre­vi­ously posted a less se­vere high surf ad­vi­sory.

“It just came out of nowhere and wiped us all out,” said Pamela Mas­sette of Corte Madera. Her left hand and left knee were scraped and bleed­ing and she was wet from head to toe.

Bran­don Snider got his in­jured knee taped up by a con­test vol­un­teer. Every­one’s con­cen­tra­tion was on the con­test when a 5-foot to 6-foot (1.5-me­tre to 1.5-me­tre) wave “wiped out the en­tire sea­wall,” he said.

At least two more rogue waves came through the same area dur- ing the high tide, reach­ing the sea­wall, knock­ing down more spec­ta­tors and send­ing oth­ers flee­ing in panic. The sub­se­quent waves were not as large or strong as the first two and did not cause any ap­par­ent ad­di­tional in­juries.

“ This is prob­a­bly the tallest waves I’ve seen. They’re not the thick­est, but they are the tallest,” Bart Miller of Half Moon Bay said af­ter com­ing out of the surf. Miller doesn’t com­pete but said he has surfed on the same day as all seven Mav­er­icks con­tests over the years.

Spec­ta­tors lost cam­eras, cell­phones and back­packs as the waves swept the sea­wall.

Au­thor­i­ties yelled for peo­ple to get back from the shore, but could not use the pub­lic ad­dress sys­tem be­cause it had been swept away.

Of­fi­cials were not al­low­ing any new spec­ta­tors to reach the beach, though they were al­low­ing those al­ready there to stay.

Au­thor­i­ties moved by­standers from the sea­wall and about 100 yards (90 me­tres) back from the wa­ter af­ter Satur­day’s in­ci­dent.

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