The annual celebration of big-wave surfing at the famed Mavericks surf spot in Northern California got off to a roaring start this morning after heavy morning fog threatened to delay its start.
With less-than-optimal conditions, surfers had to make the best of treacherous swells, and, as a result, there was a handful of heavy wipeouts, though none as noteworthy as the one that ruptured the eardrum of Mavericks’ veteran Ken “Skindog” Collins.
— Matthias Gafni (@mgafni) February 12, 2016
“I almost drowned,” Collins said after getting to safety, describing the wipeout as one of the heaviest he’s ever suffered. “The water hit me. I was so disoriented, going in all directions. This is the scariest thing I've ever done.”
“Things happened fast. So easy, so quick, when the water hit me, it felt like the whole ocean came down on me,” said Collins. “I thought I had a concussion at first, I was so dizzy. I've never been hit so hard. It was coming down my throat.”
Collins brush with mortality isn’t exactly uncommon at Mavericks: Two of the biggest names in the history of big-wave surfing, Mark Foo and Sion Milosky, died surfing the break in 1994 and 2011, respectively.
This year, the Titans of Mavericks introduced the Sion Milosky Award to honor the surfer who most embodies the Mavericks legend’s legacy.
In the water, the world’s best surfers made do with sub-optimal conditions, showcasing incredible athleticism as they bombed down 30-foot wave faces. As action in the water continued to progress throughout the day, Greg Long scored what might have been the wave of the contest, riding out a massive airdrop on a crumbling wave to claim the $10,000 Peet’s Coffee Boldest Drop award.
The final round pitted Long against Jamie Mitchell, Carlos Burle, Tyler Fox and Nic Lamb, as well as the most surprising surfer of the contest, local big-wave surfer and paramedic Travis Payne, who actually started the day off as an alternate for the event.
In the end, Lamb managed to just edge out Payne, and the iconic Long finished third.
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