The Bay Area got its Super Bowl fix -- now it will get its Super Bowl of big-wave surfing, too.
The Titans of Mavericks was greenlighted for Friday, meaning 24 of the world's most fearless watermen will take to the ocean off Pillar Point Harbor near Half Moon Bay and put on their own adrenaline-soaked, El Niño-fueled spectacle.
It will mark the first year under new ownership for the event, which wasn't able to stage a contest last year because the perfect day with the desired minimum 40-foot wave faces and clean conditions never materialized.
As for Friday's conditions, Mark Sponsler, the event's longtime forecaster, is predicting sheet-glass smooth conditions early with wave faces from 36 to 38 feet. "Big enough to make the grade and clean," he said.
That isn't exactly monster Mavericks for a spot that can be paddled into with wave faces in excess of 50 feet. But what it lacks in the way of teeth should be made up for with camera-ready cleanness.
"Doesn't look like it's going to be massive but conditions look to be good," said Tyler Fox, a longtime contestant from Aptos. "You can bet all the boys will be pushing it."
"I think it's a smart call," said Grant Washburn, another contest veteran from San Francisco. "If we want to run events, we have to take a shot and jump on one of these opportunities."
Mavericks will co-star in an epic week of big-wave surfing. The granddaddy of such events -- the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau, better known as The Eddie -- will take place Wednesday at Waimea Bay on Oahu's North Shore.
It will be the first Eddie event since December 2009, a testament to the fickle nature of big-wave surf contests. In its 31-year history, The Eddie has happened only nine times.
Mavericks has had better luck. This will be the 10th Mavericks contest since it originated in 1999 as the Men Who Ride Mountains.
Reigning champion, and two-time winner, Grant "Twiggy" Baker won't be in attendance after being barred from the event for a year. Baker was openly critical of organizers' decision to leave former champion Peter Mel of Santa Cruz off the invite list. Mel, the only Northern Californian who will surf in The Eddie, heads the Big Wave World Tour, a circuit in conflict with the current Mavericks leadership.
After Baker's criticism, the organizers opted to use language in the contestants' contract -- a first for the formerly loose-knit operation -- to remove the two-time champ.
"Even though the punishment seems harsh for trying to support a fellow surfer, I accept the decision," Baker said in a statement. "These contests should be about who is invited rather then who isn't."
Zach Wormhoudt, a longtime Mavericks competitor from Santa Cruz, echoed the sentiments of other surfers who said any growing pains with the Titans of Mavericks group have been offset by an improved level of professionalism.
"I think it is a good thing they have contracts that they are enforcing and there are repercussions," he said. "It's a bummer to lose Pete and Grant this year, but good to see the professional standards raised. It's the only way the collective bar will be raised for our sport."
Mavericks organizers saw a perfect would-be contest day slip by last Thursday. With the Super Bowl in town, the contest could not run because of security stipulations within its use-permit. That didn't prevent one of the most talked-about surf days in a long time from unfolding at Mavericks.
"Obviously, I want to surf the contest in amazing waves," Fox said. "I still scored some amazing waves with my friends."
Wormhoudt pointed out that predicting how good a day might be is more art than science.
"Hopefully we're surprised there is an even bigger swell for Friday," said Wormhoudt, one of two surfers who has competed in the previous nine Mavericks contests. "That's the tough part about these events: You never really know until that last minute."
Despite a consistent run of northwest swells during this El Niño winter, it wasn't until last week that a surefire contest day had been missed. And now it's official: Friday will not be missed.
As of Tuesday morning, fishing charter boats that morph into surfing spectator vessels for Mavericks days were filling up fast. Dennis Baxter, who skippers the New Captain Pete, is charging $275 a spot for a half-day of action. For fishermen struggling from the lost Dungeness crab season, a Mavericks contest is a big deal.
"I was in line filling out my SBA loan paperwork when I got the news," Baxter said. "I'm all goose-bumpy. Mother Nature takes away and she giveths back."
Staff writer Elliott Almond contributed to this report.