Foggy forecast for Maverick's contest

Jason Murray

Mother Nature prevented The Jay at Maverick's from running this winter, but now that the big-wave surf contest's primary sponsor has pulled funding, no matter what kind of swell is dished out in the season ahead, The Jay may never run again.

In an announcement last week that was not entirely unexpected, Barracuda Networks, a tech company from Campbell, Calif., announced that it is no longer interested in helping host the contest named after the late, great Santa Cruz charger Jay Moriarty. In a prepared statement, Barracuda executive vice president Michael Perone explained, "Unfortunately, discussions with officials surrounding plans for the 2011-2012 season were not progressing as we had hoped and very recently some Moriarty family members and their representatives have requested that we discontinue use of Jay's name for the event; we respect that decision."

Additionally, Half Moon Bay Surf Group -- the stakeholder collection of surfers, community members and corporate interests that put on the contest -- has officially disbanded.

Controversy, behind-the-scenes power struggles and wave droughts are nothing new to surf contests at Maverick's. After surf industry heavyweight and founding sponsor Quiksilver ended its sponsorship of the event in 2001, the contest went on a three-year hiatus before returning in 2004. Barracuda Networks, working in conjunction with former stakeholder Maverick's Surf Ventures, helped make the post-Quiksilver contests a reality … that is, when the surf actually showed up. Lack of truly big waves during the contest waiting period caused the cancellation of Maverick's in 2007, 2009, and of course, this winter.

Trouble of a different kind plagued the contest in the lead-up to this past season as, in a fairly public kerfuffle, an impressive coalition of Mav's locals worked to take the annual permit, issued by the San Mateo Harbor Commission, away from Maverick's Surf Ventures.

Angry about the way the contest was being marketed and run, the grassroots group was successful in its bid, ultimately forming the Half Moon Bay Surf Group. One of the first things the group did was rename the contest after Moriarty, a beloved regular footer who made a name for himself at Maverick's before he died in a free-diving accident at the age of 22. The idea was to give the contest back to the core community of surfers who eat, sleep and breath Maverick's each winter.

Now, in another case of deja vu, contest insiders say a similar sort of fate has played out between Barracuda and some of the primary surfing interests involved in the disbanded HMBSG. Though all parties involved declined to comment or even confirm the infighting that led to Barracuda's decision to pull out, it is clear that compromise and cooperation was not winning the day.

Despite the developments, out of the ashes of HMBSG, yet another new coalition of hopeful contest organizers, including Mav's regulars like Flea Virostko, Grant Washburn and Skindog Collins, has already formed and is actively seeking sponsorship for the 2011-12 season. Washburn contends, "Everyone still involved hopes to see the event find some stability eventually, and regardless, we definitely expect better surf next year!"