Saturday, February 13, 2010, was an eventful day at Mavericks. Aside from an exciting and historic Mavericks contest, some of the world’s best female big-wave surfers ventured into the lineup to make their mark on an already momentous day. Among that group were Santa Cruz natives Jamilah Star and Savannah Shaughnessy and Brazil’s Maya Gabeira. Both Star and Shaughnessy endured hour-long paddles from the beach, and after watching the men’s final from the channel, they seized an opportunity to paddle into a few behemoth waves upon the contest’s completion.
Joined by big wave surfers Shane Dorian, Mark Healey, Twiggy and others, the girls cruised into jarringly vacant lineup when compared with the scene earlier in the day: a channel swarming with boats, cheering spectators, and jet skis with photographers. Shawn Alladio’s elite task force, the K38 Maverick’s Rescue Team, who kept order among the channel’s Waterworld morass, had also called it a day shortly after the final ended.
How daunting it must have been cruising around in a nearly empty lineup, gargantuan swell lines rising from the horizon, the sun now covered by gray clouds and the end of day nearing. “It was so big; it felt really dense and really powerful and the whole time there was a current running south,” explained Savannah Shaunessy. “You couldn’t line up with the normal lineups so it was hard to position yourself.”
“It was wild, amazing, and intense,” said Jamilah Star.
The surfers were dispersed throughout the lineup; some like Mark Healey were sitting deep in the bowl, while others were towards the shoulder. Savannah explains how she positioned herself, “Being out there and judging the waves was challenging because it was such a big and scary day. I just didn’t want to be too deep or too far inside, like some of the guys in the contest. I watched Shane Desmond in the finals and he was taking off deep but still making all his waves. So I guess that is what I was trying to do.” As a result, Savannah positioned herself in the middle of the pack, not too deep but not on the shoulder either.
Savannah caught a solid wave that she recounts, “I remember seeing the wave and looking down the swell of the wave and I knew it was my opportunity to catch a makeable wave. I felt a little bit late, but I was pretty confident I could catch this so I just got really focused and paddled really hard.” While Star took off on a nice wall, she was unable to make the complete drop, but found reprieve in a final wave as the day ended.
Star reflects, “The only thing I know is Maverick’s is way more powerful than me and I am humbled and honored to just paddle out there. And I’m gonna get some more sick bombs!”
“Watching the expression session heat and the final was a really good opportunity to watch the best big wave surfers in the world surf Maverick’s,” said Savannah. “ And I was able to learn a lot just by watching them and how they surf there. For me it was such a cool day, a cool experience watching those guys and I was just so happy to be a part of such a great contest and day of surf at Maverick’s. I was just happy to witness it.”