While All Eyes Were on Mav's -- The Other Guys Were Scoring Empty Waves Further South

Matt Rode

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Updated 77d ago

By now we’ve all heard about Tuesday’s session in Half Moon Bay—arguably the biggest, cleanest Mavs paddle session of all time, with a number of second-reef bombs wrangled by guys like Jamie Mitchell, Kai Lenny, Grant “Twiggy” Baker, and Pete Mel.

It was clear for our forecast a week beforehand that Mav's was the place to chase this week. The numbers were apocalyptic, the conditions looked stellar, and everyone was going to be there. But over the past couple of years, it has become harder and harder for me to wrap my head around surfing with 50 people, even it means a chance at catching the biggest wave of my life.

Jeff Natvig takes a plunge into the locker below.

Jeff Natvig takes a plunge into the locker below.

© 2021 - Sarah Lee

On Sunday and Monday I received nonstop, real-time reports from Half Moon Bay as each new crew rolled into town. As I flew over Half Moon Bay on Monday night and looked down at 23-second pre-runners lighting up the reef, I could only imagine the crowd at the OPL, everyone chomping at the bit to get out there and give it a go. I de-boarded at SFO, but couldn’t get myself to walk to the baggage claim. Instead, I called a quick audible and jumped on a connecting flight to San Diego.

Eric Nicholson, off the boat...

Eric Nicholson, off the boat...

© 2021 - Sarah Lee

Killers on Isla Todos Santos is certainly no secret spot. It’s been the staple of Southern California big wave surfing since the 1970s, was on the Big Wave Tour for a while, and occasionally attracts some of the biggest names when the buoys go XXL. But the wave does tend to live in the shadow of its bigger, meaner, colder cousin in Northern California, often flying under the radar when both spots have good forecasts.

...and straight into this marvel.

...and straight into this marvel.

© 2021 - Sarah Lee

And on this swell, it wasn’t just Mav's and Todos that looked good—practically the entire West Coast had been under high pressure for weeks, from Washington to central Baja, and the numbers were looking stellar everywhere. My hope was that everyone would be so preoccupied with scoring at home that they wouldn’t bother driving south of the border. But I never expected to score Todos Santos completely empty Any spot on the Western Seaboard that likes WNW swell was primed to pump—not to mention Hawaii, where the back edge of this storm saw Sunset firing on all cylinders. My hope was that everyone would be so preoccupied with scoring at home that they wouldn’t bother driving south of the border. But I never expected to score Todos Santos completely empty.

Your author gets square on an emerald-hued beauty.

Your author gets square on an emerald-hued beauty.

© 2021 - Sarah Lee

Tuesday morning I linked up with Mike Seible and Eric Nicholson—Todos regulars who aren’t afraid to charge. Mike had been out for last week’s season opener, while Eric had made the run up to Mavs, where he’d snagged a couple but been disillusioned by the crowd.

With Mav's already going ballistic and the nearshore buoys showing solid, ultra-long-period swell, we had a feeling that Todos would peak earlier than forecasted, and headed out to the island mid-morning. As we came around the corner and motored toward the lineup, we were tripping out—there were no other boats, no other surfers, just a four-wave, 15-foot set thumping under pristine conditions.

Heart break or torment?

Heart break or torment?

© 2021 - Sarah Lee

We spent the next seven hours trading sets and nervously watching the swell get bigger. The long period made for super long lulls and a shifty lineup, but when the sets came, they were angry and hollow, serving up thick-lipped barrels and tricky drops.

© 2021 - Chris Corona

The conditions stayed impeccable the entire time—sunny and clean, without a breath of wind all day. And most importantly, not another boat showed up. It was one of those days that washes away all the jaded, eggy sessions and reminds you of why you started surfing to begin with.

Erick Nicholson.

Erick Nicholson.

© 2021 - Sarah Lee

The swell had filled in and period had stabilised by Wednesday morning, with sets a bit more consistent, albeit a touch less grunty. This was more of a typical day at Todos—10 boats, 20 surfers, and short windows of good wind bookending midday chop. It was arguably the largest Todos swell since December 2018, and a handful of the proven regulars finally showed up, guys like Andy Carter (one of the world’s tallest, best surfers at 6'9"), local legend and Gary Linden protégé Vicente Yazbek, and shaper/charger Adam Warden, along with Seible and Nicholson.

Mike Seible.

Mike Seible.

© 2021 - Sarah Lee

There were also a handful who had come for their first taste of proper Todos, including Jeff Natvig, who hucked himself over the ledge on the double-up of the swell. I was relegated to the boat by a nagging back injury that had been aggravated the evening before, and enjoyed a close-up view of all the day’s action from the channel.

Sometimes it’s easy to become desensitised by the things we see the world’s best surfers doing in the world’s craziest waves—especially when those waves are all-time, biggest-ever, second-reef Mav's.

© 2021 - Sarah Lee

But it’s nice to know that there are unknowns out there sending it too—guys that most of us may not have heard of, but that are holding their own when the water gets heavy. We can’t all be Kai Lenny or Grant “Twiggy” Baker, but we can still chase bombs and step up when the moment comes and go out of our way to chase those moments as often as possible. For every Jamie Mitchell dropping into a behemoth at Mav's there are a bunch of other guys going big in a load of other heavy lineups—and a handful of them might even be surfing alone.