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Mavericks: big waves, bigger audience

Big wave surfing has official made a giant splash in mainstream media. In week one of 2014, the prodigious Winter Storm Hercules hovered over the Atlantic, producing giant swell in England, France, Ireland, and Portugal. Broadcast across news channels as a breaking news alert, the colossal swell captivated global attention. Big wave riders were satiated with solid, substantial surf. They were free surfing, and the world was watching.

On January 24, 2014, the Body Glove Mavericks Invitational presented by GoPro and Universal Sports kicked off at Half Moon Bay. With the support of Universal Sports and umbrella sponsor, Xpreshon, Mavericks was televised LIVE for the first time in history. An increase in sponsorship and technology for the event coupled with the spike in storm coverage brought a heightened exposure to big wave surfing. Mavericks is an inimitable event, unlike any other surf competition, which likely contributed to the record number of webcast streams. The 2014 Mavericks Invitational is now one of the most watched surf competitions ever! Former 2006 winner, Grant “Twiggy” Baker, scooped his second title at the invitational. Baker, off to an early start, scored a 9 and 9.33 in his first and final run. The South African’s second massive ride netted him a perfect 10, as seen by the equally monumental world of webcast viewers. Grant “Twiggy” Baker wrote: “We just heard that the Mavericks event was the most watched and publicized surfing event ever. Big wave surfing has finally come of age? #onwardsandupwards”

Baker sheds light on a relevant point. Big wave surfing is not only becoming accepted, but is gaining newfound popularity in mainstream media. Big wave surfing has spanned a broad audience. The announcement of an ASP merger with the BWWT resulted in an increase in prize money and a formal sanction of events. But, no one could predict the wisdom of the merger in conjunction with the growing popularity of big wave surfing. After all, part of that popularity is owed to nature. However, the media seems to be catching on to the surfing trend independently. In January of 2014, Dr Pepper launched the “/1” campaign. The campaign features “exceptional people from all walks of life,” according to Brian Bell of the Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Making an appearance in the commercial is big wave surfer and professional waterman, Garrett McNamara, giving big wave surfing another platform. Even the music industry is piggybacking on the surfing trend as evidenced by Beyonce's provocative intimation of the word surfboard (not the most appropriate etymology) at the Grammy Awards (For future reference, surfers prefer oceans to bathtubs.).

With the increase in exposure, technology, and sponsorships, the most progressive step for surf sponsors would be to back the girls who favor the big wave approach, like Maya Gabeira and Carissa Moore. Big wave surfing has always been making it big. But in January, big wave surfing proved that it is a movement.

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