Big Day at Mavericks

Mavericks with Ryan Moss

So the story of my life goes just when I think I’m going to get a moment to myself, be able to collect my thoughts and reflect something pops up on my radar. Marc Beaty from Surfline notified me that Mavericks would be going XXL on the Saturday I was supposed to be returning to California. My initial plans were to head down to San Louis Obispo and finish all the editing for the G-Technology and San Disk with Lucas Gilman. However this news threw a kink in my plans. I knew for a while now that Lucas was interested in shooting Mavericks. It’s awesome to see people get excited about shooting things you’ve done all your life. I guess in ways it helps you put your life accomplishments and goals in perspective, something that I wouldn’t normally think twice about suddenly became significant. So I called Lucas presented him with all the possible options and scenarios and we collectively made the decision that it would be worth going up to Mavericks and shooting.

Lucas Gilman at Maverickshuge barrel mavericks california

I called my good friend Dave Nelson and asked him if it would be possible to jump on a ski with him. I initially had no reason to shoot Mavericks. Surfline hired Powerline Productions to cover the day for them, which in no way bothered me. They have been dedicated to Mavericks for years now and deserve all the credit in the world for what they have done for the local big wave community there. Dave Nelson not only got me on his ski, but also got me hired by Red Bull Surfing to document the day for them. After you think you’ve done everything and can’t possibly surpass any accomplishments you’ve achieved something like this opportunity comes along. I guess it falls inline with a major life principal that I’ve tried to live by: “You can control all the variables in life, but all you can do is set yourself up for the best possible scenario to succeed.”

surfer on jetski mavericksmavericks big wave surf photography

After learning of the Red Bull job, I called up Shane Grace and asked for his help on the project. He had to figure out a few variables including convincing his parents who hadn’t seen him since he left for college this past fall that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and that it was worth him taking a train then bus ride up for 12 hours to Northern California.

I will say this, Shane Grace is one of the most underrated up and coming surf photographers going to be soon turned film makers. He is always down for an adventure and even if the odds are stacked up against him he’s willing to take a chance. Shane and I have spent some time now on the road working together and adventuring. He more often than not pushes me to go further, harder, whatever other cliche line you care to use. He is always down for a good time or adventure. The latest entry to his growing list of mind boggling adventures is rappelling down the side of a brittle, vertical, sketchy ridge in order to retrieve his drone that he lost. I told him that he was out his mind, be safe and call me when he’s done. He never got the drone back but his story of everything was mind boggling to say the least and inspiring.

So it was getting closer to the day. I walked through every possible scenario in my head.

I prepped all the gear with Nelly, ran the jet ski to make sure it worked and grabbed a Nikon 800mm lens that i was borrowing from Lucas to let Shane use so he would be able to shoot from the cliff. I picked Shane up from the bus station and we ate dinner ran through all the possible scenarios that could occur. Shane was a trooper I could see it in his face that he wanted to be on the jet ski instead of a cliff far away from the action.

We set our alarms for 4:30am and proceeded to pass out. Shane and I both woke up around the same time. Shane would be leaving with my Dad to head up to Mavericks and shoot from the cliff while I had to meet up with Nelly in Santa Cruz first. We went our separate ways wished each other luck and didn’t really know what to expect.

mavericks big wave photography mavericks big wave mavericks surf photography

“All three unanimously agreed that they thought this swell at Mavericks would be historic”

Lets rewind a bit. Yesterday I interviewed Ken Collins, Shawn Dollar and Matt Becker on what they thought Mavericks would be like on this swell. All three unanimously agreed that they thought this swell would be historic and the biggest swell to hit the rugged, freezing California Coast since the swell that hit during the 2010 Mavericks Invitational contest. That left my stomach in knots and left me with this feeling of unease and anxiety. I mean, I’ve seen some shit in my years documenting massive waves and the brave souls that challenge their own personal limits in order to throw themselves over the ledge to successfully ride them, but Mavericks is different. It’s freezing cold, infested with Great White sharks, brown, and uninviting. Did I mention there are 40ft rocks on the inside that if you wipe out you’re almost guaranteed to hit or worse get stuck under? I believe Mavericks has claimed more lives than any other big wave spot in the world. I’ve never personally had an interest in shooting it, but it was inevitable I guess that some point in my career I would have to.

big wave at mavericks

Ok back to present day. Nelly and I made the hour long drive up to Mavericks and launched the ski shortly after G-Mac launched his. It was everything I thought it would be. We made our way outside the comfort and safety of the boat harbor and straight through the impact zone into the channel. Lucas Gilman had already been out there on a boat that I called in a few favor and arranged for him. I saw the look on his face as Nelly and I pulled up on a ski. It was one of pure anxiousness and nausea. As I ask him to describe his feeling and emotions as I’m writing this entry he could only describe it as being ground zero as a bomb is detonating. “You could feel the waves and the power and energy of the ocean unloading on the reef.” I couldn’t agree more. It was nothing like I have ever experienced in my past 7 years. It was the most crowded lineup I had ever seen. At one point there were 70 people out in the water battling for waves. It was also the most crowded channel I have ever shot in. I’ll admit I was scared, terrified. I watched men become gods and seemingly unknown surfers jump into the spotlight and make a name for themselves amongst their idols.┬áIt was a sensory overload.

air drop at mavericks mavericks big wave surfing dropping in at mavericks

Nelly’s ski started having some trouble around 2:30 and we thought it was about time that we called it and not push our luck. We headed back to the safety of the harbor. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Later that day the boat that Lucas was on got caught inside by a rogue set and caused the boat to nearly capsize. Lucas ended up being fine and safe, but Mark Healey was forced to eject over the side of the boat and two camera men lost their cameras to water damage. Once I heard of this I felt incredibly fortunate to have not witnessed or been apart of the entire even, because with my luck I would have somehow been caught in the thick of things.


One would think that after an adventure packed day one would rest and take some time to decompress. This was the furtherest thing from what was now on my radar. I had edits due for G-Tech Hard drives and five videos due for Red Bull four of which were due the next morning. So I worked into the early hours of the morning. I think I finally went to bed around 4:30 am. A full 24 hours later I was able to pass out for 3 before I was back at it again. I managed to sneak away and score a couple fun small barrels while shane shot from far down the beach. Life has been good, too good almost. What does the kid that has everything in the world ask from Santa Claus? A hard drive to help keep secure all the moments he is going to capture in the future.

Dave Nelson Surf Photographer

I was starting to feel myself getting burnt out. I needed time and space, two things I would not be getting anytime soon. The only think that kept me going were the music from the tiny blue light and supportive FaceTime conversations from Ashley Clark.

I have a long list of people to thank for making 2014 so special so here it goes:
Ralph and Cyndie Moss for always being the most loving supportive parents I could ever ask for.
Aaron Moss for being a rad little brother and taking care of Shane while he was up in Santa Cruz.
Lucas Gilman for being a rad boss and trusting me with some important executive decisions this year. You have been a amazing mentor and friend. Here’s to your family’s health and future success, thank you for all that you’ve taught me and constantly inviting me back on trips
Matt Simpson, Garry Elsasser and the rest of the Magnetic Creative and FUGOO Family.
Passenger Clothing.
Eric Mehleberg for all of your support and just being a rad human who constantly inspires me.
Shane Dorian, Ian Walsh, Greg Long, Shaun and DK Walsh, Luke Walsh, Curtis and the rest of the Skullbase Family.
Shane Grace for always being down to help me out with a project.
Beau, Lauren, Jeff, Yoshi, Dan, and Gen for always doing inspiring things and pushing me to want to be a better person.
Windy, Kris, Martina and Shirley Harms for always being my family away from my family and driving me up to the start of the Ko’olau Trail at 4:30 am 4 separate times.
Ricky, Bek, Noah, Dylan, RIck Jan, Kathleen, Ugis, Dot, and Alese Lesser. You all have been more than I could ever ask for.
Dave Gilman for all the laughs along our adventures this year.
The Doom family! Thank you for taking me in like one of your own while staying in Tahiti and I can’t wait to see you again very soon! Mama the PUNCH!
Noah, Gabe and Wayne for all the Helicopter rides and always being up for whatever crazy Idea I could throw at you.
Jeremy Kreis….. Man you are one inspiring human and I can’t wait to have the opportunity to jump back on an adventure with you in Hawaii soon.
Justin Bracket thank you for always taking the time to invite me along to climb and hike!
Marcus Greigo, Thomas Engle thank you for your support with the KST!
Justin Ridgely you’ll always be my boy! Thank you for your words the last day on the KST, having that beer with me the night I finished, and introducing me to Lucas. You are one of the nicest, crazy humans I have ever had the privilege of calling a friend. Here’s to the best for you in Shin in 2015 and many more years to come.
Francis Joythank you for all the support and just being you. You are a truly inspiring human and have a bright future ahead of you .
Thank you Luke Davis for taking me on and trusting me with documenting the trip of a lifetime.
Thank you Mikala Jones for all that you have taught me about last minute traveling and all that you have done for me and my career.
Thank you Nat Young for being like a little brother to me and all the heckles and constantly reminding me never to give up on my dreams.
Last but not least thank you Ashley Clark for being the best surprise 2014 sent my way. I can’t wait to see you in 2015 and spend some time together on a much needed vacation.

Thank you to everyone else who has ever commented, taken the time to say hi, or just chased their dreams. Hope to see everyone in 2015.