The man who won today's Mavericks Surf Contest near Half Moon Bay, which some surfers called the biggest surfing event in history due to the gigantic waves, said when he left his home in Cape Town, South Africa 36 hours before the contest he didn't even have time to pack a toothbrush.
"I didn't have a change of clothes, either," Chris Bertish said during his victory speech following the competition.
Bertish, who earned $50,000 for winning the contest, also emphasized the importance of "living the dream," and dedicated his award to "everybody who has lived a dream."
The 24 surfers from around the world selected to participate in this year's competition voted Thursday whether to hold the contest today, and the majority voted in favor.
While Mavericks, located about a half-mile from Pillar Point Harbor, is known for its 20- to 40-foot waves, many still called today's waves greater than at any other competition, and six to seven surges even struck the beaches where crowds had gathered to watch the contest.
Omar Etcheverry, who commentated to those watching on the beach from a scaffolding stage in the middle of the crowd, said he knew the first surge was going to hit before the wave had even risen very high above the water.
"It was really scary," Etcheverry said. "I saw it coming out in the ocean and I was like, 'Oh no.' I warned everyone, but they just didn't really move."
The first surge crashed onto the beach, through the scaffolding, injuring more than a dozen spectators on the beach.
Many people were swept off their feet, and at least 13 were treated for various injuries. The injuries to three people were serious enough to require a trip to the hospital, including one person with a broken leg, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Scott Jalbert said.
Nobody got swept out to the water, Jalbert said, but seven people were temporarily stranded on the waterlogged beach and needed to be rescued.
Those watching from the beach weren't the only ones shaken by the waves. The dozens of people watching the contest from boats or Jet Skis were also rocked constantly all day just feet from the breaking waves the surfers rode.
"Today was by far the biggest day" in terms of the waves, Etcheverry said. The combination of the tidal change and swell shifts made the surf that much more dangerous, he added.
The winner of Mavericks in 2008, Greg Long, also emphasized today's giant swells.
"I think the entire book of big wave surfing was rewritten with one event," he said.
It was also the highest-attended event, Etcheverry said. Event organizers estimated that about 50,000 people attended the event, more than the most recent Mavericks Surf Contest in 2008, when 20,000 to 30,000 people came to watch the contest.
The contest was never held last year because the ideal conditions didn't materialize.
Several other surges followed the initial one, and the crowd was forced to stand back.
"They needed more people to help down there," Etcheverry said.
Second place in the contest went to Shane Desmond, and third went to Anthony Tashnick.