San Francisco, CA

[email protected]


Jay Watson on InstagramJay Watson on Twitter

Incoming: Mavericks on Drift Surfing

Drift Surfing published my account of the Mavericks 2010 surf contest with my words and 28 full screen size images. The piece is not a commentary on contests or corporate sponsors. It is about my personal experience of what it was like shooting from the media boat.

“Incoming” now viewable on

“The entire Mavericks experience was both awesome and horrible at the same time. On the 13th of February 2010, there was no place I would rather have been. Conditions were good. I heard thunder all day long and fans hooted even when waves went unridden. It was also the most physically demanding thing I have ever done with a camera. With all of that power tossing and turning the boat, my body wondered early on, “what did you get yourself into?”

click to enlarge

1AM Still Packing

The Build Up
As epic as the words may sound, it is really only half of the story that surrounded the day. Contestants voted on Wed Feb 10th to compete on Sat and the announcement was made public on Thursday Feb 11. I was shooting assignments on both Thursday and Friday leaving less than 2 hectic filled days to prepare for the waves. This included selecting my lenses, picking up rental gear, packing, researching more info on the surfers, picking up the media pass in Half Moon Bay, and lining up two back-up plans for boat access. I slept less than 3 hours the night before the event and was at the docks early Saturday morning at 6am. There was also the uncertainty I would even get a spot on the media boat the morning of the contest. The waiting list was 5 times longer than available spots, yet I had to prepare as if it was going to happen.

Maybe I was lucky to get a seat on the boat, but I really worked “it” to get there. If I didn’t prepare and was granted a spot, it would have shown in the images. It was better to play it safe than to be sorry for it later. This doesn’t happen everyday and the last contest was 2 years ago.

Queen Of Hearts

Darryl “Flea” Virostko in person.

Western swell with light winds from the south.

Ion Banner robbing trains.

The Aftermath
I was hung over on Valentines day from the shoot. It lasted for 2 weeks, but not from the motion sickness. It was due to late nights processing well over 1200 images, making selections, writing captions, and working on a layout and sequence for the piece. The writing alone included 5 edits in total. Then came the unexpected side of the story.

As I was working, I witnessed numerous journalists, papers, bloggers, and fans post their take on the event. Some of which were very good and similar to my own images. Why was I spending all this time on something already well covered? It was becoming ancient in today’s live status and real time world. Nobody wants to see images of President Obama’s inauguration 1 year later. True. Unless there is a unique perspective.

I can’t complete with news media outlets. They are more efficient and can bust out a story in hours. My goals are different and spending 2 weeks on the Mavs project forced me to choose some less typical images, and tell a less obvious story. Drift’s presentation for an online editorial publication is very original. They create both multi page features and short daily blog entries. As a feature, they ran all 28 of my selections FULL SCREEN which is a refreshing way for Mavs fans to view the waves online. So it was rewarding to read the promoter of the Mavericks contest say my piece for Drift Surfing was “one of the coolest contest-day perspectives we’ve seen, great stuff.”

That was the intention.

Special thanks to Glen Sakamoto and Joe Conway for the support. You can see the entire post of Mavericks on Drift Surfing. More effort went into it than simply pressing a button on a black box. Hope you enjoy it.

• • • • •

UPDATE: Select images from “Incoming: The Biggest Mavs Yet” for Drift Surfing won an honorable mention at the 2010 International Photography Awards in the editorial category.

author avatar
Jay Watson
San Francisco Bay Area based lifestyle and people photographer Jay Watson shoots editorial, apparel, automotive, corporate, and sports subjects for commercial clients. Published in over 70 magazines.

One Response to Incoming: Mavericks on Drift Surfing

Leave a reply