Friday, January 11, 2008

Happy New Year – Surf’s Up!

The generally cold, leaden, dull wet weather means January is few people’s favorite month for a road trip, but there are some great things going on. One pair of annual events takes place in the middle of California, just south of San Francisco around the coastline of appropriately named Ano Nuevo (which means “New Year” en espanol…)

The more newsworthy event is the Big Wave surf show at Maverick’s, a reef just outside the town of Half Moon Bay, where winter storms off Alaska can generate waves that reach over 30 feet (topping out close to 60!). The prospect of big waves is expected to draw a select crew of surfers from all over the world, who (starting tomorrow, January 12th) will compete for superstar status and cash prizes (~$30K to the winner). But since the site of the big waves is well offshore, and surrounded by sensitive coastal habitat, the eco-conscious organizers of the Maverick’s surf contest strongly suggest that spectators stay home and watch online, on the usual webchannels (Myspace et al) or via the official Maverick's webcam.

Whether or not you care about suicidal-seeming surfers careering down walls of unruly sea water, at this time of year the Maverick’s neighborhood hosts another unique spectacle: the mating rituals of the Northern Elephant Seal. These massive, chubby beasts huddle together every winter about 20 miles south of Half Moon Bay at Ano Nuevo State Reserve. It's an unforgettable show: males battling for domination (sound familiar?), while the females give birth to baby seals then prepare for another nearly year-long pregnancy.

The whole scene takes place in a very pretty locale – well worth a visit any time of year, in the flesh or (just a click away) via your computer screen.


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