County’s closed-door Mavericks “debrief” yields no news

By on Wed, February 24, 2010

The county’s closed-door meeting on the near-tragedy at Mavericks on Monday concluded with a press release from the county Sheriff that sounded like it could have been issued by the event’s organizers. The meeting was reported by Julia Scott from the County Times:

[county Sheriff’s Office spokesman] Lunny issued a news release at 5 p.m. that made only passing mention of what happened on the morning of Feb. 13, when at least 15 surf spectators on Mavericks Beach were injured by a series of heavy waves that ripped across the beach. Three of the spectators were taken to the hospital with fractures, according to public safety officials.

"The general consensus was that the event was well coordinated and with one big exception, went well. The obvious exception was the so-called ‘rogue wave’ which unexpectedly washed ashore and created a brief havoc when several onlookers as well as Maverick’s crew were swept up and pushed backward," stated the release, which did not elaborate on how the public safety response could have been better coordinated.

Not one, but several ‘rogue waves’ overwhelmed the surging crowd that morning, causing a stampede that trampled a number of victims and left many people covered in sand, cuts and bruises. Several booths and tents were swept away. The waves shorted out the PA system on the announcer’s booth, preventing contest organizers from warning people that the tide was rising and the waves were coming in.

Many spectators had ventured well beyond a protective sea wall to try to get a view of the big-wave surfers. They ignored a large warning sign erected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which reads, "Danger: extremely hazardous waves. Hazardous wave conditions exist even on calm days. Waves can wash over structure and sweep people into ocean."

The county plans to hold a public meeting about the mess in the future.