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Shooting Titans of Mavericks


shooting titans of mavericks

That time Toro Chan took the boat to shoot Titans of Mavericks 2016. This is a high adrenaline, big wave surfing event at the legendary Mavericks surf break located near Half Moon Bay, south of San Fransisco. 24 Titans attempt to challenge & compete at the highest level of skill, risk and athleticism in massive swells on the biggest and best day of winter. Read more about the Titans of Mavericks event: HERE


Titans of Mavericks Swell Photo by Troy Williams Surf Photography

Titans of Mavericks Swell Photo by Troy Williams


Was this the first time you photographed the Titans of Mavericks?

Yes, it was my first time shooting this contest.  Since we just returned to the US after spending the last eight years in Okinawa, The Big Wave and WSL contests (in addition to all the other, smaller events) really captured my interest.  But being a non-WSL event AND that it is Maverick’s after all, it really stoked my interest to try and get up close to the action.  Had to do a bit of internet searching and asking local photographers for pointers on getting a good seat to see the action.  In the end, I settled on a charter boat out of Half Moon Bay.

How was the Mavericks swell on this day?

I would have to say the swell was ‘so-so’ for the event.  The reason I say that is because the week prior had exceptionally good conditions but because of the Super Bowl blackout,  the Titans of Mavericks contest organizers weren’t able to get support from local agencies that were already committed for the SB.  That being said, as the day went on, the swell improved and we still got to see some impressive action from the competitors.


You were in a boat, shooting the surfers at Mavericks. Talk us through that.

At first, I thought it would be relatively easy but with the swell, it was a bit difficult when shooting as I’d be ready to press the shutter and we’d be hit by some swell which would cause quite a bit of bouncing around.  Needless to say, my camera strap was a good friend that day.  Thank goodness for modern cameras and good auto focus as it was very challenging to lock on to a rider and try and shoot from a bouncy boat.  I thought I managed to capture a fair amount of usable images but an event like the Titans of Maverick’s always leaves you wishing you had more time or a better vantage point.

Titans of Mavericks Troy Williams

Titans of Mavericks Swell Photo by Troy Williams


How did it feel to be in the channel at Mavericks knowing that every set coming through could have devastating consequences?

I’d been on boats during some pretty precarious situations so I wasn’t too concerned about being able to ride out the contest but it was a totally different experience when 20ft waves are crashing down in close proximity to the boat (and I was on one of the smaller charter boats with only a handful of others).  That being said, I think the event organizers kept everyone at a safe enough distance to enjoy the action without being overly concerned with a mishap.  And even if there had been one, there were plenty of support personnel on hand for an almost immediate response.

Titans of Mavericks Troy Williams Surf Photography

Titans of Mavericks Swell Photo by Troy Williams


Three memorable Mavericks “frames” from that day.

I think for me, the first memorable Maverick frame was “feeling” the wave for the first time.  Obviously, the ride out was a bit bouncy with the rollers coming in but you could hear the thunder of the waves crashing before the boat would hit a high enough point to where you could see the wave.  And when a good set came in, it was really awe inspiring to see mother nature at work. The second memorable frame was watching Jamie Sterling (I think it was 😉 ) drop in…just that incredible drop on an easily triple overhead wave was a sight to see.  The drop itself was bigger than most waves I’d seen up to that point.  And watching him ride at the front edge of that fury was something I think we all thoroughly enjoyed. The third memorable frame from Mavericks was watching one of the support personnel in the foreground of a huge one that went unridden.  It made me think of the dangers faced by those charged with effecting a rescue of one of the competitors when waves of that size were crashing down all around them.

Titans of Mavericks Troy Williams

Rescue Team always on call. Photo by Troy Williams


Would you like to do it all over again?

Of course.  I hope that there will be enough swell this year for it to run again but if not, I’m kind of fixated on big wave surfing to the point that I just might hit Jaws.  Shooting “normal” waves is fun and watching surfers put on a good show makes it worthwhile.  But, even without a surfer on it, a giant wave is a sight to behold.


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