All eyes toward Mavericks

Everything is in place for the Mavericks surf contest except one thing: the surf.

Organizers released heats matching up groups of competitors for the contest this weekend, after an opening ceremony Friday drew surfers and spectators to Pillar Point. For the next few days or weeks, Half Moon Bay is the center of the surfing universe.

Until March 31, surfers in the elite field will be given 24 hours notice when surf conditions mean the contest can begin. No contest was held last year due to inadequate surf.

One big change this year is that spectators have been banned from the beach or bluffs overlooking the break. Only surfers and support crew are allowed. Organizers hope to avoid repeating an incident where a monster wave slammed into and injured spectators during the 2010 contest.

Local spectators will be able to watch from nearby hotels, and Surfer Today wrote that the contest will be viewable online. The 2010 contest was broadcast on UStream.

Mavericks is known for its massive seasonal waves and its consequently morbid history. Several professional surfers have died at the break over the years, including Hawaii’s Sion Milosky last March. Surfers formed a prayer circle in the water at Friday’s ceremony to remember fallen friends.

The dangerous waters nearly claimed actor Gerard Butler last month, who was held underwater for two waves while filming “Of Men and Mavericks,” a movie about surfer Jay Moriarity.