Surfing the Biggest Waves at the 2014 Mavericks Invitational

For more photos and videos from the Mavericks Invitational, explore the Mavericks Beach location page and follow Mavericks competitors @carlosburle, @donkeyshow and @jamie_sterls on Instagram for the athletes’ perspective.

On Friday, the world’s top surfers descend on Half Moon Bay, California, to compete in the Mavericks Invitational big-wave surf contest. Wave faces promise to be up to 12 meters (40 feet) tall and exceptionally powerful. “You can immediately feel the raw power of Mother Nature leaving the harbor and entering the open ocean,” says Instagrammer Matt Bauer (@mattcbauer), who is sharing photos and videos from a boat in the heart of the competition. “This legendary wave requires the right elements to align to show its fierce face. Luckily today is one of those days!”

For decades, the location has been known to host some of the biggest swells of all time—attracting surfers and spectators from across the globe. In 1999, the first surfing competition was held at Mavericks, and the competition has become one of the world’s most legendary surfing events. The exact timing of Mavericks is unpredictable, as the waves require perfect weather conditions to break at such size. Once the right conditions are detected and invitations sent out, competing surfers have just a few days to get to the event.