Surfing will probably always be a fringe “extreme sport” to a majority of the public. Not that many surfers would complain, considering the pay off is most easily associated with keeping crowds down and, by extension, leaving more waves to those already in the know. This also means whenever surfing pops into the mainstream consciousness you can count on it all being over something fascinating, otherworldly, awe inspiring, and, well…extreme.
That’s the tone of HBO’s recent feature on Northern California’s most notorious big wave, where we’re told 60 foot waves pop out of the ocean with zero warning. But aside from a few mildly awkward clichés the award winning documentary style show touches on the human side of surfing Mavs, and by extension, big wave surfing altogether.
“It’s my career. It’s given me a roof over my head. It’s given me a car to drive and food to eat. So right now, is the risk and the reward – is it worth it? I would say yes.” That’s Jamie Mitchell’s answer to the inevitable “why do you do it?”
Referencing the deaths of Mark Foo and Sion Milosky, the feature settles into a theme of asking this same question, and of course looking outside the surfers themselves to see what impact the wave has on family and friends. Jeff Clark talks about a brief conversation in the water with Mark Foo, just before his death. Ken Collins shares a similar story about the day Milosky drowned here, and how his decision to keep coming back is a regular family discussion.
“I was stoked to be sharing waves with him (Sion),” Skindog says. “And then I never saw him alive again. I felt like Maverick’s betrayed me.”
So for a short time, Skinny was done with Mavs. Until he wasn’t.
She doesn’t feel like I need to do this,” Skindog says, referring to his wife. “She doesn’t feel like this is necessary. I’m like, you know, this is who I am. This is what I’ve been doing my whole life. This is something that I feel like I’m supposed to be doing.”