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A Monster in Half Moon Bay

Ken Collins. Photo: Seth de Rouet
Jeff Clark, 1996. Photo: David Perry
Maverick's. Photo: Doug Acton
Richard Schmidt, 1992. Photo: Doug Acton
Maverick's. Photo: Lawrence Beck

As exciting as the 1980s rediscovery of big-wave surfing was, the whole thing had a slightly retrograde quality. It wasn’t as obvious as longboarding, which wore the sport’s past glory like splashed-on cologne. But plenty of big-wave surfing’s reference points had been established decades earlier: Waimea remained the ultimate break; the point-and-go style ruled; master shaper Dick Brewer, who’d crafted the world’s most expensive boards during the Kennedy era, continued to make the finest big-...

Jeff Clark was moody and fearless—the kind of guy Northern California surfers had in mind when they half-complimented someone as “psycho.” For 15 years, beginning in 1975, Clark invited local surfers to paddle out to Maverick's with him, describing the wave as “better than Waimea.” Everybody declined.