The Selling of a Wave

Three sports clothing companies are sponsoring contests that encourage surfers to ride the 60-foot waves at Maverick's Point. Someone may be encouraged to death.

That same day, Flea Virostko took a nasty wipeout, and surfaced to discover his leash stuck on a submerged rock. He struggled in the whitewater for two minutes, as wave after wave pounded his head, and repeatedly drove him under. This wipeout, captured in the Schad-Washburn film, is chilling. Virostko's bobbing head is barely visible in the wash, gulping for breath as each wave roars to a finish and slaps his face with white foam. At last, he is able to free himself.

"You just gotta stay really mellow and say, 'I can do this,' " explains Virostko. "I should have took my leash off and met my board on the other side of the rocks. I was like, 'Fuck, this is definitely how Mark Foo died.' "

In 30 years, Northern California surfing has evolved from a purist, almost religious meditation into a horrifying, heart-pounding experience that should make surfers seriously re-evaluate what they're doing. But instead, this winter dozens of them will show up on short notice in Half Moon Bay and challenge The Wave for fame and fortune. With any luck, none of them will be seriously hurt.

Editor's note: Maverick's, a film by Grant Washburn and Lili Schad, screens Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. as part of the Film Arts Festival at the Roxie Cinema. For information call 552-8760.

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