The story behind Mavericks - the place

Mavericks is the name of the next OS X version. But Mavericks the place - one of the world's top big wave surf sites - is also a story of obsession, danger and death, not unlike the story of Steve Jobs.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

Mavericks is a surf site some 25 miles away from San Francisco. It is also one of the world's premier big wave locations. But because of the incredible riptides and rocks no one ever surfed it. Until one man did.

Teenager Jeff Clark grew up in Half Moon Bay and used to watch the surf breaking from his high school up on the hill. Finally we decided to go out and surf it.

His childhood friend Brian said he would call the Coast Guard and tell them where he was last seen.

So Jeff surfed it by himself. And the waves were world-class.

Thanks to an underwater rock formation, Mavericks - named for a surfer's dog - has some of the biggest waves in the world: 25 footers are common and can reach 80 feet during strong winter storms.

But for the next 15 years he was the only person to surf Mavericks. He tried to tell people about the huge waves - as big as Hawaii's Waimea Bay - and they thought he was nuts. Everybody "knew" there were no big waves in California.

Finally in 1990 he got a couple of Santa Cruz surfers - Dave Schmidt and Tom Powers - to try Maverick's big waves. They did, they survived, told their friends, and soon hundreds of people started surfing Mavericks.

Jeff Clark's lonely obsession was vindicated.

Danger and death
Thanks to cold water, big waves, rocks and currents, Mavericks is a dangerous place. Mark Foo, a top Waimea surfer, died there in 1994. Sion Milosky, another experienced big wave surfer, died in 2011.

Mavericks is, in the words of one surfer, "way gnarlier" than Waimea.

Why Mavericks?
I haven't seen a good explanation of why Apple chose the name Mavericks - cats hate getting wet - but some elements suggest themselves.

  • Big waves. Steve rode several big waves - PCs, GUIs, digital media and mobile devices - to incredible success.
  • Big bets. Steve made several bet-the-company decisions - the original Mac, the iMac, OS X - and many other major bets that went against popular opinion - the 68000, retail stores, Unix, music players, among others - like big wave surfers make every day. 
  • Obsession. Imagine surfing some of the world's biggest and most dangerous waves for 15 years with no one watching. You just do what you do and wait for the world to catch up - if it ever does.

The Storage Bits take
What's in a name? The thing named isn't affected, but our cultural assumptions and expectations are.

Surfing is cool, like cats are cool. Definitely cooler than a new OS version.

But most of us will never surf, let alone surf big deadly waves. Hey, its marketing - and I'm cool with that.

Comments welcome, of course. This detour into a corner of storage we call history was informed by a great movie, Riding Giants, a gripping documentary of big wave surfing. Meet Jeff Clark and see what Mavericks is all about in the context of this extreme sport. Wikipedia also contributed.

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