Clark, Jeff

Flinty big-wave rider from Half Moon Bay, California; the first person to ride Maverick's, the beautiful but monstrous reefbreak known today as the big-wave capital of the continental United States.

Clark was born (1957) in Redwood City, California, the son of a carpenter, moved with his family to Half Moon Bay in 1966, and began surfing the following year, at age 11. Maverick's was located about two miles north of his house, and as a high school sophomore he began watching the break from the nearby headland; on a warm February afternoon in 1975, the 17-year-old Clark paddled out alone and rode five left-breaking waves, each about 10 or 12 feet. In the weeks to come he tried to get some local surfers to join him for a return visit, but nobody was interested.

For 15 years Clark rode Maverick's by himself. None of the surf shops in the area knew how to make a board for 15- to 25-foot waves, so Clark, a trained carpenter and a board shaper since he was 16, taught himself how to make a serviceable 10-foot big-wave gun. A born goofyfoot, he also learned how to ride in a regularfoot stance, making it easier to take on the long and more intricate Maverick's rights. Working in a near-complete vacuum, Clark developed into a solid big- wave rider: his stance was clenched and straight-backed, but his line was smooth and knowledgeable.

In early 1990, Clark finally brought Maverick's to the attention of surfers outside of Half Moon Bay, in part because he wanted company, but also to help promote his new Maverick's-named line of surfboards. Surfer introduced the break to its readership in early 1992, describing the dark-haired, strong-jawed Clark as a "hellman," and the "unofficial guardian of a true secret spot." As Maverick's popularity skyrocketed over the next two years, Clark remained the break's unofficial spokesman, and as such was featured in Rolling Stone, Spin, the New York Times, Outside, and MTV Sports. With his soft, drawling voice, Clark described Maverick's as "the most radical wave on the planet" to the Los Angeles Times, and remembered back to when he'd been "the Lone Ranger out there."

By the mid 2000s, Maverick's had been featured in more than 50 surf videos and documentaries, and Clark appeared in nearly all of them, including Gravity Sucks (1994), Maverick's (1997), Monstrosity (1999), and Year of the Drag-In (2000). Clark was also featured in Adventures in Wild California (2000), an IMAX movie, and starred in Stacy Peralta's big-wave documentary Riding Giants (2003).

Clark was hired as the event director for the debut Quiksilver Maverick's Men Who Ride Mountains contest in 1999, and served again in 2000. His relationship with the contest since then (the name of the event has changed a number of times over the years) has been all over the place; sponsors came and went, lawsuits were filed, and at one point Clark battled for control over the event with his ex-wife. As of 2013, Clark was one of a five-member board in charge of what was now called the Maverick's Invitational, which in turn was part of the Big Wave World Tour.

Clark also owns the Maverick's Surf Shop, located a mile or so east of the break itself.