Moriarity, Jay


Cheerful big-wave rider and longboarder from Santa Cruz, California; introduced to the surf world in 1994 as the 16-year-old innocent who endured the most spectacular wipeout of the year; widely mourned following his untimely drowning in 2001, the day before his 23rd birthday. Moriarity was born (1978) in Augusta, Georgia, and began surfing at age nine, one year after moving with his family to Santa Cruz. A few years later, his interest in surfing Maverick's, the newly famous big-wave break just up the coast from Santa Cruz, led to an informal but rigerous training-mentoring program under Santa Cruz local Richard "Frosty" Hesson.

On a December morning in 1994, Moriarity found himself airborne just after standing up on a windy 20-footer at Maverick's. He floated for a moment, was absored by the pitching lip, and was then pulled over the falls into a cataclysmic explosion of whitewater. Dazed for a few moments afterward, he regrouped, paddled back out, and rode eight consecutive waves without falling. But it was the wipeout that caught everyone's attention, as it made the cover of Surfer magazine, and was featured in the New York Times, as well as on NBC's Nightly News.

Moriarity generally used a longboard when he wasn't riding Maverick's, and earned a reputation as one of the sport's most friendly and least-affected pros. He competed in the Quiksilver Men Who Ride Mountains contests at Maverick's in 1999 and 2000. He also appeared in more than a dozen surf videos, including Mental Surfing (1993), Gravity Sucks (1994), Super Slide (1999), and Whipped! (2002). He coauthored The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in 2001.

Moriarity, a newlywed, lost consciousness and died while doing underwater breath-holding exercises by himself in the Maldive Islands. His ashes were scattered at Pleasure Point, his home break in Santa Cruz, and at Maverick's.

Chasing Maverick's, a 2012 Hollywood biopic on Moriarty, co-directed by Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted, and featuring many real-world big-wave surf stars, received mostly poor reviews, and was a box-office bomb. Surfing Mavericks: The Unofficial Biography of Jay Moriarity, short biography, was also published in 2012.