In an El Nino year that has brought much of the big wave swells to the coasts of Hawaii, the surf gods shined bright on California on Friday for the Titans of Mavericks competition in what many are calling the best day ever at the notorious Northern California surf break.

Held since 1999 at Half Moon Bay about a half hour south of San Francisco, the Titans of Mavericks represents an all-star competition of the world’s 24 best big wave surfers. On Friday, Feb 12, competitors were sent screaming down steep faces, some as high as 50 feet tall, with piling mounds of water.

With jet skis nearby and inflatable life vests the competitors were relatively safe, though more than a few have their lost here. 

Nic Lamb from nearby Santa Cruz took first place, describing the waves to reporters as “Mount Everest meets Niagara Falls.” While there were no serious injuries, one competitor, Ken Collins, said he blew his ear drum out. 

“about two-thirds the way down, I thought I had it. And then I felt the whole ocean land on me, and it hit me in the head really hard,” Collins told the local Channel 8 News. “When I was underwater, I was spinning around. I could feel water going inside my head. I blew my eardrum wide open. My equilibrium was going all directions. I didn’t know which way was up. If I didn’t have this vest and pulled that cord, I would have had a hard time getting to the top.”

The event is held each year among 24 elite big wave surfers, who are announced invitation-only each year. They then wait for the event to be called at some point during the winter. Organizers make the call depending on forecasts and expected swell, providing 72 hours notice before the competition.

Ironically last week, the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big wave competition, which has stricter wave height requirements, was called on and then off again on Wednesday when a swell seemed to skirt the island. That same weather system is likely what just landed smack down onto Central California on Friday for the Titans of Mavericks. 

Either way, we’re enjoying the monstrous waves this season and the fearless action from some amazing athletes.

For more photos and video from the event click here.

Watch the event in its entirety here.

Photo credit: Tony Candas @Redbull