Mavericks surf contest draws thousands to experience thrills Thousands descended upon the San Mateo County coast on Friday to be part of the Mavericks Invitational, which in its ninth running delivered dazzling rides on 40-foot-plus waves along with a number of terrifying wipeouts. Some crashes forced riders to inflate special vests that brought them to the surface of the chilly and churning water before they ran out of air. [...] the sight of the ocean, the taste of the salty air and the fellowship of oohing-and-aahing onlookers provided plenty to satisfy. The beach was shut down for contest viewing after 2010, when huge waves crashed over rocks and a jetty and injured 13 onlookers. The Oceano Hotel, though, had a concert-like atmosphere, with fans cheering among food trucks, beer tents and live music acts. How they're judged Impressing the judges at the Mavericks surf contest comes down to one basic element: launching the deepest, most critical takeoff and making it to the bottom of the wave - the bigger, the better.