Waves slammed into the beach at the Mavericks Surf Contest this morning, injuring at least 15 people and prompting organizers and local officials to block any more spectators from entering the area.
Coastside Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Ari Delay said two or three people were taken to hospitals with injuries, the worst of which was a fracture. About 70 paramedics, law enforcement officers and fire officials remain at Mavericks Beach to manage the estimated crowd of 20,000 people.
Organizers decided to close the Half Moon Bay Airport parking lot to new arrivals at about 10 a.m., when the tide was at its highest, said Mavericks Surf Contest spokeswoman Katherine Clark. No more Share your photos, video * Upload your photos, video * Email photos to firstname.lastname@example.org * View breaking news photos, video
people are being allowed into the viewing area at Mavericks Beach, and those who leave will not be permitted to return. The most exposed area of the beach has been closed to the public with police barricades.
The structure on which the awards ceremony was going to be held was broken up by waves, so workers dismantled it. The winners will now be announced around 4 p.m. at the Oceana Hotel and Spa in Princeton.
A series of powerful waves surprised a large number of spectators on the beach early this morning around 9 and knocked over tents set up by contest organizers for the surfers and medical personnel.
Paramedics took a man in his 60s away with an ankle injury. He was bloodied, having been trampled by the crowd after he was knocked over by a surge of water.
The waves also took down Mavericks volunteer Renee Sorenson, of Redwood City.
"I got knocked over by one of those dumb waves," she said. "It also took my camera away. I tried to brace myself but it tripped me and another wave washed over me."
Sorenson's daughter, Amanda, said the sight of the wave surging up the beach was "the scariest thing I've ever seen."
"We're here ever year and we get rogue waves but nothing like this," said Renee Sorenson. She was treated by paramedics and sent to a hospital with a likely broken wrist.
Every wave that crashed onto the beach claimed a couple more victims. Two small children were seen crying in their father's arms, covered in sand and salt water.
People climbed the bluffs above the beach to escape the waves, even though the area is supposed to be off-limits. There was a rush away from the beach with each big wave, but when the tide receded spectators returned to the water's edge.
While those on the beach scrambled for safety, many others continued to watch the contest on a large viewing screen, safely removed from the surging waves.