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(Wednesday) 6.25.14

Jay Moriarity’s Iron Cross Wipeout Puts Mavericks on the Map

Editor’s Note: Disruptors is a series powered by Oakley that identifies the thirty most groundbreaking moments in surf history. Check out more historic moments here.

The shot heard around the world. Jay Moriarity’s wave at Maverick's landed him on the cover of SURFER Magazine

The shot heard around the world. Jay Moriarity’s wave at Maverick’s landed him on the cover of SURFER Magazine. Photo: GrindTV

Date: December 19, 1994

Place: Maverick’s, Half Moon Bay, California

The Moment: 16-year-old Jay Moriarity charges a massive swell, getting thrown over the lip and dropped 35 feet through nothing but air for a wipeout that would make the cover of Surfer magazine, putting the teenage Santa Cruz big wave surfer and Maverick’s prominently and permanently on the map.

“That’s one of the most important things in life, is just… really appreciating it because, you know, we only get to do this once and it’s not for a long time — so enjoy it.” – Jay Moriarity

Jay Moriarity was all stoke and smiles. From amped teenager shredding off the shores of Santa Cruz to beloved waterman circling the globe, his sheer love for the ocean was outsized, even bigger than the massive swells he chased. And no place put a bigger smile on his face than what one might consider his home break: Maverick’s.

Teahupo’o, Jaws and the heaviest waves the world over send the most experienced surfers off the lip and plunging into the depths, but there are not many (if any) wipeouts as massive and ultimately disruptive to the world of surfing as Jay Moriarty’s “Iron Cross” wipeout at Maverick’s.

Jay was known to be a good surfer — even a great surfer — in his early teens. His father initially introduced him to surfing at the age of nine, and he quickly began winning a number of junior competitions. But it was through a mentorship with local legend Rick “Frosty” Hesson that he took his skill and passion to the next level – a level that had him deemed ready (well, as ready as anyone ever is) to join the small group of Californians who had become regulars at Maverick’s. And as initiations go, this was one he and nearly everybody else in the surf community would never forget.

Barely into the takeoff zone, he saw what he wanted and swung himself around, paddling for his first wave. Jay caught it a little too late, and soon found himself teetering on the lip, staring down at absolutely nothing below him. Falling 35 feet to the surface, he was instantaneously engulfed. Arriving at the sea floor, he quickly oriented himself and shoved up from the bottom. He would come up right as a second wave was crashing down, but avoiding a hold-down, he finally made his way towards less-dangerous whitewater. And thus Jay Moriarity was initiated at Maverick’s.

Photographer Bob Barbour happened to be captured the moment he went over, and what is arguably the most spectacular wipeout ever caught on film would go on to appear in The New York Times and on the cover of SURFER Magazine. Another image showed Jay with outstretched arms, lending the wipeout an iconic name: the “Iron Cross.” And while it wasn’t an acknowledgment for the biggest barrel or wave or best ride, it put him and Maverick’s prominently and permanently on the map. It was an affirmation for many of the old timers at Maverick’s that wipeouts like that were survivable, and to have one that bad survived by a 16-year-old upstart like Jay pushed them to limits that had previously been untouched. In the same spirit that he rebounded at the wave that threw him over and rejoined the lineup, Jay took the opportunities afforded to him by his newfound ambassador status to spread good will wherever his travels took him.

Unfortunately, the same issue of SURFER would also carry the obituary for Hawaiian big wave surfer Mark Foo, who had flown from the islands and would drown only four days after Jay’s wipeout. In 2001, Moriarity had a diving accident in the Maldives, also dying young and in his prime. But both his and Foo’s aspirations and commitments to conquering the heaviest waves have influenced a generation of big wave pioneers who have, in turn, given the sport of big wave surfing the burgeoning presence it maintains today.


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