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Greg Long, of San Clemente, is chased by a wall of water during his victorious finals heat of the 2008 Mavericks Surf Contest in Half Moon Bay, Calif.
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O.C. surfers to battle at big-wave contest


Orange County surfers are among a prestigious and select list of invitees who will be competing at this year's Mavericks Invitational, a big-wave event that is expected to run on Sunday.

The three local surfers among the list of 24 surfers to compete include San Clemente brothers Greg and Rusty Long, along with Nathan Fletcher. Peter Mel, who grew up in Santa Cruz but now lives in Newport Beach, is also on the list to compete.

The event draws the best big-wave chargers in the world at the death-defying wave in Half Moon Bay, a surf break that was made famous recently in the Hollywood film "Chasing Mavericks."

"The waves are going to be insane, the weather is going to be beautiful, and the level of surfing will break new ground," contest director Jeff Clark said in a statement.

Rusty Long is up in the first heat against Mel, as well as 11-time world champ Kelly Slater in the six-man heat.

The contest has a waiting period each year, and if the waves don't show up the contest doesn't go. This is the first time it has been held in three years. The contest is a one-day, invite-only contest held at Mavericks, which is about half a mile offshore from Pillar Point Harbor, and 20 minutes south of San Francisco.

The local surfers in the contest are no strangers to big waves, or Mavericks surf break. Greg Long and Mel were both selected as stunt surfers and actors who appeared in the film Chasing Mavericks, which was released in theatres last year.

Greg Long won the Mavericks event in 2008, and his brother Rusty nabbed a Billabong XXL Monster Tube award in 2010 for a massive wave he took at this spot.

The big-wave spot, which can surpass 50-feet on big days, is also not without its risk. Greg Long busted an ear drum here a few years ago, and there have been several deaths of well-known surfers here, including the drowning of Hawaiian Sion Milosky in 2011.

In 2010, dozens of spectators were injured after walls of water suddenly came crashing onto the beach, some suffering broken bones and sending three people to the hospital.

For public safety, all roads to Pillar Point are closed off this year, including access to the beach and bluffs.

The reigning champ of the contest, last held in 2010, is South African Chris Bertish.

In addition to the surf contest, organizers are also holding "The Mavericks Invitational Festival," an outdoor event at the Oceano Hotel & Spa at Princeton Harbor, starting at 8 a.m. to run in conjunction with the contest. There will be a live stream of the event, along with music, food, a beer garden, skate park and more. The awards ceremony will take place at the festival grounds at sunset.

Tickets range from $10 for admission, to $20 at the door and are available online at MavericksInvitational.com. You can watch the action live at the same site.

Contact the writer: lconnelly@ocregister.com

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