Mavericks big wave safety


Riding for a Cause

Shawn Alladio: PWC Offshore Race Team. 300 mile endurance race, Ironman award

I was invited to Mavericks for an upcoming swell by Jeff Clark. I packed up my boxvan and four RWC’s and headed north.

Jeff Clark had opened the door for the next level of professional big wave surfing. He along with Gary Linden are the two most influential persons in big wave surfing / competitions. Their energies were a flood gate of talent. People from all over the world were planning on surfing this swell. It was right after the 1998 Reef@Todos event at Killers.

L-R: Jonathan Cahill, Kevin Vanderpol, Shawn Alladio and Jeff Clark at Pillar Point

I pulled up at the Mavericks café and was greeted with a lot of love by Jeff and Katherine, many of us had this amazing experience gifted by them. I sat down at a crowded table of strangers and ordered my food.

A man was sitting next to me and I turned to him and I said ‘Hi my name is Shawn who are you?’ He said ‘I am Ken Bradshaw’. I responded back to him, ‘Who is that’? People at the table laughed.

We struck up a conversation while I waited for my food that Katherine prepared for everyone who stepped into her café. When you went there, you knew what to expect and it was usually full of the worlds greatest surfing talent.

This was the second trip taken by Ken Bradshaw to Mavericks. It is now 1998. The last trip, tragically he flew home with his friend Mark Foo’s body back to Hawai’i. Mark had drowned at Mavericks in 1994. They both had flown out together for an epic swell to surf Mavericks for the first time. I was teaching a Rescue Water Craft course to the Newport Beach Lifeguards when the news announced the death of Mark Foo. It was a shock.

They did not get on the plane knowing that only one would return. That is a heavy thought to realize that we may be experiencing our best last moments of life. There is no plan for that. Four years have passed.

Ken was talking with me at Katherine Clark’s café about his last trip at Mavericks, the day his friend Mark died.

This was a sad conversation and it was a private journey as well. He said is was 'hard coming back to Mavericks'. I understand that, as most of us would.

I thought the best action would be to get back into the water and experience a fun day! These kind of moments in our lives are the open doors of healing and a measure of how we face our personal grief. Sometimes there is symbolism in our actions we must face to make peace with the past.

K38 Training at Pillar Point Harbor

I had four WaveRunners, I asked Ken ‘lets go have a fun day, let’s go have some fun’! I said we could ride off to San Francisco and back and race the whole way We could go around the rocks. We could turn off the work, forget about surfing and just have a really fun day. It was cold, and the coffee Katherine made as warm. He agreed enthusiastically and we were planned to head out the next day, I had everything we needed.

The morning arrived, I prepared all our eguipment and we launched at the Pillar Point Harbor boat ramp. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining the winds were down, there was nobody out. The big swell was a few days away.

Also launching was Frank Quirarte who captured the essence of that day in one photo, of me jumping over a wave at Mavericks. This is my soul flying. It was like a metaphor of life and death.

Shawn's 1st Pro Women's race

Well, I didn’t jump the wave as high as I could. This is the same thing that Jonathan Cahill and I did when we faced 7 waves and headed into the face on them on November 21, 2001 on the 100' foot Wednesday. This is what it looked like, but the drop was 50' instead.

K38 at Mavericks

Knowing how to handle the craft in all conditions is an asset. Also being a freestyle professional in jet ski racing and so on I throttled down. I didn't want to damage the boat, so I landed her soft.

My boats perform a lot of different activities. We use them as race boats in sanctioned events, often combat military veterans would race these same boats we use for rescue. We use them for towsurfing, for course marshalling, for fishing, for rescue and loaned them to many a big wave surfer. I never modified my boats, always kept them stock.

Shawn Alladio IJSBA World Finals Ramp Jump Competition Event

My background is in Jet Ski racing. This is where K38 began in 1979 on stand ups. RWC rescue came from the IJSBA course marshal program, the first organized training. We all had the Jet Ski Fever. (We still do!).

All the technical advantages and mindset determination are the genesis of the Rescue Water Craft courses our students enjoy today. We pushed the throttle, we drove distances, saved lives and live the work, either recreationally or professionally. Yes there is a difference between the two.

Shawn Freeride on a Yamaha Super Jet in the surf

We were ready, a safety briefing, PPE check and we were off! I was happy. Ken and I raced up the coast towards Pacifica at full throttle. We raced back down to Mavericks at full throttle. I showed him how to work around the rocks. We rode until the tanks were empty.

The end of the day. Loaded up the boats, cleaned the gear and headed back to the Mavericks Café to enjoy another meal from Katherine. Ken told me that this experience helped him. It was a transitional moment. It was purposeful.

We smiled.

That is what we do with our Never Quit Challenges. We created endurance hardships to serve our soul.

When your friend dies, or loved one or perhaps a stranger; there are a lot memories and thoughts that rewind our lives back to those indelible moments. We dissect everything we could have done better or differently.

I know that when I went to find my sister’s grave in Los Gatos, I faced this redemption. It was the first time I had seen her grave. I was with her when she was dying when a child many years earlier and I lived with the hole in my heart, I was never able to say goodbye. My mother never wanted her surviving children to be sad so we were not allowed at her grave. I did not go there until 45 years later. My friend Denise Smith went with me. She was my witness of the magnitude of the sadness. It took courage for her to be there and stand in my grief with me. It was not a fun day. Thank you Deniece.

If any of my on-water moments at Mavericks were important, it would have been that day spent with Ken. Ken was able to say goodbye to Mark. The empathy and understanding we have for one another is what shine true. It becomes our compass and reminds us who we should be at all times. Passing through those very private and vulnerable sad moments of our lives are open doors of making peace with the mystery of death.

Mark Foo Memorial at Mavericks

I decided to make a memorial to honor Mark's soul. I brought up 4 Pohakus (volcanic rock from Hawai'i). I carved Mark Foo's name on one rock, and set it at Mavericks beach. It stands as a pillar to his memory and that day of redemption. Chris Bertish was with me for the dedication. We called up Tom Pohaku Stone on the phone in Oah'u and he did a dedication ceremony to bless the spot and purify the pohakus.

I was glad to be a part of the soul of Mavericks. Thank you to Jeff Clark for bringing all of us together through a wave called Mavericks.

It is good.


Ken at Mavericks wearing my Yamaha Floatcoat. Yeah it was cold!

"KEN BRADSHAW: "I've probably put in 10 sessions or so at Maverick's. I've got boards and wetsuits and a place to stay there; I'm always ready. The reason I haven't been back (since '94) is mostly logistics, but sure, after being there the day Mark died, my motivation was stifled. It just didn't seem as important to go there any more. But it's a great wave, definitely worth pursuing. My whole goal at Maverick's is to do tow-ins there on giant days when the wind's a little wrong and there are no surfers in the water. That's what I really want to do."


Posted: December 12, 2020

Content Creator of Rescue Water Craft and Personal Water Craft boating international education standards: Shawn is the world’s foremost authority and leading subject matter expert. She cares most about her community and the culture surrounding the safety of event service providers and Rescue Water Craft operators, working hard and dedicated towards protecting their reputation, distributing safety information and continuing to train these amazing individuals to the highest standards of care.


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