Christy Davis Mavericks Page

June 15, 2001: The Surfing World Mournes the Loss of Jay Moriarity

Why is it that God always takes the finest? Jay was not only one of the best big wave surfers at Mavericks, he was one of the nicest guys around. His surfing was a class act, poised, confident, artistic in his approach. His judgement had become fine tuned, his timing near perfect. Out of the water he was uplifting to be around. Always positive, I never heard him say anything negative about anyone. He was an important player in modern surfing history.

I considered Jay to be my friend. I'll always miss that big smile and friendly demeanor he spread to everyone the minute he pulled up in the parking lot. I'll miss his positive vibration in the lineup. I can't even imagine how much his wife and family will miss him.

Jay, we'll miss you terribly around here, old buddy. You were and always will be special.

Go with God.


Jay Moriarity, perhaps the finest surfer to grace the waves of Mavericks, has passed away. Jay died on the eve of his 23rd birthday in a diving accident in the Maldives, leaving the surfing communities of Santa Cruz and Mavericks reeling from the shock of losing their most inspirational favorite son.

Jay was loved by his wife Kim, his family, and his friends; and beloved by the local surfing community for his generous nature, ego-less attitude, and infectious smile. Everyone that ever met him and even many that had not are greiving the loss of this wonderful person. Tributes to the beauty of his spirit have been flowing in non-stop, as evidenced by the “Agroville” forum at Over 500 surfers paddled out to a memorial tribute to Jay at Pleasure Point with another 1000 on the point, and another 50 paddled out at Mavericks for a more intimate tribute a few days later. On both occasions, huge circles of surfers held hands and shared their thoughts, experiences, and love for Jay and his surviving family.

Jay jumped into the surfing limelight on Monday, December 19, 1994, when, at the age of 16, he took flight at Mavericks in the most spectacular big wave wipeout ever photographed at the time, perhaps to this day. After free-falling 40 feet with the lip, bouncing off the bottom at least 25 feet underwater, breaking his board, and taking at least one more 25 footer on the head, he swam over to a boat in the channel, picked up a back-up board, and paddled straight into the line-up to catch some of the biggest waves ever ridden. What very few people know even now, is that Jay had that huge smile of his right after the wipeout, and as he hit the lineup to try again. Most people would have been wearing a look of terror and never paddled out again after such a wipeout.

Jay Moriarity, age 16, two days after making history with one of the heaviest wipeouts ever recorded, rides what I consider to be perhaps the biggest wave successfully ridden and documented in a photograph at the time, or at least equivalent to any I can think of (this picture is one of a two-shot sequence by Lawrence Beck that appeared on page 61 in Surfer's Journal, Volume Four, Number Two - most of the other contenders were photographed the same week at Mavericks, such as the picture by Lawrence Beck of Peter Mel on page 73 of the same article). If you don't agree, compare this to the wave Brock Little didn't make at Waimea, which the magazines all said would have been the biggest. It's every bit as big, and Jay made this wave with aplomb. I saw this wave from the channel after the worst wipeout of my life, and Jay looked like a tiny dot on this monster wall, it completely blew my mind. Mavericks, December 21, 1994.
Photo by Lawrence Beck © (Click for Fine Photographs of Surfing, Waves, and Africa by Lawrence Beck)

Jay went on to become a master at Mavericks, rapidly working his way from understudy to the likes of Jeff Clark, Peter Mel, Flea Viroksko, and Don Curry, to the man everyone respected. His joy in surfing every wave manifested itself in an inevitable giggle as he tipped over the ledge into the most difficult of drops. His lines were the cleanest; truly artistic, and, like the man himself, always a class act. In just six years Jay progressed all the way to the forefront of big wave surfing, becoming a leader in the tow-in revolution, without foresaking the paddle-in ethic. This past winter, one of Jay’s waves made the final five for consideration in the XXL $60,000 contest for the biggest wave photographed in the North Pacific. Not only did the wave have a 60 foot face, Jay’s line, as always, was a perfect drop all the way to the bottom with a classic square bottom turn.

Jay Moriarity, age 22, tow-in wave shot from the cliffs at Mavericks by Lawrence Beck on December 22, 2000. This is the wave and photo that made the finals of the 2000-2001 XXL contest. According to Lawrence, "If I'm not mistaken, Evan Slater and Jeff Clark, as well as numerous others, felt that Jay's wave was clearly the largest in the XXL Contest. Given the comparison between the Cliff Perspective from 600+ yards away (with an 800mm lens) and the boat perspective (of Parson's wave) from less than 100 yards away (with a 300mm lens), any beginning photo 1A student could tell you that the extreme telephoto compression (created by the 300mm lens which shot Parsons wave) grotesquely exaggerated the height and volume of Parson's wave. The judges...ignored [this]... Jay took it with his uncharacteristic dignity. It never was about winning with Jay... rather, about becoming 'one with the ocean' irregardless of prevailing conditions. I pray that he 'ascended' because he reached that level so early in life."
Photo by Lawrence Beck © (Fine Photographs by Lawrence Beck)

On January 19, 2001, the swell jumped from 20 feet at mid-day to 30+ feet in the late afternoon. As darkness fell, several tow-in surfers rode some monster, ruler perfect, tubing 30 footers (50-60 foot faces). Jay blew the minds of everyone present by fading, holding off on his bottom turn so long that Grant Washburn was yelling to himself “Turn! Turn!”, then cranking a bottom turn and pulling into one of the biggest tubes ever ridden. And then, as the last light faded, he did it again! According to those who witnessed these rides, Jay had reached the pinnacle of modern surfing as we know it.

Although the ever present smile and stoke were his outward expression to those that surfed with him, Jay took surfing Mavericks extremely seriously. He focused on the goal of surfing Mavericks for several years by undergoing a physical and mind training program with his mentor, Frosty Hesson, before he paddled out for the first time at the age of 15 (see Mav Stories, soon to be posted). Few people train as hard as Jay did. “I try to do a lot of swimming, paddling, cycling, and surfing” he told photographer Lawrence Beck in an interview that appeared in Surfer’s Journal in 1995 (Volume Four, Number Two). “I’ll go out and paddle for hours [Jay had a compass installed on the nose of one of his paddleboards so he could navigate back if fogged in on one of his endless paddles]. I try to get into the right mind-frame, like trying to imagine a worst-case scenario and how I would react... so I can solve these problems before being faced with them. I really try to focus on what I’m getting ready to do. Mental preparation is really important.”

Beyond becoming one of the most important figures in modern surfing history by the age of 22, Jay was loved and respected for the way he interacted with his peers and his outlook on life. Jay was always smiling, an infectious smile that made everyone feel his exuberance for life, uplifting the recipient of the smile to feel the exuberance of their own life. The image of Jay I conjure up first is of Jay pulling into the parking lot at Mavericks in his little red pick-up, jumping out with his big smile, immediately making me feel a notch happier, even changing the attidude of everyone in the parking lot. I mean, how could you be sour when Jay was around? And if you were only marginally stoked about going out, Jay had enough stoke to change that, too. People would watch Mavericks for an hour or more trying to decide whether to paddle out, Jay would show up, and in minutes everyone would be pulling on their wetsiuts. He had the proverbial positive outlook, full-on stoke for surf and life. And he was genuinely one of the nicest people I ever had the pleasure to know.

But more than anything, Jay was not egotistical. He was very good looking, big blue eyes, perfect physique, surfed like a dream, surfed for O’Neil, had everything in the world to be egotistical about. But to him, it was not about himself. He was as stoked to help some kid on the inside at Cowells as he was about his own surfing. He hooted and made us all feel great about our waves, whether it was the first-timer at Mavericks dropping in on his first 12 footer or one of the long-time locals pulling it off on a 20 footer. He seemed to have arrived at that plane of existence that seekers of metaphsical perfection strive for all their lives. Be here now. Let your ego go. Love thy neighbor. Speak no ill. Be happy. That was Jay.

To everyone who knew him, Jay was special, but to none more-so than his wife Kim. Although I only met her a few times before this terrible tradgedy, we all knew the story of their very special love. They started as friends and grew to love each other as inseparable soulmates. They surfed together, shared every thought, and belonged with each other. Last fall, they eloped and got married, and were so happy together. Witnessing her incredible strength through this tragedy, it seems they must have been so much alike. From all of the crew at Mavericks, we wish Kim the will and strength to continue, and hope the love shown for Jay by all his friends can help bring solice. And of course, the same is true for Jay’s grandparents, Mom and Dad, and sister and brothers. We can only begin to understand your loss.

It’s hard to understand how such an accomplished waterman as Jay could drown in still water, how someone so young and so good could be taken from us. He had so much more potential to achieve. We all thought we would be watching Jay lead the way for the next few decades, teaching us how to be. But now that he has passed on, we have to search for some sort of meaning in his loss. More than one of us has decided that the most tangible meaning is to believe that we should learn from his life, see the good in what we have, treat each other with respect, not be egotistical. If we can do that, then his youthful passing cannot have been in vain.

So when vibes get bad in the water or in life, we should think, be like Jay. When we get egocentrical and think we are hot stuff, or when we think things are bad, we should think, be like Jay. Stop and give a kid a break. Enjoy someone else getting a good wave. Make someone feel good about their self, and get enjoyment from that. Be stoked. Smile. Be like Jay.

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Table Of Contents

Christy's Mavericks Page: Other Pages on my Site:
Page 1:
Mavericks: The Experience
The Ride
The Lineup

Page 2:
The Wipeout
The Crowd
A Word to the Wise

Christy's Surfing Pages Central Directory
Christy Davis' Surfing Home Page
Christy Davis' Ocean Beach (SF) Page
Mavericks Stories
Surf Links
Photography Credits
Fiona's Equestrian Page
Charlotte the Jack Russell Terrier