By Matt Skenazy

In the end, the pictures in the magazines will depict 24-year-old Greg Long of San Clemente, lifting the 2008 Mavericks first-place check. Or they’ll depict Grant “Twiggy” Baker—a big-wave surfer from South Africa—tucking into the wave that earned him the Green Room award for the biggest, deepest barrel. There might even be a photo of the record number of people that lined the cliffs and the beach at the 2008 Mavericks Surf Contest.

This is all to be expected. But what’s rare for an event that draws upward of 50,000 people, is what won’t be seen: trash.

Mavericks Surf Ventures puts on the contest each year, along with Clif Bar and Save the Waves, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving surf spots as well as the marine environment. Representatives from Mavericks, Clif and Save the Waves held the world’s second carbon-neutral surf contest last weekend; the first was the Mavericks contest in 2006.

“Mavericks is right in our backyard,” said Joshua Gustafson, a representative from Clif Bar who was working at the contest. “And any event that allows us to use our sponsorship money to go green, we want to be a part of.” Gustafson explained that Clif Bar tries to offset the carbon emissions from the whole event by purchasing enough renewable energy credits to account for the air travel, watercrafts, and ground travel for all competitors and event staff.

“We also have the Cool Tags,” Gustafson continued, “so that the people attending the contest can offset the effects of their driving here.”

The Cool Tags, which are stickers promoting global cooling and wind energy, were on sale at the contest for $2 each and provided enough energy credits to cover the amount of CO2 that an average car emits in a 300-mile trip. For each Cool Tag sold, Clif Bar invested $2 in NativeEnergy’s WindBuilders program, which works to support renewable energy sources like wind turbines.

As well as holding a carbon-neutral event, the organizers also helped to preserve the competition area off Pillar Point, which is a part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. “This area is one of the richest ecosystems in the world in terms of diversity and abundance of wildlife,” said Carol Preston, an educator for the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, who ran a booth at the contest to promote awareness for the delicate environment at Mavericks.

To protect the sanctuary, the Mavericks team and Clif Bar worked together with Save the Waves to form the Green Team.

“The Green Team is responsible for promoting the Mavericks’ environmental message, and for helping people reduce their own impact on contest day by showing them where to recycle and compost,” said Elisa Melchiori, Green Team’s volunteer recruiter for the contest.

The event was broadcast live online, as well as projected onto a big screen at AT&T Park in San Francisco; fans were urged by Mavericks Surf Ventures to enjoy these viewing options in order to reduce the number of people on-site the day of the contest.

“The Mavericks folks work year-round for the environment out here because they want to and they believe in it,” said Peggy Beckett, owner of Huck Finn Sportfishing in Half Moon Bay. “At the end of the day, they’re surfers, and surfers know more, and care more about the ocean than anyone else.”