TODAY | January 25, 2014
>> surfers in california, the conditions on friday couldn't have been better. massive waves, huge winds, everything needed for an annual surfing competition that is as exhilarating as it is dangerous. miguel almaguer has more now on the mavericks invitational and some of the best waves that have been seen in years.
>> they're not doing this, getting famous and rich. they're out here because of pure passion.
>> reporter: for 24 of the world's top surfers --
>> that was an incredible air drop .
>> reporter: -- this was something special.
>> dangerous, gnarly, intimidating.
>> where'd that come into play?
>> reporter: the mavericks invitational in california's half moon bay brings out not just the best, but the fearless.
>> mavericks is one of the gnarliest waves in the world, and throw in some of the worst winds you could have and, man, there's some spectacular wipeouts.
>> reporter: the epic surf competition did not disappoint.
>> absolutely insane, you guys! that wave is huge.
>> oh, my god.
>> reporter: a perfectly timed winter storm in the pacific generated monstrous, record-size swells, 40 to 50-foot waves.
>> it's like being in a washing machine that you can't get out of.
>> reporter: mavericks used to be dubbed the competition where men rode a mountain. this is one of the world's most perilous surfing spots. two big wave riders have been killed here.
>> we've been hammering the same point all day long, safety, safety, safety.
>> reporter: everyone knows the next wave could be the last.
>> that was an unbelievable wipeout.
>> reporter: flying down a 50- foot wall of water could shatter bones if the ride isn't perfect.
>> that looks like healy just got eaten.
>> reporter: just packed in one of these waves can be treacherous. the swell can suck you under to the ocean floor , but for seasoned surfers, this is the payoff.
>> unbelievable ride here. a 10-point, a huge set wave there.
>> reporter: south africa 's grant "twiggy" baker, took home a second victory at maverick.
>> i'm feeling pretty good.
>> reporter: he wins $12,000, but it's the ride of a lifetime he'll always remember. with "today," miguel almaguer, nbc news, los