Roughly 14 years after first competing, California native Peter Mel took home his first Mavericks Invitational victory in intermittent but powerful waves up to 30 feet. The 43-year-old big-wave veteran, who grew up in Santa Cruz, surfed the inaugural event in 1999. "I’m satisfied with just competing at this high of a level at such an extremely difficult spot to surf. That already gives me a great sense of accomplishment," Mel told Surfer. "But this is one event that I’ve been competing in and wanting to win for so many years, so for that it feels really, really amazing."
Peter Mel rail grab. Photo: Mavericks Invitational/Facebook
There was a lot going on before and during the event. Kelly Slater dropped out on the eve of the competition because he learned it was not sanctioned by the ASP. Shane Dorian and Carlos Burle pulled out of the invite because of injuries. Before paddling out, the competitors decided to split the prize money. During the contest, some surfers got crotchety about the lack of consistent waves—the San Francisco Chronicle reported a stretch of 38 minutes without a ridable wave. Greg Long surfed in his first big-wave contest since his near death experience at Cortes Bank. In the end, though, Mel returned to the break he helped make famous and took the crown. "It was just complete, utter relief," Mel told the Chronicle. "Mavericks has been so good to me over the years. It's great to have that feeling back again."
It was a busy day along the California coast for Mel's family, according to the Chronicle. His 65-year-old father competed in a kneeboard competition in Huntington Beach. His 13-year-old son surfed in a contest at Steamer Lance in Santa Cruz. Mel now lives in Newport Beach and works a 9-to-5. He drove the roughly six hours up to Half Moon Bay to compete. "Surfing Mavericks is still a big part of my life, and it always will be," he told Surfer.