Santa Cruz Surfer Is Big Wave Champion

Santa Cruz Surfer Is Big Wave Champion

It wasn't the greatest Mavericks surf contest ever held, but it will rank among the most memorable. Such is the power of a historical landmark. Sweet recognition finally came to Peter Mel, whose years of big-wave performance set the standard at the fabled, dangerous break off Half Moon Bay.

When Mel was announced the winner of Sunday's event, held in powerful but inconsistent waves up to 30 feet, it was a cherished moment for anyone familiar with the spot's colorful history. He's 43 now, with a 9-to-5 job that takes him away from his beloved Santa Cruz, and he had bitter memories about the contest now known as the Mavericks Invitational.

Some bad luck here, perhaps an errant ride or a questionable judging call there - nothing ever seemed to click for Mel dating back to the event's first competition in 1999. He was unquestionably in the pantheon of Mavericks surfers, joining the likes of three-time winner Darryl (Flea) Virostko, the late Jay Moriarity and Jeff Clark, the man who pioneered the spot in the mid-1970s, but he'd never finished higher than third at contest time.
King without crown

This would amount to LeBron James never winning an MVP award, or Robert De Niro falling short of an Oscar. Dating back to the early '90s, nobody ever surfed Mavericks with the combination of style, virtuosity and raw courage of Mel, who grew up in Santa Cruz as a protege of the great Richard Schmidt and comes from one of Northern California's most distinguished surfing families.

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