Mel Wins Mavericks

In less-than-ideal conditions, Peter Mel claims victory at the Mavericks Invitational

Pete Mel, taking critical take-offs to another level at Mavericks. Photo: Glaser

There was a sense of inevitability when dawn broke on the much anticipated Mavericks Invitational presented by GoPro. Half Moon Bay was buzzing with activity, but down on the docks salty locals exchanged grim looks as word of the conditions filtered back from the lineup a mile away. The tide was high, the reports said. It's inconsistent, they warned. It's still not that big, they complained.

In a big-wave event of this caliber, we’ve come to expect certain things, namely terrifying waves and surfers pushing themselves to their limits and beyond to meet the challenge. It was clear this morning that the day would not embody that ideal, but the call had been made--police were cordoning off streets, helicopters were circling overhead, 24 big-wave surfers had dropped everything to be there, and thousands of fans were descending upon the small town. The hype juggernaut had built up enough inertia to plough through anything, even a tepid ocean. The show would go on regardless of the conditions.

There is no doubt that there'll be plenty of noise about the decision to run the event, especially when some competitors were voicing concerns about the swell not being big enough as early as Friday morning.

“Deciding whether or not to run was pretty brutal,” said Contest Director Gary Linden. “Last night I went surfing out there and there were a lot of long lulls. This morning looked similar when we made the call. We tried to be positive, but a couple of surfers this morning didn’t even want to surf, but we just pressed on and got through it.

There was a lot more than just a contest in motion here. We had the festival and everything and as we become a bigger event, it becomes harder to pull off. If we were down in Todos Santos and it wasn’t all that great, we might have just cut our losses. But out there today, it was just a matter of accepting that it would be a little difficult to find good waves. But it was still contestable. If it had been a lake out there, of course we wouldn’t have sent them out there to do water ballet. It had to be legit, and I think we did okay. A really good big-wave break like Mavericks will be impressive no matter what when it’s breaking."

And truth be told it was impressive when the waves eventually rolled through. Even in its tame incarnation, Mavericks has teeth, and the flotilla of over 50 boats saw more than their fair share of steep drops and clean rides even if they did look eerily similar to an over-gunned day at say, Backdoor Pipeline or the Sunset bowl.

One thing is certain, the clean conditions made Greg Long's return to the big-wave arena that much easier. There was speculation aplenty about how Long's near drowning at the Cortes Bank last month would affect him when conditions got dangerous, and although today didn't exactly put him through his paces, his third place finish was a critical first step to putting the episode behind him.

With the finalists deciding to split the winner’s check before the heat began, it came as no surprise that there was more jockeying among the boats in the channel during the hour-long final than there was in the lineup. The flotilla, lulled into a stupor by six hours of diesel asphyxiation and mind-numbing circling of the lake-like channel, was sluggish to scatter when the largest set of the final ploughed into the channel. The adrenalin spike seemed to kickstart the final, which became a shoot out between two Santa Cruz favorites Peter Mel and Zach Wormhoudt. Eventually it was the sentimental favorite, and Mavericks stalwart, Peter Mel who was crowned the champion. And although the 2013 Mavericks Invitational won't be remembered for it's size or ferocity, Peter Mel's name will be etched into the history books as the man who surfed it best.

Click here for an interview with Peter Mel after his Mavericks victory.