Santa Cruz big-wave legend Peter Mel has always let his surfing do the talking. During his long, decorated career, the level-headed surfer/shaper and family man has never found himself in the thick of controversy — even when he’s partaking in controversial activities.

But that all changed recently when Peter Mel assumed the role of PWC spokesperson for the {{{Monterey}}} Bay Marine Sanctuary. As the environmentalist-fueled effort to ban all PWCs from the area gains momentum, Mel felt it was time to mobilize for the other side. “It’s a new role for me,” said Mel. “Heck, I hardly even vote. But the calls are already starting — I speak for the PWCs.”

Mel will be participating in a series of three “workshops” on the issue, which will weigh the pros/cons of operating personal watercraft within the region. As has been reported, groups like the Surfrider San Mateo chapter are proposing to shut down PWC use altogether — meaning, of course, no tow-ins at Maverick’s. While Mel acknowledges the need for regulations on personal watercraft, he feels an outright ban is ridiculous — and inevitable if PWC users don’t speak up. “The anti-PWC guys want to pass this ban quietly. They hold public forums, but don’t advertise them anywhere. I think surfers and other PWC users are realizing that if they don’t fight for their rights now, it’s going to be too late.”

It may be already. With the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) planning on revamping its rules on the Sanctuary in fall of 2004, Mel’s towering set of opposition rivals any big day at Maverick’s. Which means, of course, there’s no better man for the job.— Evan Slater