Veteran big-wave surfer Peter Mel of Santa Cruz took the top prize Sunday afternoon in the 2013 Mavericks Invitational surf competition.
Mel, 43, has participated in every championship at Mavericks since the event started in 1999, but his victory Sunday was a first for him. He coasted to the front of a tight field of surfers all eager to participate in the first Half Moon Bay contest in three years.
Crowds at the Mavericks festival erupted in cheers when Mel was announced as champion. The experienced boarder earned a reputation as one of the most talented Northern California surfers and was a popular favorite to win, but for years that victory had proved elusive. The surfer cited bad luck, poor timing and some unfortunate calls from the judges.
“I’ve been surfing mavericks for 25 years,” Mel said after he left the awards stage. “It’s a relief (to win) more than anything else.”
For the first time this year, judges for the contest observed the surfing from two locations, a boat near the break and from the Pillar Point bluffs. The waves Sunday were smaller than past contests, topping at about 20 feet, but the swells provided good vertical drops to display each surfer’s skill.
Alex Martins of San Francisco came in second place, followed by Greg Long of San Clemente in third, Zach Wormhoudt in fourth, Mark Healey in fifth and Shawn Dollar in sixth. Mel and the other five placeholders announced they would split the $50,000 in total prize money between each other.
Final results of the competition were announced around 5 p.m. at the festival grounds at the Harbor Village parking lot in Princeton.