Peter Mel

Peter Mel did things few surfers have ever done at Mavericks over the last surf season. Photo courtesy Audrey Lambidakis

Although the previous winter was hailed as one of the most consistent seasons at Mavericks in a decade, drawing surfers from across the globe who rode an untold number of waves, one man stood above the rest by a significant margin. At one of the most physically demanding and challenging waves in the world, 51-year-old Peter Mel swept the podium at the first-ever Mavericks Surf Awards on Thursday evening.

Mel earned titles for the Biggest Wave, Best Barrel, Ride of the Year and Male Performer of the Year.

The award show, which was streamed online through the surf website The Inertia and on Instagram, was the culmination of a five-month video-based surf contest organized by Mavericks pioneer Jeff Clark and local entrepreneur Chris Cuvelier. Clark and media personality Ivy Miller co-hosted the show online on Thursday. The five categories were judged by five surfers with extensive experience at the famous wave. They included Clark, Grant Washburn, Maya Gabriela, and previous contest winners Darryl Virostko and Chris Bertish. The $25,000 prize purse, divided equally between men and women, stipulated that 80 percent of an award went to the surfer and 20 percent to the videographer who submitted the ride.

Two of Mel’s awards were based on one wave from Jan. 8, when Mel paddled into what many labeled as the best wave ever surfed at Mavericks. On a 20- to 30-foot wave, Mel maneuvered himself into a position few have ever attempted and even fewer have ever executed properly, sliding into the most critical part of the wave and making it out without any trouble. Though it was only one wave, it was the result of Mel’s 30 years of surfing, studying and dedicating large amounts of time and effort to Mavericks.

“His lifetime of commitment to Mavericks really showed this year,” Clark said on the stream.

During a prerecorded video, Mel said he was grateful for the awards and credited his fellow surfers, his family, local photographers and water safety team for helping him achieve his dreams and getting “the best wave of my life.”

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime wave,” Mel said. “And I get to share it with the entire community.”

Mavericks isn’t known for being a family affair, but it was for Mel this season. Mel was vying for awards against his 21-year-old son, John, who was nominated for Performer of the Year and Best Barrel. Hawaiian Kia Lenny was runner-up for Ride of the Year and Performer of the Year. Half Moon Bay’s Hunter Murison was a finalist for the Best Barrel Award. The Female Performer of the Year was a tight two-way race between San Francisco’s Bianca Valenti and France’s Justine Dupont. Dupont, 29, was voted the winner.

“It’s so fun to see the level of women’s surfing integrating themselves into the highest level of performance at Mavericks,” Clark said. “It’s just awesome.”

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