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Mavericks Recap: Congrats Peter Mel!

Mavericks Surf ContestWhile the annual Maverick’s Invitational contest has laid dormant for the past two winters, last Sunday the famed break off Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay, CA erupted with some of the best big wave surfers from all over the world. After a two year hiatus from the big wave surfing scene, the prospect of this year’s competition had us psyched, super psyched.

Mavericks Invitational 101

For those who aren’t already familiar, the annual Mavericks Invitational is one of the most prestigious big wave events on the planet, maybe second only to the Eddie Aikau Invitational at Waimea.  And being held at such an iconic spot for big wave surfing, it’s no wonder the contest draws the best big wave surfers from all over the globe.  Aside from South African ripper Chris Bertish coming out of nowhere with a borrowed board and a giant smile to win it all, much of the 2010 Mav’s contest in was shrouded in controversy.  Between the ocean mowing down people, media towers, pretty much anything in its way, and the organizer’s corporate battling behind the scenes, 2010 was a mess.  This year, things are different.  Much of the nonsense behind the scene has since settled.  Spectators are now off limits along the shores and cliffs in order to avoid mother nature’s unrelenting wrath.  Contest decisions are now in the hands of a small panel that include the Godfather of the Wave, Jeff Clark, and Maverick’s virtuoso Derryl “Flea” Virostko.  This panel of Big Wave maestros took the reins to ensure that this year’s contest was one of the best.

The Swell

No more than a few days before the contest, a ferocious storm was whipping around the northwest part of the Pacific Ocean, and those who know what to look for, got pumped.  Contest organizers who tracked the storm and the resulting swell gave the go ahead for the big dance to go on. Though the storm may not have produced the biggest swells ever, the fact that the swell originates farther west in the Pacific and has to travel a longer distance creates a unique and less conspicuous quality. Surfers get stoked when they see wave periods around 10-15 seconds, which means that the waves that are breaking aren’t just sloppy wind swell and will have better size and shape to them.  The Wave period of this swell when it careens into the shelf at pillar point is going to be 18+ seconds.  This means big, clean, and powerful ground swell waves that leaves everyone as stoked as they are weary.  Couple that with partly sunny skies, 62 degrees temps, and light NE winds, well the elements, they have come together.

The Contenders

The invite-only contest has been gaining reputation and popularity since the event was first held in 1999.  Like summiting Mt. Everest, or winning the Super Bowl, finishing atop Maverick’s long list of heroic water warriors is an epic milestone that Big Wave surfers would love to check off their list.  It’s the kind of event that can catapult a relatively unknown surfer into the grand spotlight of Big Wave Madness.  The roster of 24 is chosen by their peers and everyone on the list works very hard to get there.  You can’t just walk into an office somewhere, smile, shake some hands, and get an invitation.  Years of preparation, decades of experience, and extraordinary physical and mental toughness must be gained, fought for, and nurtured in order to even be looked at as an invitee.  Those who put in the time, and who gained the respect, are only then afforded the privilege to ride with the best.  With every surfer on the list worthy of praise, we’ve chosen to highlight just a few:

Shane Dorian

Regarded as one of the best big wave surfers today, Shane has accumulated quite a bounty of big wave accolades.  Having a Billabong XXL award or two under his belt, he’s fully capable of paddling into 60 foot BOMB’s.  Funny thing though, he’s a rookie.  This is Shane’s first go at surfing’s big dance and is definitely one to look out for.

Kelly Slater

When this 11-time world champion shows up to a contest, he’s always a threat. Even amongst big wave contenders at Mav’s.  With a 2nd place finish at the Invitational in 2000 and only sporadic appearances since, he’ll be looking to keep his reputation as the best in the world.  With his superstar status, he’s going to get a lot of looks from cameras and judges alike.

Grant “Twiggy” Baker

Baker caught a ridiculous wave in the 2010 contest that made up for the fact that he came up short on the podium. From that appearance, it was clear that he digs what Mav’s has to offer up. It garnered him a cool $50,000 and a Billabong XXL Ride of the Year award.  That, and the fact that he has been on several surfing expeditions to ride some of the biggest waves ever seen, are just a couple reasons why he is another contender to keep an eye out for.

Shawn Dollar

Santa Cruz local and all around ripper gained notoriety when he was credited for paddling into the biggest wave ever ridden, which the Guinness book topped out at 57 feet.  That monster was caught at Jaws in 2011 and he’s probably still riding that high till this day.  When the guy who caught the biggest wave ever is in the lineup, he’s probably a threat to win.

But in the end, all of these dudes got beat out by Santa Cruz local Peter Mel. Surf Channel got an exclusive on the play-by-play of how things went down:

For the consummate pros, this contest is a big one.  For the guys who have made themselves famous at the hands of the mighty, this isn’t just another contest. It’s THE contest.  The last stand between those who are good, and those who are great.  A veritable clash of gladiators and gods in the grandest arena of the sport.  All our best to Peter, you earned it!

And just because we couldn’t resist, here’s Mel’s GoPro POV on how he did it: