Jeremy Dorn: You’ve competed in all eight contests at Mavericks, but never finished higher than third until now. What did it feel like, after so many attempts, to finally take home the Mavericks title?
Peter Mel: I just do it now for the love of riding big waves, not for winning the competition. I took the pressure off myself. I was just out there with my friends having a good time. But winning was icing on the cake.
JD: Before the final heat you and the five other finalists decided to split the $50,000 purse (leaving each finalist with $5,333.00 after the other competitors got a small share), no matter the victor. How did that come about?
PM: When the conditions are [inconsistent], you start putting a monetary value on which place you’re finishing. That tends to change the dynamics of the heat, and it takes the camaraderie and fun out of it. Agreeing to split just makes it a much more relaxing atmosphere. Sure enough, the best waves of the day came through for the finals, and everyone got a few.
JD: And your 13-year-old son is a three-time national champion surfer himself?
PM: He was competing the same day I was [at Mavericks], and the next day he ended up winning. It was pretty cool to win and then go down and see him win there. I obviously love watching him compete at such a high level. It was inevitable that he would win because he was feeling the buzz from my win.
JD: Tell me about the biggest wipeout of your life.
PM: That would be at Mavericks in 1999. It was my very first two-way fold down, meaning I wiped out for so long that another wave passed over me. I was held down for a long time, and as I was trying to come up, I got pulled down into a hole. It was really dark, and my ears were popping. I remember having to stay relaxed even though every cell in my body wanted to reach out in panic. It's definitely the worst and best wipeout because I remember it so vividly, but afterwards I knew I could survive it.
JD: The legal battle between Jeff Clark and Kier Beadling has become very public. Do you have any thoughts on that?
PM: I don’t really know the details of the nitty-gritty of it all. I stepped up for a year and put a lot of time into the Mavericks event, but it fell apart in my hands. After that, I decided to step away. But right now, the event is in the best place it’s ever been, with GoPro as the sponsor, a great area in Half Moon Bay, and Jeff Clark as a part of the event, which he always needs to be. There just have to be some people and sponsors who will come in and support it.
JD: Can we expect you to defend your title next time Mavericks rolls in?
PM: A Mavericks champion can never be kicked out of the event. So yes, I'm still going to compete until I feel I no longer can win, then I’ll hand it down to the youth.