A Once in a Lifetime Mavericks Ride

Peter Mel on January 8 (photo by Audrey Lambidakis)

While the Mavericks competition is a thing of the past, that doesn’t mean that big wave surfers don’t still go out to Pillar Point near Half Moon Bay every winter to try their luck riding some of the biggest and most dangerous waves in the world. And January, with an amazing two-week stretch of big waves being produced every day, was no exception.

“This year was exceptional, pretty much the best year we’ve ever seen,” says 51-year-old surfer and Santa Cruz surf shop owner Peter Mel, who many say caught the wave of the decade on January 8 when he paddled under his own power into a monster with a 45- to 50-foot drop, found the perfect position and made it out the other side. “The elation comes at the end, the act is kind of a blur in a way, the reality is I’m so hyper focused on riding a wave that I don’t have any feeling, it all comes in a flush at the end when you either make it or you don’t.”

“There was a moment when I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m making this wave.’ I kind of knew at that point — hey this is it; this is what I’ve been waiting for my whole 30 years of surfing out here. It was a very pinnacle moment.”

Photo by Alyssa Mulligan