Peter was born in Capitola, CA in 1969 and moved to Santa Cruz shortly afterward. His father, surfer/shaper John Mel got him into the water at a young age, and in the years that followed, he became one of the top Santa Cruz surfers amongst a highly competitive and talented field. Throughout the 1990's, Peter surfed on the various domestic and international professional tours and continued to hone his skills in big surf.
Big wave surfing hit the mainstream media spotlight in the late 90's, mostly due to the mystique surrounding the big wave spot known as Mavericks, just north of Santa Cruz. Peter had always been a standout at Mavericks, and with the growing media attention, he found himself in the enviable position of making a living as a big wave specialist in his own backyard, as well as newly discovered big wave spots around the world. His sponsors include Quiksilver, JC Hawaii, Reef and Freeline Design Surf Shop. To date, Peter has been featured in magazines such as Surfer, Surfing, ESPN, Newsweek, Water, Trip Surf, Transworld Surf and Surfers Path. He has also been featured on CNN, the Discovery Channel and movies such as Step Into Liquid and Riding Giants.
Baja Bound caught up with Peter Mel in June of 2008 for a quick interview
BB: Surfing in Santa Cruz is known for being really competitive, even amongst close friends. Do you feel that growing up and living in Santa Cruz has helped to continually push your surfing to a higher level? PM: Yes I do. The incredible variety of waves helps a lot. Santa Cruz provides some of the most consistent waves on the planet. Large or small, our town has it to offer. Also, the level of surfing is very high. Each time I hit the water, I'm pushed by all the great surfers from here.
BB: Over the last two decades you have made a name for yourself by charging Mavericks, one of the most dangerous waves in the world. How do you prepare mentally for a big day out there? PM: Lots of experience has taught me to be confident in my abilities. I was able to gain knowledge at places like Sunset Beach and Waimea early in my career. Also, I found I felt pretty comfortable out in larger surf. So I pursued that passion and everything just kinda fell into place. Believe me, I still get scared when I see the swells on the maps. It just feels so good after a session in challenging surf.
BB: Since the inception of the Maverick's contest in 1998, you have been a clear favorite to win based upon your reputation from free-surfing there over the years. However, that title continues to elude you. Do you have a different strategy going into the next contest, or is it just a matter of Mother Nature sending a few good waves your way? PM: I try not to worry about contest results. I just want to have a good time and push the limits of big wave paddle surfing with the best surfers in the world.
BB: As a professional surfer, you have traveled all over the world to a variety of countries and experienced different cultures. What has been your favorite destination so far, and why?
PM: I really like the North Shore of Oahu. Every winter the best surfers congregate there and push surfing to new levels. Being part of that environment is very fulfilling.
BB: When you are not chasing surf around the world, what is a normal day like at home in Santa Cruz?
PM: Experiencing the pleasures of life with my wife and kids. My family means everything to me.