Interview: WSL commentator and Santa Cruz legend Peter Mel on catching wave of the decade at Mavericks, “It’s the greatest feeling in the world to have your mind erased!”

"I’ve been visualising a line like that for thirty years but I’ve never really truly had the balls to do it."

By now, you would’ve seen Mel’s chip-shot into a thirty-footer monster tube at Mavericks, just north of Half Moon Bay there in Northern California. 

Wave of the decade it’s being called. 

“Everyone on earth should see this ride,” Kelly Slater said.

Mel, who is fifty-one, is the sort of man who loves his children with a passion, his parents with respect, his wife with generosity and his friends with loyalty.

He wears slightly too big flannel shirts and pants with stone washing applied at the factory.

A conservative, in the true sense of the word. 

Yesterday’s ride was anything but safe.

When I call Mel at home in Santa Cruz, the sun has set on the day after his beautiful and brave ride. 

He talks about the terrific comedown from such a powerful injection of adrenaline. 

“I wish I could sleep for a month,” he says. 

Is it really that draining?

“Emotionally, yeah. That was thirty years in the making. I’ve been visualising a line like that but I’ve never really truly had the balls to do it. Somehow, yesterday, it all came together.” 

Mel, who was riding a 70-litre nine-foot-ten CI with tiny tow fins in a quad setup, says the thrill of seeing his kid Jon out there on the channel, alongside old pals filmer Curt Myers from Powerline productions and fellow big-waver Jamie Mitchell, gave the ten-second ride an added gloss. 

“They were all fearing for my life one second and then, the next, it was the elation of me hugging my kid.”

So let’s ride this damn thing.

It’s around midday. Mel and his kid Jon, who is twenty-one, have been out since around eight-thirts.

Jon gets the biggest left he’s ever had out there. 

Then a quick work meet and the pair are back out there. The buoy system is so good in this part of the world they know the swell is about to pulse. 

“A twelve-footer, then there’s a fifteen-footer, there’s a fucking eighteen-footer…”


Mel says there’s a shallow part of the reef out and over towards the left. If you want to get inside the biggest waves it’s the only avenue in. You can’t take off in the bowl, it’s too vertical and too thick, and shoulder-hopping ain’t an option. 

“It was always something you dream of but never get to execute,” says Mel. “We’ve towed a few and had that idea of coming in from behind but you usually outrun the tube or you’re not brave enough to kick-stall. With a nine-ten, you’re committed.”

The takeoff, says Mel, ain’t the hard part. 

“You get a really nice entry over there. You can chase it, get into it and it backs off a little bit. It let me in. I did know that it’s risky, it’s forty yards deeper than the main bowl and if you see an elbow towards the bowl you know it’s going to be tough to make. This wave had that look to it but, well… fuck… you’re not going to get that many chances out there. I overcommitted to it and went for it. Magically, all those elements came together. A little bit of a spiritual thing happened for me. I feel like it was a gift from the Mavericks gods to stay open. It’s really hard to fathom what’s happening in that moment,. You’re racing and adjusting. It’s the greatest feeling in the world to have your mind erased. It’s why we’re so tied to surfing. I got to a point where I was thinking, this is really heavy, then all of a sudden I realised I was making it no matter what and raised my hands. That’s a great, great feeling.” 

And then the other side of the adrenaline shot. 

“I was thinking, ah, okay, what now? What do I do now? I felt a little let down. I felt, truly, I can’t do that again.”

That afternoon, Mel went to see his wife Tara in the fam’s surfshop, Freeline, at Pleasure Point. Mel could see how worried his wife was by how clean the joint was, his and her desks cleaned, boxes neatly stowed, the shop spotless. 

“A distraction,” he says. “She tapped into my mood and was solemn and quiet with me. Today was a lot more chatty and fun but it wasn’t like we were throwing a party and a kegger yesterday, dude. Just a silent cuddle, unsaid words, connection. I wanted to crawl into a hole and shut everything out. I’ve come around now.”  

Mel laughs, sighs, then laughs again.

The buoys are up to forty feet. The biggest it’s been all season. 

Tomoz, out there.

“What an escape surfing is,” he says. “We’re so blessed.” 

Shhhhh: Facebook founder and chief Mark Zuckerberg’s wife celebrates husband banning Donald J. Trump from Facebook by surfing in Kauai!

All powerful.

How many life moments have you celebrated by paddling out for a surf? Thanksgivings, Christmases, New Yearses, etc. are a given, mostly because those usually bring time off but how many personal life moments? Did you paddle out on your wedding day? Birth of children? When hired for good job? Fired from good job?

Well, according to The Daily Mail, Facebook founder and chief Mark Zuckerberg’s wife Pricilla Chan celebrated her husband muzzling the President of the United States Donald J. Trump by ripping what were described by the British news outlet as “small breakers” in Kauai.

The regular foot appears to have been pushed in on her soft-top by a surf hatted helper.

Very chill.

Hours earlier, Zuckerberg wrote:

Over the last several years, we have allowed President Trump to use our platform consistent with our own rules, at times removing content or labeling his posts when they violate our policies.

We did this because we believe that the public has a right to the broadest possible access to political speech, even controversial speech.

But the current context is now fundamentally different, involving use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.

We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.

Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.

All powerful.

Are you going to paddle out to celebrate too or paddle out in protest?

#TeamZuckerberg or #TeamTrump?

dude are you surfing today nah brah ordering a new board! going to see the shaper what are you getting new fish! fuck sounds sick can’t wait to see it

Surfline Man orders a surfboard (part II): “He needs to find Mike the shaper and order his new board. He can’t really think straight. All his hopes rest on Mike!”

Surfline Man is so stoked right now. He is getting a new custom fish and Mike is going to make it right there with the tools Surfline Man saw hanging on the wall. It’s going to be the most perfect board ever!

The sun is not even up yet, and Surfline Man springs out of bed. Today’s the big day!

He is going to visit the surfboard shaper he found on Instagram to buy his new surfboard that’s going to be a fish.

Surfline Man has never talked to an actual shaper before now. This is so exciting! Surfline Man is going to learn all about where surfboards come from. He can’t even wait!

Surfline Man heads to the kitchen and fires up his espresso machine. He bought himself one of those killer all-in-one deals for Christmas and he’s pretty sure it’s the best thing ever. He pours a bowl of cereal before realizing that he’s almost totally out of milk. He used it all up practicing his latte art.

Surfline Man splashes the last few drops of milk in the carton over his cereal and eats it anyway. At least the espresso turns out alright.

His phone buzzes.

dude are you surfing today
nah brah ordering a new board! going to see the shaper
what are you getting
new fish!
fuck sounds sick can’t wait to see it

In the best mood, Surfline Man hops into his Sprinter. Singing along to Vampire Weekend, his new favorite band, he merges smoothly onto the freeway. Love that video they made, just cruising around Palm Springs. I should totally go there, Surfline Man thinks. I should go to Palm Springs and cruise around like Vampire Weekend.

But first, a new surfboard. Focus, dude.

Pulling into the driveway, Surfline Man gazes around the industrial park, dazed. A series of roll-up doors run down one wall. Otherwise, it’s beige cinderblock walls as far as he can see. Surfline Man wonders if he’s come to the right place, but his Garmin claims that he has. And in fact, once he looks more closely, he can see the address numbers on the side of the building.

The tang of resin hangs in the air. And as Surfline Man approaches, he sees a cluster of bearded dudes gathered around a surfboard, positioning a fin in the box. The sun bounces off the mirror shine of the board’s gloss coat.

Surfline Man is momentarily spellbound. The board is beautiful. He has definitely come to the right place.

“Is Mike here?” Surfline Man asks. He feels suddenly shy.

The nearest bearded man looks up from the surfboard and gestures toward the open roll-up.

“He’s in there.”

The interior of the shop is dark against the bright sun of the outdoors. Once his eyes adjust, Surfline Man takes it all in. Surfboards of every imaginable size and color lean against every available wall. A series of floor to ceiling shelves hold still more surfboards. He longs to riffle through the stacks.

Something confusing and vintage hangs high on the wall. Surfline Man has no idea what it is, but it looks important.

In the the back corner, Surfline Man catches a glimpse of a small room. Through the doorway, he can see a handsaw hanging on the wall and some other interesting tools that he can’t identify. The fluorescent tubes glare bright white against the dark blue walls. This is where the magic happens!

Surfline Man wishes he could look inside, but he’s not sure that’s allowed and he needs to find Mike the shaper and order his new board. He can’t really think straight. All his hopes rest on Mike.

Surfline Man finds his new surfboard’s shaper in a small, hallwaylike room. Shaped blanks march down one wall, carefully stacked, and a battered couch sits against the opposite wall. A cardboard box of odd fins lounges in the corner, and a thin layer of foam dust coats every exposed surface. Surfline Man feels super stupid for wearing a black t-shirt today.

“Hi, I’m Trent, I emailed about getting a board?”

“Oh yah, here, let’s sit outside and you can tell me what you have in mind.”

Surfline Man still feels nervous as fuck, but the shaper’s low-key, mellow vibe is amazingly reassuring. Surfline Man trusts this man with his surfboard already, and he hasn’t even started talking about dims are anything.

“So I want a fish? And I kinda want it to be super short? And like, fast.” Surfline Man stumbles through his explanation, flapping his hands around vaguely.

“What are you riding now?”

“Well, like, I have a midlength, but I don’t really like it. And I also dropped it, so I can’t ride it now.”

Surfline Man feels kinda stupid now, but there’s something about Mike that makes it impossible to lie to him.

“What don’t you like it about it?”

“It feels really big and I can’t really turn it. And also, I got caught inside and it sucked. It gives me nightmares, actually.”

Talking to a shaper is almost exactly like talking to his therapist. It’s so awesome and Surfline Man feels better already.

“Ever had a fish before?”

“Yah, bought like a 6’0” on sale. I don’t know, it was fine, I guess? But not like, fast or anything. Maybe kinda wide. Or too long. Maybe if it were like, 5’2” or something.”

“How tall are you?”

“Like, around six feet.”

“What if we went 5’6”? You’d get something a bit faster than the 6’0” you have, without things getting too crazy.”

“That’d be alright, I think? I just want it to be like, fast and turn really good. Like, I was watching that Ryan Burch segment in Psychic Migrations, and that fish, it’s so fast.”

Mike the shaper mentally rolls his eyes. You are not Ryan Burch. An experienced professional, Mike does not say this out loud.

“Oh yah, Burch is great in that film. I think you’d feel a big difference, stepping down to a 5’6”. Or we could go 5’5” if you like.”

“Okay, 5’5” sounds so good. Can you make it blue?”

“Yah, sure.”

Mike tosses some paint swatches on the table.

“Pick a color you like. What kind of fins are we doing?”

“Glass-on keels look so cool but I don’t know, maybe I should get boxes? Like, if I traveled or something. Or like, wanted to change my fins, I don’t know.”

“I recommend Futures.”

“Okay, that’s sounds super good! I’m sure I’ll like it.”

Surfline Man really wanted some sweet-looking wood keels. They look so handmade and craftsmenlike and stuff. But Mike inspires so much trust. He knows so much!

If Mike the shaper says Futures, Surfline Man is going to ride Futures.

Surfline Man hands over a pile of cash as a deposit.

“If I pay extra will it be done sooner?”

Mike laughs.

“Nah, bro, sorry. But I’ll get to you as soon as I can, promise!”

“Okay man, thanks so much! So stoked! Can’t wait!”

Surfline Man bounds over to his Sprinter. He cues up his favorite Imagine Dragons song and pulls out of the parking lot.

As he looks back, he sees the bearded dudes are clustered around a different board now. They’re clearly checking out the bottom contours or something important like that.

Surfline Man is so stoked right now. He is getting a new custom fish and Mike is going to make it right there with the tools Surfline Man saw hanging on the wall. It’s going to be the most perfect board ever!

Driving down the freeway, Surfline Man has second thoughts.

He pulls over and as the semi-trucks rush by, rocking his Sprinter, he pulls out his phone and sends a text to his new bestie, Mike, his surfboard shaper.

hey man good to meet you
i changed my mind
can you make it red instead?
thanks so stoked!!!

Thin Blue Line: Police throw stun grenades at two surfers enjoying a small, windswept day at famed Cape St. Francis!

Strange days.

But could it be possible that the World Surf League bungling of its Pipe Masters, wherein the CEO and four staffers brought the dreaded Coronavirus to the show shuttering competition for days and making Hawaii look foolish, has reverberated across continents and hemispheres to South Africa?

It is one of many theories, for a report has just emerged from the famed Cape St. Francis, a wave Robert August and Mike Hynson punched into surfer hearts around the world as they traveled on their endless summer.

Yesterday, the great South African surf journalist Craig Jarvis reported that police threw stun grenades at an older and a younger surfer to get them out of the water. Per the Daily Maverick:

Yesterday, (5 January) at around noon, a local surfer Misha G went to the beach to look. It was pretty quiet and seemed relatively empty, so our friend Misha decided to go and mind-surf a few waves from the safety of his bakkie.

“It was small and onshore, and it looked quite good, so I thought I’d just go and have a look at what I was missing,” said Misha of his mission.

When the wind goes onshore, the waves get ruffled and affected by the wind. It’s not ideal for surfing, but one can still surf.

When he got there, he found the main surfer’s car park cordoned off by a police van. “It was a bigger van, like a 10-12 seater, and there were a few cars blocked off in the car park,” recalls Misha.

“About five or six cops were sitting on the beach by the surfer showers,” said Misha, and there were two standing in the car park. I saw one of the guys throw something that looked like a rock at the surfers, and I thought, ‘what are they doing? Why would a cop throw rocks at the surfers? That’s not going to work.’ ”

The “rock” landed about five metres shy of the water’s edge, with plenty of exposed rock due to the low tide. “It landed on the rocks, in line with the police sitting on the bench,” recalls Misha.

The first stun-grenade explosion shook his car. The second one which followed immediately afterwards he could feel in his chest.

“It was this loud, booming explosion,” said Misha, “and it was pretty intimidating. It gave me a shock because I wasn’t expecting it; it was just such a surprise. I could feel the shock wave.”

With smoke in the air and with cops waving, the two surfers, an older guy and a younger guy started moving.

Incredible and such an odd use of force against two surfers. So asymmetrical but it must be assumed, due the mainstream media picking up the World Surf League shenanigans on the North Shore, that the South African police believe all surfers to be Trojan horses for Covid-19 exactly like CEO Erik Logan for everyone knows the best way to get surfers out of the water is to shame them on social media.

But can you still surf on your beaches? Do police look at you more suspiciously now?

Strange days.

Listen: “I once helped make a Make-A-Wish Foundation kid’s wish come true by tomahawking down a mountain following the world’s greatest snowboarder Travis Rice!”

Then I got an Orca.

I am currently in Jackson, Wyoming and it is snowing. It has snowed much over the past week, many powders, with a crowd that has thinned incredibly since the last dump. Today, for example, it snowed and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort was basically empty and I tucked into the trees finding those powdery stashes, weightless and fast.

Snowboarding good powder is better than the best surfing, though it wasn’t always for me.

Many years ago, I had never snowboarded powder, much less good powder, but was also in Jackson, Wyoming staying with the world’s greatest snowboarder Travis Rice. You are certainly aware of him from his best-in-class films etc. and there I was because my wife is his longtime agent and friend.

In any case, a Make-A-Wish Foundation kid was coming into town. His dream was to snowboard with Travis and it was agreed upon that the two would take some runs at the resort. Travis being Travis, however, decided to up the fun and surprise the kid with a backcountry helicopter mission.

For some reason there was an extra seat and I was invited too.

Having never snowboarded powder.

The helicopter touched down after a thrilling flight, we all disembarked, Make-A-Wish kid eyes as wide as saucers, Travis benevolent, my wife itching to track the untracked. Travis went first, ripping. Make-A-Wish kid second, living a fantasy and performing remarkably. Wife next, graceful and fluid.

Then me.

Having never snowboarded powder.

Leaning forward, excited, then sinking my nose deep into that powder and tomahawking head over heels down the entire run, reaching the bottom dazed and confused with Travis laughing, Make-A-Wish kid smirking, wife frowning.

The helicopter picked us up and we did it all again on a fresh patch with the same results.

And again.

And again.

The Make-A-Wish kid now beaming.

Eventually Travis grabbed my board and said, “What are you riding?” Then blamed the board and the setup for my utterly embarrassing performance, one ending with me also dislocating my shoulder, wife now itching to get a divorce, but was still ashamed and only soothed myself knowing that I made that Make-A-Wish kid’s wish actually come true.

Imagine snowboarding with Travis Rice. No matter how good you are, you would feel like a kook. Like an abject perpetual beginner. I was able to make the Make-A-Wish kid feel basically professional or at least professional-adjacent.

Something only I could do.

Fast forward many years and, until three days ago, could only snowboard power barely below average. Travis once again grabbed my board and said, “What are you riding?”

Then handed me his new Orca.

I felt something when I caressed its rails, rubbed my hand across its waxed bottom. That sensation of understanding. The one that once, twice, maybe three times comes into every surfer’s life when touching a magic board.

The next morning, and I kid you not, I went out and performed remarkably, maybe even better than the Make-A-Wish kid, and it is all thanks to the Orca. It is wild magic and the cure for every Covid-choked lineup in every coastal town. Let them have it, for now. Get yourself and Orca* and head to the mountains where the wide open spaces are still wide open (buy here).

David Lee Scales and I discussed snowboarding today, the State of the Union and also the near-end of our World Surf League.

What replaces it?

Let’s all make a wish.

Listen here.

*I know this reads like pure advertorial but you know me better than that. I am doing you a straight favor. If you snowboard, get one. It’ll change your life. Also, a percentage of Orca sales go to the Orca Conservancy and, as you know, Orcas eat sharks.

Bon appetit.