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Peter Mel won the invitation-only professional surfing contest known as Mavericks, which returned to California yesterday with waves up to 30 feet after a three- year wait for the right weather conditions.
Mel, 43, finished atop a field of 24 surfers competing off the Pacific coast near Half Moon Bay, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of San Francisco.
Zach Wormhoudt finished second, followed by Greg Long, Alex Martins, Mark Healey and Shawn Dollar. The six who reached the final -- all of whom are American except for Martins, who is from Brazil -- split the prize money evenly, Mel told the crowd during the award ceremony.
“We do the mutual thing where as a brotherhood we kind of split the cash, so we’re all sharing the money,” Mel said, without disclosing the amount each received. “That’s how we do it. When you start a final like that, it kind of takes the pressure off. Usually when you do that too, the waves come and that’s kind of what happened.”
Mel, from Santa Cruz, California, is “one of the most respected big-wave surfers of the modern era,” according to the Mavericks International website.
The competition, held intermittently since 1999, is billed as the Super Bowl of big-wave surfing. Each year during the contest season, November through March, chosen surfers from California to South Africa wait for notice of the competition, which can come as little as 24 hours in advance.
Mavericks is famed for producing the biggest surfable waves in the U.S. outside of Hawaii. The surf break is due to the presence of a reef, according to a seafloor study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
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