“Condor” as his friends refer to him, Peter Mel has won the Billabong Pico Alto: Copa Burn in Peru to become the current leader on the Big Wave World Tour.
By Danny Keith
Santa Cruz big wave surfer Peter Mel got the call on the last day of the U.S. Open in Huntington last week, but it was no surprise to the legendary waterman: he had already been watching the buoys.
The surf was up, big time in Peru, where the next stage of a new and intense big wave surf contest was about to unfold.
Like the TV show The Great Race, getting to the biggest waves on earth is part of the challenge.
He flew out on Wednesday August 10 at 2 a.m. and arrived in Peru at 5 p.m. – the night before the contest. Pete knew the surf was going to be in the 40-50 foot range for the second stop on the five stop Big Wave World Tour.
As big wave surfing continues to mature, the Big Wave World Tour is the latest highlight. The brainchild of San Diego surfboard maker and world traveler, Gary Linden, the two-year-old contest is made up of 24 big wave surfers with 12 international invitees and 12 regional invitees.
Within 48-72 hours after getting called, the selected surfers must travel to the location of the event and be prepared to paddle out.
“The biggest hurdle is support throughout and getting an event to happen,” said Peter, 41, by phone. “With most surf contests the dates are set and it happens unless the waves go dead flat. When you are putting The Big Wave World Tour together and need to get it done and get it done right in two or three days, it can get interesting.”
His most important concerns are safety, getting the contest broadcast around the world and having experienced judges who can gauge what is going on as mountainous waves throw surfers around like fleas on a dog.
Mel placed 11th after the first stop in Chile and going into Pico Alto Peru, he was focused on picking off the biggest waves he could.
Unlike other contests, the BWWT is judged on the height of the waves as well as the quality of the surfing with a complex formula that places significant emphasis on catching the biggest wave possible and riding it with panache.
The five stops are:
Punta de Lobos – Chile- Quiksilver Ceremonial Punta de Lobos (completed 5/28/2011)
Pico Alto – Peru – Billabong Pico Alto: Copa Burn presented by Sony (completed 8/11/2011)
Nelscott Reef, Oregon -USA- Nelscott Reef Big Wave Classic
Mavericks, Half Moon Bay, California -USA- (T.B.A.)
“Killers”, Todos Santos, Ensenada–Mexico –The Peligroso at Todos Santos 2011 window 01/03 to 2/28
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