Santa Cruz big wave surfer Peter Mel, 52, was inducted into the Surfers’ Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach on Friday.
Surrounded by family at Huntington Surf and Sport, Mel was part of a 2022 induction class that included surf explorer Martin Daly and Sugar Shack Cafe owner Michele Turner.
Mel, a broadcaster for the World Surf League who has given decades of his life to the sport, gave an unscripted speech, but his words that will forever be remembered were etched into wet cement, alongside his signature, induction date and imprints of his hands and feet.
“Presence is a gift,” he wrote.
Mel, who is 6-foot-2 and nicknamed “The Condor” for his wingspan while dropping in on monster waves, made his presence felt anywhere the surf was pumping.
Among his many accomplishments, he was barreled by 40- to 45-foot giant a Mavericks on Jan. 8, 2021, and was awarded the 2021 Red Bull Big Wave Ride of the Year in October. His son, John, a competitor on the WSL, was on hand to witness the ride of his father’s life. Video of his epic ride has garnered more than 925,000 views on youtube. That ride helped secure his induction, said Aaron Pai, founder of Surfers’ Hall of Fame.
“Thousands and thousands of surfers and non-surfers alike saw Peter take off on that wave,” Pai said. “He inspired the world on that wave, when everyone was down during the COVID crisis. He really had an impact on the world on that wave. He really is an inspiration to so many generations of surfers and non-surfers.”
Mel also won the O’Neill Coldwater Classic in 1997, Billabong Pico Alto Copa Burn in 2011, Big Wave World Tour title for 2011-12, and Mavericks Invitational in 2013. He has appeared in several surf movies.
After stepping down from competitive surfing in 2013, Mel served as the WSL’s first BWWT commissioner for the inaugural 2014–2015 season.
It’s the second time Mel has been inducted into a Hall of Fame. He joined the Aptos High Sport Hall of Fame in 2013. He graduated in ’87.
Mel’s father, John, was a surfboard shaper who founded Freeline Surf Shop on 41st Avenue, which Mel now runs. Mel grew up in the shop, as well as the ocean, but not immediately on the latter. His father pushed him into a wave at Pleasure Point when he was 6. It was a “frightening” experience for Mel, who didn’t attempt another ride until he was 10 or 11.
In the years that followed, Mel became comfortable in the ocean and frighteningly good. He credited surfers Vince Collier and Richard Schmidt for being inspirational figures.