Veteran big wave rider Peter Mel captured the 2013 Mavericks Invitational surf contest in Northern California Sunday.
After eight contests and 14 years of trying, Mel, a 43-year-old Santa Cruz native, outlasted a lineup of 23 other elite surfers to take home his first Mavericks crown.
"I've been surfing mavericks for 25 years," Mel said after he left the awards stage. "It's a relief (to win) more than anything else."
Zach Wormhoudt, another Santa Cruz surfer who has competed at Mav's since the beginning, took second, followed by Greg Long, Alex Martins, Hawaiian Mark Healey and contest rookie Shawn Dollar.
Eleven-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater was initially scheduled to surf in the event but pulled out at the last minute after a reported conflict with another pro tour association.
The six who reached the final -- all of whom are American except for Martins, who is from Brazil -- split the $50,000 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," said Mel, who was named the Big Wave World Champion for the 2011-12 season. "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."
Mavericks is one of the most dangerous surf spots in the world, with waves routinely cresting at over 25 feet and topping out at over 80 feet.
The Mav's has earned a nasty reputation after Mark Foo, a legendary big-wave surfer from Hawaii died while surfing the break in 1994.