HALF MOON BAY — Mother Nature saved the best for last, with some of the largest swells of the day arriving during the final heat of Sunday's Mavericks Invitational big wave surfing contest as thousands of spectators invaded a quaint coastal town known more for its annual pumpkin festival than for surf.
The waves weren't the largest ever seen at the famed Northern California Mavericks surf break a half-mile offshore of Half Moon Bay — the biggest faces reached 25 to 30 feet — but surfing fans still got their fill of steep drops, wipeouts and powerful, booming surf.
In the end, Peter Mel, of Santa Cruz, took home the crown. He decided to split the $50,000 pot with his six competitors, a symbol of good faith that has become a Mavericks Invitational tradition.
"We as a brotherhood decided to split the money," Mel said, saying the group agreed to the split upon paddling out for the last heat.
"When you start a final like that, it takes the pressure off ... and that's when the waves started to come too," he said.