Santa Cruz's Peter Mel finally won at his home break Sunday, taking the Mavericks Invitational big-wave surf event held on a balmy winter's day just north of Half Moon Bay.

Mel, 43, won for the first time after competing in all eight of the contests since the debut in 1999. He is one of the famed big-wave riders to help out the Bay Area on the surfing map.

"Mavericks has been really good to me for many, many years," he said of surfing there. "It was nice to have that feeling again."

Fellow Santa Cruz veteran Zach Wormhoudt took second while Santa Cruz rookie Shawn Dollar was sixth.

Mel surfed strong in smaller-than-hoped waves that dissipated before reaching the Northern California coastline over the weekend.

"I was a little reluctant with the conditions, because we don't want it to be an event where there are no waves being ridden," Mel said. "But when they came they were awesome."

Surfers estimated the biggest sets offered faces up to 25 feet high. The contest didn't happen the previous two years because of wave conditions and sponsorship issues.

"Sometimes you're going to have it when it is absolutely perfect, sometimes you're going to have it when it's really consistent and sometimes when it's raining, that's the way it is," Mel said.

Because the waves didn't reach massive heights, the contestants had to try to maneuver on the waves instead of simply surviving the steep drops.

"It wasn't massive, so you needed to do special things," Mel said.


Advertisement

Organizers said 14,000 fans attended a festival in a parking lot in Princeton-by-the-Sea to watch the event on a big screen. Government officials closed the viewing area at Pillar Point because of safety and environmental concerns.

Justin Wilkenfeld of lead sponsor GoPro acknowledged the event suffered from logistical glitches that he promised will be improved in the coming years.

But he and Jeff Clark, the contest director, emphasized the positive. The event wasn't held the past two years because of less-than-satisfactory conditions and changes in sponsorship, they noted. GoPro, a San Mateo video camera company, signed on to revive the event.

College football

Aaron Cochran, a massive offensive-tackle prospect, has orally committed to Cal.

Cochran is from Buhach Colony in Atwater and is listed at 6-foot-8, 350 pounds. He is rated as a three-star prospect by Scout.com and Rivals.com. He chose Cal over Oklahoma and also had offers from Nebraska and Arizona.

Cochran's older brother Matt will compete for Cal's starting center position this spring.

Cal also got a commitment from Jack Austin, a 6-3, 205-pound wide receiver, who originally planned to attend Boise State.

Austin, from Chino Hills High, flipped to Cal after a weekend campus visit, according to Scout.com, which rates him as a three-star prospect.

Austin is the fourth wide receiver expected to sign with new coach Sonny Dykes' program on Feb. 6.

College basketball

Cal junior Gennifer Brandon was named the espnW national player of the week and the Pac-12 player of the week.

Brandon had 23 points and a school-record 26 rebounds in a victory over USC and followed it up with 12 points and 14 rebounds in Cal's win over UCLA.

  • Santa Clara senior guard Kevin Foster was named West Coast Conference player of the week after averaging 27.5 points per game in road wins at USF and Pepperdine last week.

    Foster shot 62.5 percent (20 of 32) from the field and 57.1 percent on 3-pointers (12 of 21).

    College gymnastics

    Junior Amanda Spinner recorded her career-best score on the balance beam (9.925), but Stanford fell to Georgia 197-195.4 in Athens, Ga.

    "Amanda was lights out on the beam, she had a really great day," coach Kristen Smyth said. "She is definitely a rock for us and performed a great routine."

    Staff writer Jeff Faraudo and Bay Area News Group staff contributed to this report.