HUNTINGTON BEACH — Santa Cruz goofy-footer John Mel turned small conditions in a huge result on Easter Sunday.
Mel, 23, secured the biggest win of his young career at the World Surf League’s Jack’s Surfboards Pro. He prevailed 11.70-11.60 in the final over San Clemente’s Cole Houshmand.
With the win in the season opener for the 2023-24 QS season, Mel earned 3,000 points and $8,000 in prize money.
“I did it!” said Mel, in a post-heat interview with WSL announcers. “It feels good. It feels really epic''Santa Cruz's John Mel is chaired up after winning the World Surf League's Jack’s Surfboards Pro on Sunday in Huntington Beach. (Andrew Nichols - World Surf League)
Mel carded an early 6.60 score in the 30-minute heat, but Houshmand countered with scoring rides of 6.00 and 5.60 in 1- to 4-foot waves.
After patiently waiting for a backup score for more than 12 minutes, Mel scored a 4.33 on a right that wasn’t enough to gain the lead. Minutes later, he jumped on a left and snapped off three aggressive turns for a 5.1 score from judges. That ride, which came with 8:30 left, held up as the winner.
“That left was right there,” Mel said. “It was a small wave, but I thought I surfed it good. I pushed as hard as I can on it, and it turned the heat. Basically, the rest of the time I was just praying there was no more waves, because I knew Houshy could get a 5.7 super easily. So I kinda got lucky with that. But I got it done.”
Mel made several references to winning the title and prize money as each round passed.
“It’s everything,” Mel said. “Starting out the year with 3,000 points, that’s huge. It’s awesome. I’m stoked. I’ve been working really, really hard for this. Last year, I wasn’t really getting the results I wanted, so it feels amazing to start this year on top.”
It was Mel’s best result since beating Levi Slawson in the final of the SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach, a QS 1,000 event, in January of ’22. Mel finished the 2022-23 QS season in 12th place with 4,081 points.
Mel thanked his on-site fans, which included his father, Pete, a member of the Surfers’ Hall of Fame, and coach Matt Myers after he was chaired up and carried up the beach to the interview station.
“We have really good waves in Santa Cruz, so we’re always trying to hunt for bad waves, so I can practice for times like these,” Mel said.
Mel rallied for a 14.00-12.77 win over Alan Cleland of Mexico with 2 minutes left in the semifinals. Mel counted wave scores of 7.67 and 6.33 to advance.
Cleland held a 12.77-12.00 lead thanks to his 7.27 ride, but Mel waited patiently for a scorable wave to materialize. When it came, he took full advantage and got off four turns.
“I kinda saw that one was a nugget and I saw that was the moment for me,” Mel said.
Mel knocked off Ryan Huckabee of Gainesville, Florida, 12.50-11.07 in the quarterfinals to open the day.
Cleland and Michael Dunphy tied for third place and earned 1,825 points. Huckabee, Crosby Colapinto, Lucca Mesinas, and Taro Watanabe tied for fifth place an earned 1,423 points.
Sawyer Lindblad beat Bella Kenworthy 16.83-10.00 in the all-San Clemente women’s final.
Jack’s Surfboards Pro
Championship: John Mel (Santa Cruz) d. Cole Houshmand (San Clemente), 11.70-11.60
Semifinals: Mel d. Alan Cleland (Mexico), 14.00-12.77
Quarterfinals: Mel d. Ryan Huckabee (Gainesville, Florida), 12.50-11.07