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Spectators cheer on Nathan Fletcher, left, and Rusty Long as they compete during a semifinal heat at the Mavericks Invitational big wave surf contest in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press

Peter Mel competes during the first heat of the Mavericks Invitational surf competition in Half Moon Bay.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Ken "Skindog" Collins watches Rusty Long lose footing during Round 1.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Karl Mondon / Contra Costa Times

Ken "Skindog" Collins catches a ride.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Alex Martins has a wave all to himself.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Peter Mel competes during the first heat. Mel won the competition.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Zach Wormhoudt stays ahead of the break.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press

Rusty Long competes during Heat 1.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

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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 its 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.

– Associated Press

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