Interview by Craig Jarvis
Fact: Pete Mel has one of the best jobs in surfing. His passport shares stamps with the world’s best surfers and he extracts details from them in their most jubilant or devastated moments. Part of the new ASP’s game, regardless of Stab’s fabulously unsubstantiated but uncomfortably accurate speculation lately, has been to deliver our sport the most excellent coverage its seen in, uh, ever. A shiny wooden desk at every stop is wonderful, but our favourite thing? Consistency! No breaks in broadcast! And you missed the last heat? It’s already in heats on demand! Wanna know what Kelly’s riding? Wait for the cut away to Pete Mel in the competitor’s area! And there’s Pete, gripping the mic, composed, dignified, tall, telling you what you wanna know, and doing so with the virtue of legitimacy, and experience. Because Pete is a big wave king.
He’s the Big Wave World Tour Commissioner. He wins big wave events. And when Chopes is thumping and Kelly Slater and John John Florence are waiting to see who’ll be a finalist, Pete’s sitting in-between them steering the conversation, injecting just a little more excitement into an already-intense moment.
Stab infiltrated Pete’s Ari Gold-type cellphone setup (multiple lines, bat phone and all), for a tutorial in what he’s learned as our favourite ASP World Tour Commentator…
1. I haven’t had any formal training as such. I got my lucky start when webcasts first came to surfing. It just happened by chance. I was able to get to a WCT level courtesy of Mark Warren, as he helped produce all the Quiksilver Pro events at the time. He was pretty cool in kind of extracting my ability. I realised that I liked commentating, so I started watching other sports and adopting traits from broadcasters that I thought were good.
2. The most bizarre place I’ve reported live from is… well, I don’t know if it’s bizarre, but the reporting from the channel during the Billabong Pro Tahiti was a real treat. It wasn’t the first time reporting from the water, but it was definitely the most fun.
3. I wouldn’t say I have ever been scared, but I guess there was a point during the Tahiti event that I was a bit concerned, for want of a better word. All of the broadcast boats were tied up, but all the others were jockeying around for the best view. When the sets would come, our boats wouldn’t move and everyone else’s would just smash around. With all the people swimming, paddling and floating around, there were a couple of close calls.
4. The most thrilling interview I’ve done was in Tahiti. The John John and Kelly interview after their semi final in Tahiti was really exciting. We were all together, waiting for the score to come in, and I could feel the tension. They both wanted to win that heat. We all knew it was one of the greatest heats of all time, so to sit in between them and try and keep a cohesive conversation was a thrill.
5. I do get nervous. But, it has become a lot easier as I’ve grown closer friends with the athletes. I’ve always had a relationship with the surfers, but now can I call a lot of them friends.
6. I definitely stop and consider the invisible audience. All the time. I’m an avid fan of sport and especially surfing. I sit back and try to bring to the audience something that I would like to know. Whether it be about equipment or a strategy or something similar. I always try and bring something new to every event, which can get pretty difficult to do.
7. When trolls say nasty things about me online… Well, for one I am guilty of reading the blogs. It obviously doesn’t feel very nice to be on the receiving end of nastiness, but there’s usually some truth to the nastiness. I just try to learn and grow from it.
8. There’s no worst to this job. I’m grateful, man. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to travel the world and learn from the best. Every one of the athletes and staff on tour has something to offer. I just soak it all in.
9. The best thing about the job would be the ability to share the surf with the best surfers in the world and to travel around the globe. The waves don’t hurt much either.
10. Finding enough time to chase big waves can be tough at times. I’ve recently missed a few good swells near my home at Mavericks. Missing those sessions do hurt, but I did recently get top surf a spot in Portugal called Papoa. It was new to me, and I love being able to surf a new break. It’s the ultimate challenge to catch a big one at a new spot. So it’s a trade off.
11. Live commentary in the near future? That would definitely be more angles, and better quality. We’re just starting.
Like we said… legit: