The Mel family has supported the surf community since the beginning, even before surfboard shaper John Mel opened up Freeline Surf Shop on 41st Avenue in Santa Cruz. Father to Mavericks Invitational champion and ASP Big Wave World Tour Deputy Comissioner, Peter Mel, John started shaping in 1966 out of his garage. His family-owned shop has been passed down through three generations of legendary surfers, now celebrating its 45th anniversary.
Even pro surfer, John Mel Jr., helps out the family business when he’s not busy winning Surfing America competitions or getting barreled at Steamer Lane. We are honored to welcome three generations of the Mel family in the studio tonight for a special Off the Lip Radio Show.
Join us on Tuesday, July 22nd from 7-8 PM PST for Off the Lip Radio Show on KSCO 1080AM local radio, or watch live from the studio right here on TheSurfChannel.com :
Call in to ask questions from 7-8 PM PST, Tuesday nights: 1-831-479-1080
Freeline Surf Shop is celebrating its 45th year in Santa Cruz on Sunday July 27th from 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm at the surf shop on 41st Avenue. The Mel Family and their staff want to say “Thank You” to all their many loyal customers over the years with an anniversary party providing food, soft drinks, gift giveaways, games, a dance band & more.
Written by Neil Pearlberg | Santa Cruz Sentinel
Like me, the many who stroll into the surf shop get the feeling of what it must be like to walk into the Mel family home. Customers are not asked to ring the doorbell or knock on the door, but once they enter through the glass doors, it becomes apparent the F in Freeline also stands for family, friendly and fun.
When I stopped by the shop last week, three generations of Mels were in the building: John Mel, his son Peter Mel and his grandson John Mel Jr. I decided to sit down with all three and get the family perspective of Mels on Mel.
John Mel Sr. is an obviously proud and happy man who has successfully operated what he calls a “family run toy store” in an era when mom-and-pop businesses are quickly becoming a dying entity in this country.
Mel was born and raised in Torrance Beach in Southern California. He received his passion for the ocean from his fisherman father, Peter Mel Sr. It’s a passion he now shares with his son and grandson. A self-taught surfboard shaper, he got his first job with Gordon and Smith Surfboards in 1968 for $3.75 per hour.
“Thankfully, Skip Frye was there to mentor me, as I knew very little when I was hired,” Mel said. “I was so fortunate to learn from one of the true legends of surfboard shapers.”
Mel has passed his knowledge down to his son, Peter. While he still shapes boards and helps out at the shop, Peter Mel is better known as one of the world’s top watermen. A big wave surfer who has ridden some of the largest slabs ever surfed, he has finished as high as fourth at both the Maverick’s Surf Contest and the Eddie.
Apparently, he wasn’t always such a charger. Like it was yesterday, he and Mel recalled their first father-son surfing memory.
“It was a disaster, Peter was 6, and on a very low tide I took him out to Sewer Peak, and pushed him into a small wave,” the elder Mel said. “He pearled over the front of the board and got caught up in the kelp.”
To which Peter added, “The kelp had a grip on me and I freaked out, so that was it for me. I didn’t go near a surfboard for another seven years.”
Indeed, the next father-son surf outing came about during a camping trip to Big Sur when Peter was 13. There they decided to try again.
“I paddled out with Peter on a decent-size swell,” said the elder Mel. “I managed to scratch my way over the first big wave of a set, and turned to see Peter’s eyes as big saucers right before he got cleaned up by the very same wave. It was another disaster.”
Peter, who has since taught his own son, John, to surf, said he can now look back at those experiences with fondness.
“He has always been there with love, support and guidance,” Peter said of his father. “The memories of surfing with my dad, I will always cherish. Though the beginning was a little rough, we are now are able to laugh about it.”
John Mel Jr. seems to have had an easier time learning than his father. He is now an energetic and confident 10-year-old poster child for surfing. When I asked him about the biggest wave he ever caught, he looked up at the ceiling in thought, then proudly answered: “Seven feet and Sewer Peak.”
And who is his favorite surfer?
“Because he is goofy-foot like me, I have to say that Clay Marzo is the best,” the younger John said. “But, my favorite and most fun person to surf with is my dad.”
The family tree of Mels has a specific order [Peter, John, Peter, John] and includes some special talents. Here’s hoping the “F” in Freeline also stands for forever, so that future generations can enjoy all this surfing family has to offer.
Off the Lip Radio Show features legendary surfers and skateboarders in their Santa Cruz, California studio. You can listen in on KSCO 1080AM radio in the Bay Area every Tuesday evening starting from 7PM PST. Now, you can watch the YouTube Live stream from inside the studio right here on TheSurfChannel.com!