Big wave surfers are a breed apart, charging into the open sea to ride slabs of water several stories high. This past El Nino season provided idyllic conditions for the sport, resulting in some of the most insanely large rides caught on footage – rides that deserved recognition, and got it.
Last April 30, the best of the big-wave community converged to reward seven of their number for their skill and daring. The Paseo Hotel in Huntington Beach was the venue of the 2017 WSL Big Wave Awards, where bragging rights and $350,000 in prize money were dispensed to the winners of seven categories.
Billy Kemper’s passion and ability for riding big waves got him nominated thrice before. This year, he walked away with “Ride of the Year” award for catching a huge barrel at Peahi last November 11.
“Biggest Wave” award went to Francisco Porcella. He rode a 73-foot monster in February 2017 at the memorable Nazare swell event. The connection he felt with Mother Nature and the energy of the moment was a blessing, he said.
Most surf fans don’t know Ben Andrews. He’s a familiar face however at Mavericks, and one to watch when the waves get big. Last November, he caught an awe-inspiring swell that got him “Biggest Paddle” at this year’s Big Wave Awards.
The Right is a much-respected and feared wave, with good reason. Shanan Worall navigated the gargantuan barrel with finesse, earning him “Best Tube” at the awards. He modestly put it down to a lucky photo, saying everyone got good waves that day.
The dubious award of “Best Wipeout” went to Wilem Banks for an ugly spill at Mavericks. It was not a position he hoped to be in again, the surfer expressed at the event.
Jamie Mitchell is a multi-talented athlete, excelling at many water sports besides surfing. It was his big-wave prowess however that got him awarded “Men’s Overall Performance” that night.
Paige Alms was in disbelief even as she accepted the award for “Women’s Best Overall Performance.” Alms is a seasoned athlete, surfing big waves since her teens. She dedicated her win to all the women who inspired her to do her best.
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