Yet another year of big wave riding has been completed, with the 2014/2015 season being one for the books. The XXL Big Wave Awards were held Friday, May 1st, 2015 at the Grove in Anaheim.
Set on the eve of a beautiful swell amassing in Puerto Escondido and the entire western Americas, and just one day after the thrilling end to the Quiksilver Ceremonial, the Big Wave Awards were a commemoration of current, and past, great big wave surfers.
The night perfectly highlighted just how far big wave surfing has come, with athletes in attendance from all over the world, riding mean waves only a few dare to drop in on.
As surfers, family, and friends began trickling in to get their photo snapped on the red carpet, it was apparent from groms to legends that the big wave surfing community is tight knit, and a family in itself.
Starting things off on a high was Makuakai Rothman, who so humbly accepted his World Champ trophy and WSL Big Wave Tour title on site via live stream from Chile. The Hawaiian was fresh off his victory at the Quiksilver Ceremonial Chile, in Punta de Lobos, though the live streaming made the moment even more magical to share. All in attendance gave a hand for the newly crowned champ, who couldn’t be happier, with his sites already set on next year’s title.
Next up was ‘Tube of the Year’, which is one of the more awe inspiring sides to surfing heaven, and perfection. Of the nominees, it was 17-year-old Matahi Drollet who got the nod, riding his ‘Tube of the Year’ winning wave at just 16 in Teahupo’o, Tahiti, on September 11, 2014. Photographer Tim McKenna captured the moment of the golden barrel for us all to cherish. It is clear with the way the room erupted that we all see a bright future ahead for the young, but accomplished, Drollet.
Following the Tube of the Year winner were the ‘Women’s Best Performance’ nominees. With female big wave pioneers known as the ‘California Golden Girls’ presenting, Paige Alms took home the win, with an even more touching acceptance speech. Alms was visibly overjoyed, touching on those who have helped her charge her way to the top, and to health after an injury in Mexico.
For most everyone who charges big waves, they know it comes at a cost. The nominees for ‘Wipeout of the Year’ were all so brutal, but in the end it was Benjamin Sanchis at merciless Nazaré, Portugal on December 11, 2014. Video of the beating was courtesy of Michael Darrigade, whom we are all in debt to for capturing the massive monster.
Fittingly, the Big Wave Awards wouldn’t exist without crowning the XXL Biggest Wave of the Year winner. With all the nominees having successfully surfed their way to recognition, it was Sebastian Steudtner who came out victorious with his 71 ft bomb at Nazaré, Portugal on December 11, 2014. Photographer Mike Jones got the well deserved credit, in a sea of other video and photo submissions of the wave.
The next award that came to no surprise to anyone was the ‘Surfline Overall Performance’ winner, Shane Dorian. Dorian is a living legend, who continues to push the limits of big wave surfing even by today’s standards, which are beginning to become more and more insane.
True to the roots of surfing, and its rigor, the nominees for ‘Paddle of the Year’ were stacked. However, it was Jamie Mitchell’s monster at Maverick’s, California on December 20, 2014 that was victorious. Photographer Fred Pompermayer captured the moment of the beastly wave Mitchell was able to paddle into, making us all believe in the power and capabilities of the human body to accomplish such a feat.
Lastly, the much anticipated ‘Ride of the Year’ category had everyone on edge. With so many incredible rides, including a crazy, one-of-a-kind skimboard ride by Brad Domke, it was Shane Dorian’s drop of the year at Puerto Escondido, Mexico on July 5, 2014 that took the cake. 2014/2015 was clearly Dorian’s year, as he proved that big wave surfing can only get better with time.
The XXL Big Wave Awards also had excellent speeches from both of the ‘Gregs’ in big wave surfing: the legendary Greg Noll, and Greg Long. In addition to the rounds of applause, and reactions to incredible big wave surfing clips, the big wave community also paid special tribute to a fallen, but not forgotten surfer, Ricardo Dos Santos.
Glasses were raised, and the spirit of surfing was alive, in yet another evening celebrating some of the world’s most prestigious athletes, photographers, and ocean lovers alike.
A huge congratulations to each and every nominee, winner, and big wave charger out there, from those of us at The Surf Channel!