El Nino leads to mega rides
IT’S BEEN called one of the best big-wave seasons of all time, together with the most intense El Nino weather system since the late 90s, making the WSL Big Wave Awards for the 2015/16 season one of the greatest.
Colossal waves have challenged the rare breed of psycho surfers from around the world who live for the thrill of conquering and pushing the limits of big- wave surfing.
The rides in this year’s nominations span across world-renowned breaks, from heavy barrels at Teahupoo, Tahiti to monstrous waves at Jaws, Maui. The 2016 nominees demonstrated outstanding performances across a diverse assortment of award categories.
Short-listed surfers include 2015/16 Big Wave tour champion Greg Long, and past Big Wave award recipients Shane Dorian, Mark Healey and Keala Kennelly.
Kennelly, who received the overall women’s performance award in 2014, is the first female to be nominated for an Open gender category. The nominations also include up-and-comers Nathan Florence and Albee Layer.
“There was a lot of hype around El Niño this year, and as far as the big-wave community is concerned, it delivered and then some,” said Bill Sharp, event director of the Big Wave Awards.
“Not only were there extraordinary episodes of historically large surf, this time around the best surfers were able to handle it as it came and the results speak for themselves. I think anyone who’s been watching thinks there is a big chance records will be set when the results are in.
“This is an historic day for women’s surfing as it’s the first time a female has been nominated for a unisex Big Wave Award category with Keala Kennelly’s historic tube at Teahupoo.
“This has nothing to do with affirmative action or special divisions, she is nominated for the 2016 Pure Scot Barrel of the Year Award because she simply pulled into one of the heaviest waves ever seen. Just look at the photos and no further explanation is required.”
The WSL Big Wave Awards competition window ran from March 21, 2015 through to March 15, 2016. Every wave ridden at every big-wave break around the world in this period was eligible for consideration across seven categories.
A panel of judges chose the five best rides in each of the categories based on photographic and video evidence.
This year’s event features over $250,000 in total prize money to be allotted across the categories.
The Billabong Ride of the Year is awarded to the surfer who demonstrates the most advanced and committed level of big-wave surfing during a successful ride, as judged from video-footage.
While raw size is taken into consideration, it is ultimately the level of performance that is rewarded. The category carries the biggest prize of the Big Wave Awards with $60,000 for the winner, $15,000 for second place, $10,000 for third, $5,000 for fourth and $3,000 for fifth place.
Only two Australians have been nominated, with Mick Corbett from Perth, WA up for Biggest Wave award at Nazare, Portugal and Maroubra’s Mark Mathews for Barrel of the Year Award for his wave at The Right, West Australia.
The winners will be revealed at the invitation-only Big Wave Awards on Saturday, April 23 at the Grove Theatre in Anaheim, California.