Last Night At The WSL Big Wave Awards
Sometimes the kindest are the most psychotic.
They say nice guys finish last. But at the 2017 WSL Big Wave Awards the nice guys (and girls) won everything.
“This is dedicated to my wife and my little baby daughter at home,” said Jamie Mitchell, who won the Overall Performance Award. Over the course of the 2016/17 big-wave season, Mitchell’s consistently referred to the strength his young family provides. And when ping-ponging around the world chasing swells, he’s the first to cop to the guilt he feels for being away from home for so much.
“I really want to thank all the water patrols because I really love coming home to my family and we do some crazy stuff out there,” he surmised.
Or take Bill Kemper, who won the Ride of the Year award. Winning back-to-back contests at Jaws, it was one of the waves he rode in the heat of battle last January that earned him his first Big Wave Award. Like Mitchell, he thanked his “beautiful fiancé” for the support and “giving me an amazing life with our children.” Kemper’s also in the midst of a fundraising campaign to help his sick mother battle cancer.
“This is all passion…This is for my mom,” he said.
Another jewel, Paige Alms took the Women’s Best Performance Award. Talk about all passion, the girl gets minimal sponsor support even though she’s one of the most visible big-wave surfers in the world, she covers her pursuits out of pocket. There’s something to be said for being self-funded. And it wasn’t like this was the first time Alms was nominated. She’s been in the running since 2012. That’s grit and determination right there.
“A huge shout-out to all the women that inspire me to do my best and continue to push the level of women’s surfing and to be a better person, friend and athlete,” she said.
Down the list, every winner on Saturday night was top notch. Italian, Francisco Porcella won the XXL Biggest Wave Award for surviving Nazaré. He thanked his family and the surf spot itself.
“It is a blessing to be connected with mother nature that way,” he pontificated from the podium.
While Nazaré did kind of steal the show this year, especially after El Niño juicing the Pacific last year, everybody’s favourite Half Moon Bay hell pit wasn’t without representation. When it comes to surfing—and surviving—Maverick’s local knowledge is a tremendous asset. San Francisco’s Ben Andrews has the area’s waters on lock. The man holds a U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariners Captain’s License as well as a degree Ecology and Systematic Biology. He was fishing Bay Area when he was still in high school. It’s fitting that a man like that would paddle into the biggest wave of the year.
Meanwhile, 18-year-old Santa Cruz ankle biter, Wilem Banks, was applauded for being the most beatdown in 2017. Winning the Wipeout of the Year award for his XX flogging, things can only go up for the grom.
It’s always epic to see the underground guy that nobody’s heard of win something like Tube of the Year. There’s sweet justice in that. Tip of the cap to Shanan Worrall for surviving a cavernous death cylinder at The Right.
The 2016/17 big-wave season wasn’t an epic, record-breaking year. Indeed, some giant waves were ridden, but coming off of the historic El Niño run, maybe we’ve gotten a little desensitised to the violence of riding giants. One thing we haven’t gotten tired of is a good human interest story, and across the board, all of the winners at the Big Wave Awards are proof that nice guys and girls do, on occasion, get to come in first.
Billabong Ride of the Year: Billy Kemper
Videographer: Etienne Aurelius
Paddle Award: Ben Andrews
Photographer: Fred Pompermayer
TAG Heuer XXL Biggest Wave Award: Francisco Porcella
Photographer: Bruno Aleixo
Tube of the Year Award: Shanan Worrall
Photographer: Jamie Scott
TAG Heuer Wipeout of the Year Award: Wilem Banks
Videographer: Curt Myers
Surfline Men’s Overall Performance Award: Jamie Mitchell
Women’s Best Overall Performance Award: Paige Alms
2016/2017 WSL Men’s BWT Champion: Grant Baker
2016/2017 WSL Big Wave Women’s Champion: Paige Alms
Stab Surfer of the Year: John John Florence, Italo Ferreira, Balaram Stack, Rolo Montes, and Shaun Manners
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