Stab Magazine | Last Night At The WSL Big Wave Awards

And The Winners Of The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Are... Watch The Pick-Up Episode 5, Presented by Vans, To Find Out


Last Night At The WSL Big Wave Awards

Sometimes the kindest are the most psychotic. 

news // May 1, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

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.  

The Winners: 
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


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

Stab Surfer of the Year: John John Florence, Italo Ferreira, Balaram Stack, Rolo Montes, and Shaun Manners

Day 9: "You can't do better than his year last year." - John John Florence

Jan 28, 2023

Full Moon Surfs, Impassable Puddles, And A Few Nights Spent Sleeping In A WSL Commentary Booth

A reader-submitted collection of nonconformist surf stories.

Jan 27, 2023

Carissa Moore And Finn McGill Are Your 2023 Vans Triple Crown Of Surfing Champions 

They both pocket $50k and tickets to this year’s Vans Pipe Masters.

Jan 27, 2023


The Pick-Up, Presented By Vans, Episode 5

Mason Ho helps us ring in our final week on the North Shore.

Jan 27, 2023

Goofyfoot Brazilian World Champion Stars In Stab’s Biggest Board-Testing Franchise

Can you guess who?

Jan 26, 2023

Surf Community Rallies To Raise Funds For Eddie Winner And On-Duty Hawaiian Lifeguard Luke Shepardson

Because it's the right thing to do, of course.

Jan 26, 2023

Interview: Caity Simmers On Machete Wars, Rihanna, Personal Project Problems, And The Rise Of Female Surf Content. 

A toast to ‘Toasted.’

Jan 25, 2023

Stab Surfer of the Year: Creed McTaggart, Albee Layer, Laura Enever, Dane Guduaskas, and Selema Masekela

Day 8: "65 years young and charging just as hard as ever at Pipe, Backdoor,…

Jan 25, 2023

“I’m Not A Big Wave Guy”

How Kai Paula accidentally made his mark at Jaws three weeks after surfing it for…

Jan 24, 2023

Everyone Went.

A toes in the sand, phone in the lagoon account of the 10th Eddie Aikau…

Jan 24, 2023

Breaking: Another CT Rookie Injured Before First Event

Sophie McCulloch pulls out of Pipeline due to Snapper Rocks snafu.

Jan 23, 2023


Watch: ‘Toasted,’ By Caity Simmers

Your favorite surfer directs, edits, and stars in her first feature film. 

Jan 23, 2023

On-Duty North Shore Lifeguard Luke Shepardson Wins The Eddie Aikau

Local man prevails over 39 big-wave heavyweights at 29ft @ 19 seconds Waimea.

Jan 23, 2023

The Eddie Aikau Invitational Is On

Grab a beverage and enjoy surfing's Super Bowl Sunday

Jan 22, 2023

The Women’s CT Is About To See A Generational Shift 

Only three women have won a Title in the past 15 years. Here's why that's…

Jan 22, 2023


“One For Marcio” – Albee Layer’s Tribute To Mad Dog

Imagine treating 30ft Jaws like Backdoor.

Jan 22, 2023

Stab Surfer of the Year: Noa Deane, Jamie O’Brien, Parker Coffin, Cliff Kapono, and Brendan Buckley

Day 7: "It's like he feels more comfortable when it’s as gnarly as it gets."…

Jan 21, 2023

Five Reasons Why The Eddie Still Matters

With better waves around the world and likely no prize money, why is The Eddie…

Jan 20, 2023