The 2015 Big Wave Awards was a night to remember. When you’re recapping an entire year of the most insane rides in surfing, it’s bound to be memorable, to say the least. From Matahi’s impossible barrel and Paige’s ground-breaking Jaws wave to Shane Dorian’s as-always breath-taking antics, the audience at The Grove in Anaheim was awe-struck.
Tube Winner: Matahi Drollet at Teahupo’o
The crowd at The Grove went bonkers when Drollet was announced the winner of this award. But even with The Grove jam packed and a thousand or so people drunkenly screaming for the 17-year old, XXL Award fans couldn’t match the cheers from the lineup that day. Watch the video and just listen to how crazy everyone on hand goes, from a growing collection of hoots, building into a flat out roar, all without any of us breathing until we know the kid made it. Of course, then it’s time to scream even louder. Drollet was flung into the wave of the day and the barrel of the year with all the world watching, literally, as the crew for Point Break was on hand to film their own madness at Chopes. I highly doubt Bodhi and Johnny Utah will be night surfing anything like this though.
Women’s Overall Performance: Paige Alms
First woman to ever get barreled at Jaws. Mic drop.
It could simply be left at that, but it still wouldn’t do her and the big wave surfing community justice. In one wave, Paige handed every generation behind her a reminder of what’s possible, and how far we can still go. Look around the lineup next time you’re out. How many women are paddling next to you? Chances are good that there are more men than women, which explains why Alms’ accomplishment was a first in the surf world. Also, when you’re looking around that lineup, imagine it’s a massive winter swell, you’re at Jaws, and a really tall blonde is hucking herself over ledge on everything that comes through. Kudos, Paige!
Wipeout of the Year – Benjamin Sanchis at Nazare
Benjamin Sanchis was eaten at Nazare. Literally. You know those waves that just have it in for you? It’s the wave of the day and you know it from the moment you see the thing steamrolling in from the horizon. But this wave doesn’t like you. A phantom chop, the lip throws unexpectedly or bottom drops out. Whatever the explanation, it’s no fault of your own… it just wasn’t meant to be. But the most painful part of it all isn’t the beating you took in the process. Not the hold down or the tumbling underwater. It’s the limitless potential, the what ifs and what could have beens that haunt your dreams forever. Now multiply that by the 70 ft+ ballpark and your name might be Benjamin Sanchis.
Sanchis received plenty of hoots every time video of this wave popped up on the screens at The Grove. Everybody knew what they were seeing–the wave that could have been the biggest ever ridden. And I’ll bet that’s the worst part of the whole wipeout.
Biggest Wave Award: Sebastian Steudtner at Nazare
Nazare was possibly the only star with its name called more than Shane Dorian at the WSL Big Wave Awards. Three of the Biggest Wave nominees rolled through Portugal on December 11, 2014, including Benjamin Sanchis–who might have been the winner of this award without the wipeout. This is one of the many beauties of surfing. Of all those waves, all those people in the lineup, all the variables that came together to make this ride, Sebastian Steudtner was in the right place at the right time. And did he ever take advantage of that opportunity. A combination of some seriously good karma and a freakish set of talents to pull from. Cheers, Sebastian!
Surfline Overall Performance: Shane Dorian
Shane Dorian had to fight off some heavy competition to be named the Overall Performance Winner. Albee Layer was a crowd favorite that night, and Makua Rothman is the reigning WSL Big Wave World Champion as well as winner of the tour’s first stop of 2015. But still, Dorian prevailed. Two of his waves alone were nominated for Ride of the Year. One at Jaws and another at Puerto Escondido. He charged everywhere, all year long. Perhaps it was a hangover from all the nominations Dorian racked up for the 2014 XXL Awards? Who knows? Truth is, he could have won the Overall Performance honor on his Puerto air drop alone if you ask me.
Paddle Award: Jamie Mitchell at Maverick’s
We all know it. Paddling is where it’s at. This is the heartbeat of it all, and even if it doesn’t get you into the biggest and meanest waves like being sling-shotted in on a tow board does, it certainly takes a bigger pair you-know-whats for those arms to get you over the ledge of a Northern Californian freight train. And Jamie Mitchell had one hell of a day at Mavs to get this award. He took a beating on what was already a choppy ride, then landed in both a paddle nomination and wipeout nomination. Not too shabby on just three hours sleep and waking up at 5:30 am. Mitchell earned this one.
Ride of the Year: Shane Dorian at Puerto Escondido
This is just flat out psychotic. On the crazy scale, Dorian’s Puerto air drop into the tube capped off by triumphantly being spat out of that freeway tunnel disguised as a barrel rates an eleven. I thought Brad Domke would take the honor sheerly on the “Wtf-ness” of his towing into the same angry wave on a skim board, but Shane’s ride prevailed. And rightfully so. We’ve been watching Shane Dorian dominate the big wave world for ages now and he clearly hasn’t lost a step. When asked in jest before that ceremony who could take the award for “Kook of the Year”, Shane laughed and said “Me!”, pointing out the waves and the opportunities he missed through the year. Not this one though.
Let me recap: first, there’s the air drop. Then the board bucks sideways as if to say “trust me, bro you don’t want any of this.” Dorian doesn’t listen, sticks it and sets his line so that monster can dump buckets upon buckets, nay WALLS of water, over his head creating a vacuum of angry ocean that eventually gets so sick of his shenanigans that it physically pushes him out of the way…with spit. Dirty. So, so dirty.