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The Inertia

Saturday night was a big one for big wave surfing. It was the 16th annual awards gala at Anaheim’s Grove Theater, and pretty much everyone who is everyone in big wave surfing was there on the red carpet. Shane Dorian won ride of the year and no one was surprised, except for the people that will say Albee Layer or Nathan Florence should have won, and the people that will say Dorian won because he has a Billabong sticker on his board. They will say they’re surprised, but they’re actually not. Keala Kennelly won tube of the year, and made history by becoming the first woman ever to do it, and no one was surprised or will have anything to say about it because Keala Kennelly is in a league of her own.

“When I was a little girl,” Kennelly said after she won, “I kept getting told I could not do things because I was a girl. I was told that women can’t surf, and I was told this about getting barreled, surfing big waves, surfing Pipeline, paddling in a Jaws… the list goes on. So who I really want to thank is everyone who told me you can’t do that because you’re a woman. Because that drove me to dedicate my life to proving you wrong, and it’s been so damn fun.”

Shane Dorian is, of course, on of big wave surfing’s greatest heroes. Time and time again, he’s cemented himself at the top of the big wave pyramid–but his days are numbered, and he knows it. This winter acted as a bit of a wake up call for him, and although he’s not quite ready to throw in the towel just yet, he’s aware that at some point, he’s going to have to. “When it kicked in,” he said about the incredible run of massive swells, “how hard it kicked–just, bam, bam, bam, bam, all these giant swells…and they wouldn’t stop and they wouldn’t get downgraded and they wouldn’t get windy, it was phenomenal…but it was tough leaving home every week.” Dorian then went on to tell a story about recently passed Brock Little. “Brock told me about what happened to him–about the day every big-wave surfer faces. He told me he paddled out at Waimea Bay on about a 15-18 foot day and suddenly didn’t want any part of it, and he knew that’s when he was done… that day is coming for me. I’m not there yet, but when it does come I’m not going to fight it.”

The night was full of amazing moments, none of which I saw because I am currently in Indonesia sitting beside a pool with a severely sunburned back, aching shoulders, and a bit of a hangover, which, I think, is better. But the Big Wave Awards are the culmination of an entire year of entries, and the year in question was one for the record books. More giant rides, more giant barrels, more giant wipeouts than any year in recent memories. In fact, Aaron Gold’s award winning ride broke the record for the biggest wave ever paddled into–a mind-bending 63 feet. Thank you, El Nino. You are The Boy and also the man. Here’s a breakdown of who won what:

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Billabong Ride of the Year: Shane Dorian

Paddle Award: Aaron Gold

TAG Heuer XXL Biggest Wave Award: Yuri Soledade

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Pure Scot Barrel of the Year Award: Keala Kennelly

Keala Kennelly at Teahupo'o, Tahiti. Photo: McKenna

Keala Kennelly at Teahupo’o, Tahiti. Photo: McKenna

TAG Heuer Wipeout of the Year Award: Niccolo Porcella

Surfline Men’s Overall Performance Award: Shane Dorian

Women’s Best Overall Performance Award: Andrea Moller

2015/2016 WSL BWT Champion: Greg Long (HAW)

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