Last Saturday night, April 23, I attended the 16th annual World Surf League's Big Wave Awards at Anaheim's Grove theater. It was an absolutely, off-the-charts amazing event.
Among the flow of nominees down the red carpet were Shane Dorian, Greg Long, Niccolo Porcella, Nic Lamb, Trevor Calrson, Andrea Moller and Keala Kennelly (who drew a reaction from the photographers similar to that of a rock star). It's mind boggling that these people, who appear to be no different than you and I, can ride waves as tall as buildings. Makes one think super-humans might really walk the earth and maybe even surf it's oceans.
Keala Kennelly and her partner Nikki DeSanto
History was made as Keala Kennelly became first woman to win the Pure Scot Barrel of the Year Award. She delivered a powerful speech underscoring exactly what fueled her determination and ultimate win:
"When I was a little girl, I didn't really want to be a little girl. Because when I was a little girl I kept getting told you can't do that because you're a girl......Women can't surf. Okay, women can surf but they can't get barreled. Women can't surf big waves. Women can't surf Pipeline. Women can't surf Teahup's. Women can't paddle Jaws. Women can't get barreled at Jaw's. So who I really, really want to thank is everybody in my life 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 doubled up on awards for the second year in a row taking both the Billibong Ride of the year and Surfline overall best performance awards. Honoring big wave legend Brock Little who died after a battle with cancer on February 18 of this year, Shane hinted at retirement from the big wave scene.
Andrea Moller won best overall women's perfomance for the year. While big wave surfing at Pe’ahi in Maui on February 11 of this year, Andrea suffered a serious injury when her hamstring tore away from the bone. During her speech, Andrea shared that one of her goals was to be able to walk up to the podium - without help - to accept the award if she won. Congrats to Andrea for reaching that goal and hopefully she'll be back on the big wave scene soon.
TAG Heuer XXL Biggest Wave Winner was Yuri Soledade. He rode a 73 foot wave. Just take a couple seconds to ponder that. Yeah. That's big.
Aaron Gold second from left
Not only did Aaron Gold win the paddle award, but he set a new record for paddling into the biggest wave ever. That's right. He paddled into a 63 foot wave without an assist from a jetski. Superhuman?
Niccolo Porcella on right
The TAG Heuer Wipeout Award went to Niccolo Porcella for getting nearly annihilated while surfing Teahupo'o, then getting sucked over the falls. Listening to Niccolo describe his thought process during the wipeout was both hilarious and chilling.
Make sure to check out worldsurfleague.com for more pictures and video/picture submissions from all the nominees photographers and videographers. You'll find info on a couple surprises for the 2016/2017 year, including the addition of a women's event.
Thanks to Bill Sharp for organizing an amazing event!
Words and photos by: Lorrie Palmos-Malley
Malia Ward and Jaqueline Miller