Kelly Slater, Stephanie Gilmore, and Dear Suburbia took home top honors tonight at the 42nd annual SURFER Poll Awards. For the third year running, the best surfers, filmmakers, and who's who of the surf world converged on Turtle Bay on the North Shore of Oahu for the Biggest Night is Surfing, where awards were presented to the top surfers, as voted by fans, as well as the best movies and performances of the year.
A veteran of the Poll, this year marked Kelly Slater’s 18th SURFER Poll No. 1 Award. He first took the honor in 1993 when he was just 21 years old.
“Obviously I’m stoked, it’s been a long time with a lot of support from a lot of people,” said Slater. “It’s definitely nice to be recognized by the surfing community and to come out at the top position. I’m surprised John John didn’t get first. I also thought Dane was going to get it this year—maybe next year. I think they split each other’s votes. They stole the election from each other.”
This year saw two first-time additions to the Top 10. John John Florence, who in 2011 won the AI Breakthrough Performer Award, leapt into second position on the list just behind Slater. Also making his SURFER Poll debut this year, Gabriel Medina became the first Brazilian to break the Top 10 on the coveted Poll. He also secured the distinguished AI Breakthrough Performer Presented by New Era award for 2012.
On the Women’s side of the Poll, the Top 5 from 2011 all remained on the list, with Alana Blanchard jumping up into the second position behind Stephanie Gilmore, who reclaimed the top spot for her third SURFER Poll victory.
"I am very excited about this year," said Gilmore. "I was a little unsure of how it’d unfold, I wasn’t sure if I was going to come out on top because I didn’t win last year. I seriously had one of the best years of my life, and I guess everybody else thought that too. These awards are so important, because it’s the fans voting, so it means a lot."
In the Video Awards, Kai Neville’s Dear Suburbia was the big winner of the night, earning the prestigious Movie of the Year title. In a category where it’s an honor just to be nominated, other films included Surf Madness, Bending Colours, Get-N Classic Vol. 2, This Time Tomorrow, and Fighting Fear.
“I am absolutely thrilled. It’s really unexpected and I’m so psyched and humbled. It’s hard to put into words how stoked I am,” said Neville. “I was really close to this project and to have it be so well received means a lot. I was really happy with the end result and if other people are psyched on it too, I guess that means I must be doing something right and I’m not tapped yet.”
And finally, it was another solid year for Dane Reynolds. In addition to the No. 3 spot on the Poll, he scooped up the Best Performance award for his role in Dear Suburbia.
“I’ve approached quite a few things in life with one foot in and one foot out, because if you fail you’re like ‘ah I tried,’ said Reynolds. “For the first time, with this film, I really tried hard to surf my best. I guess this means I didn’t fail.”
Jack Shimko and his organization Paddle2Live received the Agent of Change award and a philanthropic donation from VIP table sales. Shimko, a cancer survivor, tirelessly works to raise awareness and funds for cancer through epic personal paddling missions.
"For months our production team has worked tirelessly on this event and tonight their hard work paid off," says SURFER Editor Brendon Thomas. "It was an amazing evening and an honest celebration of surfing. I want to thank the sponsors, Turtle Bay, and the North Shore community for getting behind this event. Surfer Poll is the biggest night in surfing and it wouldn’t happen without them."
2012 SURFER Poll Results
Top 10 Men
1. Kelly Slater
2. John John Florence
3. Dane Reynolds
4. Gabriel Medina
5. Mick Fanning
6. Joel Parkinson
7. Julian Wilson
8. Taj Burow
9. Jordy Smith
10. Owen Wright
Top 5 Women
1. Steph Gilmore
2. Alana Blanchard
3. Coco Ho
4. Carissa Moore
5. Sally Fitzgibbons
AI Breakthrough Performer Presented by New Era
Movie of the Year
Dear Suburbia by Kai Neville
Dane Reynolds, Dear Suburbia
Reef McIntosh, Fiji Freight Trains
Mark Mathews, Fighting Fear
Short of the Year
Electric Blue Heaven, by Joe G
Agent of Change
Jack Shimko and Paddle2Live