Billy Kemper celebrates his Billabong Ride of the Year win at the 2017 WSL Big Wave Awards in Huntington Beach, California.
Credit: © WSL / Wlodarczyk
HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA/USA (Saturday, April 29, 2017) – The world’s best big wave surfers gathered in Huntington Beach tonight for the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Awards. The gala ceremony at the Pasea Hotel and Spa awarded the greatest rides of the past year and celebrated the tenets of the big wave community.
This year’s event saw $350,000 in prize money allotted across the seven categories. Ranging from the greatest tubes to the biggest wipeouts, the seven committed and daring winners were given top honors and a TAG Heuer watch to close out another incredible big wave season.
Jamie Mitchell claimed the Surfline Men’s Overall Performance Award this evening after showcasing incredible feats throughout the season, including his historic win at the inaugural Big Wave Tour (BWT) Nazaré Challenge. Mitchell’s win tonight is his second at the Big Wave Awards and further establishes his place in the history books.
“This really is dedicated to my wife and my little baby daughter at home,” said Mitchell. “Thank you to everyone here. You all inspire me and push me to chase every swell and probably the ones that I shouldn’t. I would like to thank all of my sponsors. Without the support of them, I would not be able to travel the world and chase all the swells. 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. I am honored.”
Mitchell was also nominated for the Billabong Ride of the Year, but it was Billy Kemper who earned the big win. It is no surprise that the Maui local secured this year’s title on a gigantic wave at Jaws as this break saw him earn back-to-back BWT Pe’ahi Challenge events. Kemper previously had a 2010 Ride of the Year nomination, a 2013 Wipeout of the Year nomination and a 2014 Ride of the Year nomination, but Kemper finally earned the headlining award with his incredible barrel at Jaws on November 11, 2016.
“This is a dream come true,” Kemper said. “First and foremost, I have to thank my beautiful fiancé for supporting me and giving me an amazing life with our children. Next, my sponsors, who have given me a platform to perform like this. I was just a kid from Maui, I had nothing at one point. This is all passion. I love to do this and nothing is going to stop me from this. This is for my mom.”
Paige Alms earned the Women’s Best Performance Award after six-straight nominations for the award starting in 2012. Alms started charging big waves at the age of 15. Not unlike most female big wave surfers, Alms’ career has been self-supported through juggling multiple jobs to fund her travel and training. Her commitment, hard work and passion paid off tonight with her second win at the Big Wave Awards. In addition, Alms was also celebrated for her win at the Pe’ahi Challenge to become the first ever Big Wave Women’s Champion.
“I am honestly in disbelief,” said Alms. “To be among this group of women is just insane. I am super excited to see where they take the tour next year for the women. A huge shoutout 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. I also want to make a shoutout to Maui and everyone that is watching live.”
The TAG Heuer XXL Biggest Wave Award goes to the surfer who, by any means available, catches and rides the biggest wave of the year. Francisco Porcella has made a name for himself in the big wave community over the past few years, but tonight earned the incredible feat of the TAG Heuer XXL Biggest Wave Award for his ride at Nazaré, Portugal, his first-ever Big Wave Award victory.
“Thank you to Nazaré for that wave,” Porcella said. “It has been a long time coming to be up here tonight. I’ve been putting in my time and mother nature rewarded me that day with that wave. It is a blessing to be connected with mother nature that way and feel that energy and power. That energy feeds us and makes us feel so alive in that moment. Thank you to my family and support crew.”
Other big winners of the night included Ben Andrews, who secured the Best Paddle Award for his ride at Maverick’s, California, and Shanan Worrall, who earned the Tube of the Year Award after charging through a massive barrel at The Right in Western Australia.
18-year-old Wilem Banks took home one of the night’s most anticipated awards for the TAG Heuer Wipeout of the Year. The Santa Cruz native’s bone-wrenching fall at Maverick’s was more than enough carnage to earn the title for the young charger. It was a wave Banks knew was bound for disaster after the offshore wind took its hold and the free-fall within the wave’s lip began.
2017 WSL Big Wave Award 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
The Big Wave Awards will be televised on CBS Sports Network on Friday, May 5, 2017 at 9:00 p.m. EST and 11:30 p.m. EST.
To view the award winning rides from the 2017 WSL Big Wave Awards, check out WorldSurfLeague.com/BigWave.
The WSL Big Wave Tour commences its 2017 season on Monday, May 1, 2017. For more information log onto WorldSurfLeague.com.