Winners have been announced in Surfing Life’s Oakley Big Wave Awards. In a gala evening, attended by a star-studded celebratory audience and the who’s who of the surf industry, three Australian men have been crowned the champions of Big Wave Surfing in Australian waters for 2013.
The premier Biggest Wave category came down to a brother versus brother battle as Tasmanians James and Tyler Hollmer Cross last year rode two of the biggest waves ever to be seen in Australian waters. Tyler Hollmer Cross walked away with the $20,000 winners cheque, narrowly beating his brother, James. Both were supremely stoked with their achievements, with Tyler stating that it was a victory for the Tasmanian big wave crew who made up four of the six finalists in that division.
“Our crew are an amazing bunch of chargers and photographers that all hang out as mates. Everyone is so supportive and we feed off each other’s positive energy and drive. I knew that the wave I caught, my winning wave, was the biggest of my life. These were the biggest waves I’ve ever seen in my life. As Tasmanians, we are lucky enough to have some of the biggest waves in the world on our doorstep. I knew I had to get out of the way of the lip so I didn’t get knocked out. I tried to pull through the back of the wave, but it took me with it and I was driven so deep into the abyss. It felt like my head was going to pop from the pressure. I managed to get one gasp of air before the wave behind that one landed on me. Eventually my brother, and fellow finalist, James, picked me up, but I was ill and I couldn’t see anything as my vision was blurred.”
Fellow Tasmanian Biggest Wave Finalists, Danny Griffiths and Mikey Brennan, broke their foot and tore knee ligaments respectively during the session.
In recent years, the Biggest Paddle-In category has made a resurgence in popularity and competition as more and more surfers return to the pure art of Paddle-In surfing. In 2012, a man most of the surfing world only know as ‘Camel’ walked away with a convincing victory and in 2013 the result was no different. ‘Camel,’ full name Jeff Goulden is a man who has put his whole existence into surfing, spending years in the jungles of Indonesia hunting perfect, tropical barrels, to living out of the back of his car chasing uncrowded, and notoriously sharky, surf along Australia’s coast – it has paid off once again, in the form of $5,000.
“After surfing for seven hours the day before, my Biggest Paddle finalist wave was actually the second wave I caught, very early the next morning. I was still half asleep and I hadn’t really noticed how much the surf had grown in size until this wave was bearing down on me. But it looked big, so I had to go. It was only myself and fellow finalist Sam Jervis out at this spot early this morning. There’s a lot going through your head out here when it’s this big. Not only do you have to worry about the very real danger of copping the beating of a lifetime, but the water is cold and with a seal colony close by, there are some very large animals under the ocean that could end your session, and your life, in an instant. I surf a lot in this area now, and often just getting out of the water alive and in one piece is enough to make you give a hoot and be very thankful you’ve surfed these treacherous, sharky waters and lived to tell the tale.”
Former Biggest Wave winner, Laurie Towner, caught the heaviest, thickest wave in 2013 at the notoriously cold, dark and dangerous wave of Shipstern Bluff in Tasmania to win the Biggest Slab category. Laurie, whose winning wave also graced Surfing Life Magazine’s cover on their 298th issue, granted him the $5,000 winners cheque this year. The laid-back lad from New South Wales’ North Coast has become known in recent years as a one of Australia’s hardest chargers, with this award solidifying that fact.
“I love big, heavy waves. They provide me with a huge challenge and an even bigger rush. Tasmania’s Shipstern Bluff is far from my comfort zone – in cold, dark, dangerous water – but the thrill of pulling in to waves of that magnitude helps to overcome the fear. To score the cover of Surfing Life with this wave and now the most prestigious Slab award in Australia… I’m just thrilled.”
Surfing Life’s Oakley Big Wave Awards have come to highlight a side of surfing that’s way beyond both the recreational mainstream and the professional competitive arena – a zone where seemingly normal people take seemingly outlandish risks, with seemingly little concern for fame or renown.
Tyler Hollmer Cross, Pedra Branca Photo: Stuart Gibson Video: Andrew Chisholm
Laurie Towner, Shipstern Bluff Photo: Andrew Chisholm Video: Kendall O'Brien
Jeff 'Camel' Goulden, Outside Critterbeasts Photo: Andrew Brooks