Tasmania’s king of big wave charging, Marti Paradisis, had a longtime dream come true last night when he won Biggest Wave at Surfing Life’s Oakley Big Wave Awards.
Over the Awards’ 10 years, Paradisis has collected every prize except the big one. He’s won the Paddle-in, the Slab, and Best Overall Surfer. But the $20,000 main prize had eluded his grasp until last night, when a colossal wall of water ridden by him off Pedra Branca Rock, south of Tassie, was deemed the largest wave ridden in Australasian waters in the past year.
“It’s a huge thrill,” Marti said of the Award and the ride that generated it. “I’m so stoked to be able to represent the (Tasmanian) crew up here. I wouldn’t get to ride waves like this without a lot of help so this isn’t just for me.”
Marti’s ride just got an edge over mate Danny Griffith, who got another huge ride that day at Pedra Branca. The rides tied in the first judging round, voted for by surfers registered for entry in the Awards, but were comfortably split by an expert panel of big surf maestros from the USA.
The pair were hailed by a stoked roomful of peers, including fellow finalists Paul “Antman” Paterson, Tyler Hollmer-Cross, and Jeff “Camel” Goulden, who earlier took out the increasingly prestigious $5000 Paddle-in Award – reserved for surfers who catch these titanic waves under their own power with no jet-ski assist.
Camel’s ride, off a notoriously fickle Western Australian deep water bombora reef, earned the rare honour of nomination in two categories. But the big dude from the West was casual about his win,
“Some of those other waves, like Pedra, are in a league of their own,” he said.
Biggest Slab and $5000 went to South Africa’s Grant “Twiggy” Baker for a horrendous beast of a ride at Western Oz’s The Right. Twiggy, who flew in especially from Hawaii for the presentation, remembers the day vividly: it almost resulted in the drowning of his tow partner, Antman.
The pair had just swapped roles after Twiggy’s winning ride, when another wave – at least as big – reared up. Antman went, wiped out in the bowels of the thing, and went down – way down.
“The water’s so deep inside the reef, it just surges around and around,” recalled Paterson. “I just remember two waves going over me, being in complete darkness, then looking for a patch of light. I couldn’t even swim toward it, just floated back up, trying to relax.”
Twiggy picked him up moments before an eight-metre wave struck the reef. “We came in after that,” he grinned.
In the Shooter Awards section, the main prize went to Tasmanian photographer Andrew Chisholm and surfer-filmer Mikey Brennan, both of whom captured Marti’s Biggest ride. They split $3000. Former three-time main award winner Jamie Scott and Awards perennial Russell Ord won $1000 each for the winning images of Camel and Twiggy respectively.
The Awards are already into next season’s waiting period, when these daredevils and their mates will try to top the amazing entry list from 2012/13. Awards season runs from Australia Day to Australia Day each year. All we can say is: look out.
Australia’s most prestigious huge-surf challenge is once again up for grabs, along with $35,000 in prizemoney, as the finalists have been announced in Surfing Life’s Oakley Big Wave Awards.
Huge, crazy rides have been thrown into the mix from renowned big-wave chargers like former Awardees Tyler Hollmer-Cross and Marti Paradisis, South African international Big Wave hero, Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker and rising paddle-in star, Jeff Rowley. But these well-known watermen are facing stiff opposition from underground hell-men like the West Australian trio of Chris Shanahan, Chris Ross and Cale Grigson, not to mention a man who goes solely by the name of Camel!
Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker, one of the world’s top mega-surf hunters, secured his Biggest Slab entry at the infamous break known only as The Right, miles off the South-West Australian Coast. “I flew in from South Africa just to try and surf it this wave, but on the day, everyone else had pulled out, saying it was going to be too big and windy. When we arrived it looked massive and, to me, totally unsurfable, as I have never seen a wave like it before… but then that wave came through, a massive dark line on the ocean. It was pouring with rain by now but we knew immediately that it was by far the biggest set we had seen all day. The wave itself is a blur. All I could do was get as much speed as possible and aim for the shoulder. I was going so fast it took everything I had just to stay on the board and set a rail. The view for those few seconds in the barrel was almost comical. It's by far the biggest barrel I have ever looked out of and the heaviest single wave I have surfed.
“I fell on my next wave as I was coming out of the barrel at full speed and it felt like I had broken my neck and had both my arms ripped off. I had to pull the cord on my inflatable wetsuit to come up just before a two-wave hold down.”
Paul ‘Antman’ Paterson, Baker’s West Australian tow partner for this session, was the next to catch a wave. This wave would also thrust ‘Antman’ into contention for the Biggest Slab Award, but almost kill him in the process.
Baker explains, “Paul fell on the next wave I towed him into, which was even bigger than mine. The whole thing shut down on him. He didn't have an inflatable wetsuit and the wave following also broke directly on top of him before he could make it up. He only came up in the swell of the third wave. He was totally delirious and unable to swim or acknowledge me. I had to pull him onto the sled and repeatedly scream at him to hold on as we made for the channel. I firmly believe that if the third wave had been more than just a swell, he would have drowned out there in the middle of the ocean.”
From international flights, jet-ski trips to far-flung reef breaks and near drownings, to a man known solely as ‘Camel’ who has never tow-surfed in his life, yet has a monstrous nomination in both the Biggest Wave and Biggest Paddle-In categories for the same wave.
‘Camel,’ full name Jeffree Goulden, is a man who has put his whole existence into surfing. From year’s spent 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, to this solo session at a deep-sea bombie, far off the West Australian coast.
“It was only Jamie (photographer) and I out there, trying to get some waves before the wind came up. I like the isolated waves, things get a bit crazy if you’re in a crowded place. I wish I’d had a better shot at this spot though; I wanted to be deeper… I want to better it for sure!”
Considering the enormity of Camel’s entry and its strong presence in two of the three award’s categories, we can only wait with bated breath for him to better an entry as crazy as this.
This year’s finalists have again been decided through a surfer poll in which every surfer who’s ever registered for an Award entry was asked to vote for the top few rides in each of the three divisions: Biggest Wave, Biggest Slab, and Biggest Paddle-in Ride. This voting method is endemic to Surfing Life’s Oakley Big Wave Awards and provides the surfers with the power.
“We felt the surfers themselves were the best judges of each other’s performances,” explained event coordinator Nick Carroll. “They know these wild surf zones better than anyone else and they have a clear view of the challenge involved. We were stoked with the way they responded! They’ve come up with an epic group of finalists, that’s for sure.”
Biggest Wave, Biggest Slab, and Biggest Paddle-In rides are now in the hands of the finalist judges – an elite international panel of big wave maestros – and they’ll be stretched to pick the winners out of an unprecedented range of entries.
A number of impressive sessions in a year of consistent swell has seen a colossal total of 50 entries, which have now been whittled down to 14 entries between 13 surfers across the 3 categories.
The 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.
Surfing Life’s Oakley Big Wave Awards will be presented at a super, spectacular, celebrity-studded evening at Simmer on the Bay, Dawes Point, Sydney on February 13th, 2013.
Tyler Hollmer-Cross, Shipstern Bluff
Marti Paradisis, Pedra Branca
Jeff ‘Camel’ Knight, Cow Bombie
Paul ‘Antman’ Paterson, Cow Bombie
Danny Griffiths, Pedra Branca
Paul ‘Antman’ Paterson, The Right
Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker, The Right
Chris Ross, The Right
Cale Grigson, The Right
Chris Shanahan, The Right
Leroy Rust, Papatowai
Jeff Rowley, Albatross
James Hick, Secret Spot South Australia
Paul Morgan, Cow Bombie
Jeff ‘Camel’ Goulden, Cow Bombie