Last year I had the pleasure of surfing with Paige Alms and Bianca Valenti at my home break.  They didn't know who I was, nor did they know any of the locals in the water, but they were under fierce scrutiny. It’s not often that my local sees a crew of surf girls with foreign accents hanging around, and paddling out at the points.

Both of them, accompanied by South African ripper Tammy-Lee Smith, did well in the lineup by being friendly, courteous and confident in the water, in some tricky onshore conditions that made for double-ups and heavy sections.

When Paige came out the water, she played with a few of the locals’ dogs, and hung out with a few of their kids in the car park.

Paige Alms in the zone at Pe'ahi. Photo:WSL

It’s great to see her claim a second Big Wave World Title, and we look forward to the Women’s Big Wave Tour growing from strength to strength. The surfers on this tour are steely, and to see them charge at maxing Jaws/Pe’ahi is a sight to behold. Just to be out there, at risk of being mowed down by a set, is so far removed from most of our surfing experience as to make it almost unfeasible. The Pe’ahi event received a Gold coefficient, which means that wave faces of fifty-five feet were on tap, while most of us mortals enjoy a solid five-foot face.

On the men’s side, it was high time that the animated Billy Kemper took a Big Wave World Title home. Over the last two years he has come across as the most ferocious, determined and fittest big wave surfer out there who wants nothing else but to win in every event he enters. His results this year were testament to his hunger on the tour, and he is a popular surfer and competitor wherever he is competing by bringing so much spirit to the table.   

Billy Kemper has been an inspired performer on the Big Wave World Tour for a couple of years and is undeniably a deserving winner of the Big Wave World Title. Photo: WSL

Kemper, from Maui, earned his first title by making the finals at all three events during the year, and his results included two runner-up finishes, at both Pe’ahi and Nazaré. He has been the stand-out at Pe’ahi over the last few years and sessions, and has two wins out there, and has a Big Wave Award for Ride Of The Year for his tube ride during the 2018 Jaws competition.

Kemper was second in the ratings leading up to the final event of the year at Nazaré, sitting behind another Hawaiian surfer in Kai Lenny, but his runner-up spot in the event saw him sneak him into first place, slipping past Lenny. Both Kemper and Lenny are the current vanguard, leading the charge on the big wave tour right now.

“I am very excited and thankful to be a part of this generation of surfers and a part of this turning point in surfing,” said Kemper on winning his title. “There has been a changing of the guard on the Championship Tour -- with surfers like John John Florence, Gabriel Medina, Filipe Toledo, Julian Wilson -- and I’ve tried to take that as motivation into the Big Wave Tour.”

The World Surf League Big Wave Tour has grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years as a cleaner, trimmer and more efficient machine, but closer examination would show that it is still lacking in some areas.

Without wishing to detract from the success of the event, a Bronze co-efficient in Mexico is not the lumbering, petrifying beast that the mainstream world would like to see. While fault cannot be laid on anyone’s shoulders, it still seems that there are enough big days around the world at the Big Wave Tour venues, during their waiting periods, that there should be monstrous days for these events to run, or they shouldn't run at all.

Similarly, the Nazaré finals were not inspiring at all, and the fact that Chumbo was going for floaters revealed that there was very little trepidation among the remaining surfers. It was more about surfers being totally over-gunned for the solid beach break conditions, and little else.

Thundering Mavericks would have added the dimension needed over a year-long tour, but a source revealed that the BWT was only ever going to run three events anyway, and as soon as Nazaré was called on, Mavericks was called off for the year. Whether there is any truth in this is moot, as Mavs never received any more energy during the last month of her waiting period anyway.

If it's true however, then the three events that were run to completion leave holes in the fabric in the bid for a truly global and effective Big Wave Tour.

Alms and Kemper will be recognized at the WSL Awards on March 8 on the Gold Coast of Australia and the Big Wave Awards scheduled for April 28 in Southern California.  

WSL 2017/2018 Men’s Big Wave Tour Top 10
1 - Billy Kemper (HAW) 27,140 pts
2 - Kai Lenny (HAW) 24,829 pts
3 - Ian Walsh (HAW) 17,757 pts
4 - Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 14,123 pts
5 - Lucas Chianca (BRA) 13,331 pts
6 - Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 12,779 pts
7 - Tom Lowe (GBR) 9,081pts
8 - Alex Botelho (PRT) 7,897 pts
9 - Greg Long (USA) 7,538 pts
10 - Natxo Gonzalez (EUK) 6,944 pts

WSL 2017/2018 Women’s Big Wave Tour Top 6
1 - Paige Alms  (HAW) 10,000 pts
2 - Keala Kennelly  (HAW) 8,333 pts
3 - Justine Dupont (FRA) 6,944 pts
4 - Bianca Valenti (USA)    5,787 pts
5 - Andrea Moller (BRA)    4,823 pts
6 - Felicity Palmateer (AUS) 4,019 pts