A few short years ago we were trying to hold an event at Dungeons in South Africa for the WSL. We were pretty much set-up, apart from a few technical issues like judging from the mountain, ensuring solid local employment and buy-in and getting the chopper permits. Apart from that, we were good to go. All we needed were waves.

Dungeons, and the Cape Of Storms had delivered enough in the past. There had been contests, Big Wave Awards, Barrels Of The Year and Ride Of The Year nominations and more. Dungeons was always good to go. Until this year, that is.

Local surf forecaster Spike from www.wavescape.co.za  informed us of an approaching swell that had all the pointers for killer Dungeons, but would later inform us that the storm had split in two, tracked further south, or was heading for Angola. We had about seven false alarms, and with a massive and costly WSL international mobilization awaiting our call, it was stressful. We didn't run that year, but it was a learning curve in anxiety if nothing else. 

New Big Wave Commissioner Mike Parsons is no newcomer to the big wave arena, but his Call to green-light Jaws must still have left him with sleepless nights. There were even invited surfers who were skeptical on the call.

Jeez were they wrong.

The Pe’ahi Challenge is going to go down in record books for a whole bunch of reasons, and they’re going to come out over the next few days as nominations in the WSL Big Wave Awards and they’ll start piling up right here 

A two day event that had all the incredible drama that big wave surfing offers, waves that were in excess of 50 feet on the faces at times, and some of the most ridiculous big wave barrels possibly of all time.  

Paige Alms, charging for the win. Photo: WSL

So Ian Walsh won the event, and Paige Alms won the women’s event. Let’s just get that out of the way.

The second semifinal was probably the greatest big wave heat ever run. The waves were thundering. It was huge and it was consistent, and everyone wanted to get the bombs. Kai Lenny was pulling in, and his second attempt saw him bank a 9.27 for a perfect tube ride. Ryan Hipwood was the second surfer to show intent with a king size barrel on a set wave, looking almost like an alpine skier as he adopted a technical tube stance over the middle of his yellow 10’4 Pyzel. It was deserving of a perfect ten. It was followed however, by a much bigger, better and deeper tube ride from Ian Walsh, and with no room to move, the judges awarded Walsh a perfect ten as well.

Hippo did Australia proud. Photo: WSL

It was a strange moment and it has happened before. The first tube ride was thoroughly deserving of that score in terms of when and how it happened, and then Walshy’s wave was superior and it also deserves the ten. Put the two on a video slow-mo side-by-side and it could seem a bit baffling, but that’s not how it happens. It’s more about timing and circumstance, and they were both as legit as it gets.

Walsh's 10 was as good as it gets. Photo: WSL/Aaron Lynton

Walsh kept it going through the final to eventually walk away with the win, ahead of Billy Kemper and Makuakai Rothman, with Kai Lenny, Greg Long and Ryan Hipwood in the minor spots.

With Grant Baker missing his heat due to a flight delay, Shane Dorian pulling out at the last minute due to a back injury and Ryan Hipwood coming out of nowhere as a replacement to do so well at this event, the ratings have changed drastically. Kai Lenny is in no.1 spot, from Billy Kemper in 2nd, and Ian Walsh jumping to 3rd. Makuakai Rothman is also looking strong in 4th, and Ryan Hipwood has gone straight in at 8th. Twiggy is sitting at 25th, along with Coco Nogales and Rusty Long.

The next event on the Big Wave Tour, of which Grant Baker is the current world champion, is the Nazaré Challenge in Portugal. Stay tuned.