While the WSL’s Big Wave Awards was held in a star-studded and gonad infested ball room in Redondo Beach, California, the lesser known Tracks Small Wave Awards went down in the pokie room of the Rooty Hill RSL. Less glittering, but no less important, Tracks recognised those that have take the path less trodden. From beachbreak warriors to Mentawai swell avoiders these surfers finally have a platform to celebrate their tiny wave achievements. 

Men’s Paddle Award: Luberick Von Lawrie, Blacksmiths Beach

Lawrie paddled into a wave in late October 2017 that sent, rather appropriately, ripples through the entire Pacific Palms township. On a solid six foot day at Sandbar, Von Laurie was lucky enough to enjoy a dry-haired paddle out through rip the next to the rocks. What happened next was talked about for at least three hours by the six patrons at the Rec Club that Tuesday night. Von Laurie feinted to paddle for at least six big lefts, though spectators agreed his heart was never really in any of the attempts. After two hours he eventually scrambled back to the channel and caught a two-foot right into the rip and came in. Lucky for Luberick, his mate Dangles captured the wave and after posting it to their Whatsapp Group, “The Rusty Trombone” the entry was accepted by the Awards panel. “It’s absolute political bullshit,” posted Laurie Towner afterwards, “I was towed into a four-foot wave on that same swell and even scored a head dip. What more do I have to do?” 

Women’s Paddle Award: Kirra-Angourie Hymen-Belle

In hindsight, Kirra-Angourie Hymen-Belle’s wave should never ever happened. Hymen-Belle, aged eight, had bravely paddled out during the Oma Swell at Kirra. She clearly had no desire to be anywhere near a cyclone swell, but with her almost ex-professional surfer father having paid a jet ski driver and photographer for the day to capture her waves (not to mention the threat of the removal of her iPhone) she made her way into the lineup. After three hours fighting a sweep and a deep, internal terror, the dad eventually took matters into his own hands. He pushed her into a solid five-foot double-up upon which she grabbed on to the rails with all her might and rode prone straight out on to the flats to safety with an incredible white-knuckled technique. Upon touching the sand she cried for three hours straight. Her iPhone ban is still in place three months later. 

Mens’s XXS Smallest Wave Award 

In a remarkable achievement Brazil’s Filipe Texeira rode the smallest wave ever seen in the Mentawais last July. Throughout the trip Texeira's commitment to small wave surfing had been remarkable. He “went fishing” on the three six-foot plus days, surfed the protected Being Beng’s on the three-foot days and didn't catch a set wave on the whole trip. However it was a knee-high right, caught on the very inside at HT’s after three surfers had already either fallen off or kicked out, that guaranteed his award. Such was the impact of the ride, which lasted three-seconds and saw Texeira starfished on dry coral afterward, it was replayed a historic 18 times on the boat that night. 

Men's Overall Performance Award: Kenny Lantern

While 2018 was an incredible year for Lantern, the performance award was partly given due to his 25-year commitment to surfing the left rip bowl at his local beachbreak. The Salad Bowl, as it’s known, starts breaking at one foot and becomes an unsurfable closeout above three. For 25 years Lantern has dedicated his life to surfing the break, often being the only crazed individual to surf it on the low tide when it becomes an unreadable quagmire. His quiver, a 5’6 fish and 5’9” squaretail step-up, is tailored only for the bowl and such his commitment has only gone right twice, both times when the Bowl had been eradicated by cyclones of 1978 and ’86. “It’s the recognition that matters,” said a choked up Lantern at the Awards, “as you get older, it gets more difficult, but the Bowl is my life. No matter how small it gets, I will always paddle out. That’s why I do.”