This year the WSL Big Wave Awards were next level. Without wishing to detract from the various achievements, here are the three elements of the big wave awards that will remain with us for a long time.

Biggest. Wave. Ever.

I remember a time when the Billabong Odyssey was on, and there was a hunt for the first person to ride a 100-foot wave. In fact, I think there was a bounty on that 100-foot wave, US$1,000 for every foot, or something like that.

The 100-foot wave was never discovered, and the project was halted, but not discredited. It just seemed that there was nowhere in the world that could hold such a wave.

This year it seems we are getting closer to the mythical wave. With the setting of a new record of 80-feet, we are four fifths of the way there, and steadily getting closer every second year or so. Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Koxa was the surfer who rode this biggest wave ever, and won the Quiksilver XXL Biggest Wave Award. It’s quite an achievement to be the human who surfed the biggest wave in the world ever.

Biggest. Tube. Ever.

No matter how often you watch it, and no matter how big it is, Jaws is pretty shocking to the senses every single time you watch it. When Mark Matthews wiped out on that takeoff that separated his shoulder blade a few years ago, it looked like a cartoon, like fake news. This year during the Pe’ahi Challenge Ian Walsh made it to the bottom of a fucking bomb and once he had his line set he pulled into the biggest cavern probably ever seen. His focus shifted onto making the tube, and when he came out, it was recognized as one of the greatest waves ever surfed and a 10-point ride. It was recognized as a Ride Of The Year nominee and a Tube Of The Year nominee, and that tube went ahead and claimed both. Ian has been chasing big waves around the world for a number of years now, and this achievement was totally vindication for all those years of relentless dedication.

Worst. Wipeout. Ever.

Is a wipeout prize like a booby prize? You’re winning a prize for falling off, so is it a token for taking doughnuts? No, I think it depends totally on the situation, and in the context of this year’s awards, Andrew Cotton did not win a consolation prize, or a booby prize. He won an award for courage.

Firstly, he was in the right place at the right time. To get from his house in England to the waters of Nazaré, behind a jet ski, in monstrous surf, is an endeavour in itself.

Secondly, that fade. I chatted to the lunatic a few days after it happened, while he was still in Portugal, recovering.

CJ: Hey man. Hope you’re ok and recovering well. Best wishes. That was a helluva way to make a viral video. WTF is wrong with you?

AC: Hey, I’m all good, thanks. Back is a bit sore but I should be fine. They also did a brain scan and apparently nothing.

CJ: They should have done a brain scan for that fade alone….

AC: All or nothing…

Thirdly, attempting to pull in. After the deep fade, that wave lurched bigger than the camera angle suggests, and next thing there was a catastrophic amount of water landing on his dome, which then catapulted him in the air and broke his L2 vertebrae.

CJ: From your angle did it look like a barrel was looming?

AC: I honestly thought it was going to line up for a sick one.

CJ: Yeah like an 80ft backhand barrel. You’re weird…. Get well soon.

AC: Thanks. I’ll be home with the family soon.


Other awards were:

Biggest Paddle Award Winner
Aaron Gold (Haleiwa, Hawaii, USA) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on January 14, 2018.
Hydro Flask Women’s Best Peformance Award
Paige Alms (Haiku, Hawaii, USA)

Men’s Best Overall Performance Award
Lucas Chianca (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

To view the award-winning rides from the 2018 WSL Big Wave Awards, check out