New Big Wave Challenge honors heroes of big wave surfing
Big wave surfing returns to the red carpet and the live stage to honor its champions for the first time in years on Oct. 28.
Created by Bill Sharp, the original founder of the XXL Big Wave Awards, the New Big Wave Challenge will honor the biggest waves and best rides of the 2022/23 season in a gala presentation party in the modern capital of the high surf realm, Nazaré, Portugal.
The top surfers and photographers have submitted their most spectacular waves for consideration and are viewable on the Big Wave Challenge Instagram and YouTube platforms. A panel of big wave competitors and content creators will vote for the Ride of the Year, Surfer of the Year, Biggest Paddle Wave, Biggest Tow Wave and the Best Wipeout.
“Big wave surfing has found itself without a ‘town square’ over the last few years where all the athletes, shooters and fans can focus their attention and know what is happening in the sport,” said Sharp. “A lot of the top big wave surfers came to me this last year and asked me to try to bring back the excitement of the old XXL event days – so I developed what I’ve been calling the New Big Wave Challenge.”
The winning male and female surfers (along with the shooters who captured the critical moments) will be presented with lavish Oscar-style figurine trophies during the invitation-only live show in the civic theater in Nazaré.
“If you go back a decade, the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards were an integral part of the US surf industry and had a reputation as the party of the year each May in Southern California,” said Sharp. “But that surf industry that backed what we were doing has pretty much collapsed at this point and just getting all the surfers in one place now is almost impossible.”
“The one time of the year where you do get a lot of them coming together is for the early season in Nazaré where the Atlantic is stirring and everyone is preparing for the winter. It was the only logical choice for a place to ‘get the band back together’ and the surfers have pretty much all geared up to have it on their calendar and bring back that feeling of community. Having the backing of the City of Nazaré and Mayor Walter Chicharro sealed the deal, they support our sport like no other place in the world,” Sharp continued.
The eligibility window for the New Big Wave Challenge ran from August 2022 through July, 2023 and the contenders in each of the categories are as strong as ever.
Among the Biggest Wave contenders are Justine Dupont’s life-changing tow-in waves at the Cortes Bank 100 miles off the California coast and Maui firefighter Shaun Walsh’s monstrous wall at Jaws, both in January of this year. The Ride of the Year stakes are high with Nathan Florence gaining a lot of support for a paddle wave at Mullaghmore Head, Ireland along with strong barrels by Billy Kemper and Kai Paula at Jaws.
The Biggest Paddle sweepstakes feature strong entries by Greg Long at Todos Santos, Mexico and Chacha Ibarra at Punta de Lobos, Chile, along with exceptional waves by Laura Enever and Kaiwi Berry at an outer reef along Oahu’s North Shore.
“This first season is really a ‘proof of concept’ to remind the world how spectacular big wave surfing is and how fascinating the characters are who are driving the sport,“ said Sharp, who played a key role in the Emmy-winning HBO Docuseries 100 Foot Wave. “Once we’ve crowned our champions of the last year, then we move right on to covering what’s happening for the coming winter and reinforcing that town square and for the fans and bringing a new era of sponsorship and content management. This isn’t about a one night party, it’s about setting the table for the next 20 years of big wave surfing.”