Ante Up: Big Wave Awards Doubles Prize Purse

The World Surf League (WSL) has doubled the prize purse for the 2016 WSL Big Wave Awards and has committed to 25 percent increases in both 2017 and 2018. The Big Wave Awards, now in its 16th year, acknowledge excellence in a variety of big wave categories via a video and photo entry system, serving as the annual benchmark for performance in one of the most unpredictable sports on the planet. The WSL's new investment comes on the heels of impressive swell activity in the opening half of the 2015 season and ahead of what lead forecasters are predicting to be a very active El Nino season.

Check out the details from the July strike mission in Tahiti.

Shane Dorian - Billabong Ride of the Year Shane Dorian, winner of the 2015 Billabong Ride of the Year award. - WSL

When the 2016 WSL Big Wave Awards show takes place next April, the world's best big wave surfers and the photographers who capture them in the act will divide up a purse of over $245,000 including an array of TAG Heuer watches for some of the key winners. The Billabong Ride of the Year category alone will award $102,000 in cash to the five surfers (and documenting videographers) voted the best in the world by their peers.

"This is a huge step forward for the Big Wave Awards," said event director Bill Sharp, who founded the virtual online competition in 2000. "With the World Surf League's big commitment to invest in the property's future and key sponsors such as TAG Heuer and Billabong, we are now able to elevate the prize money to a new level in every category and also spread it to a much larger number of competitors this year. The WSL Big Wave Awards has a crucial role to play in the careers of both established and rising big wave surfers."

The Hawaiian pulls off a beyond-late air-drop right into one of the deepest paddle barrels ever seen at Teahupo'o.

The 2016 WSL Big Wave Awards has already received an unprecedented number of early-season entries from around the world, including the incredible early frontrunner entry of Nathan Florence (HAW) at Teahupo'o. Early season activity in the South Pacific has also yielded record views for some of the TAG Heuer wipeout entries such at Niccolo Porcella at Teahupo'o and Tom Lowe at Puerto Escondido. With more than half the season left before the March 15, 2016 deadline, the WSL is confident that the upcoming Big Wave Awards could be one for the history books.

Surfline, official forecasters for the WSL, are calling for the following with regards to the upcoming El Nino season:

The Surfline Forecast as well as NOAA's Climate Prediction Center favors a significant event developing. Further, the likelihood we will see El Nino conditions persist through the Northern Hemisphere winter exceeds 90 percent; with the likelihood we will see El Nino conditions continue heading into spring dipping slightly to around 80 percent.

Paige Alms (HAW) won the 2015 Women's Best Performance award for rides like these at Jaws, Hawaii, one location that may have unprecedented size this El Nino season.

"The potential exists for this to be a game-changing year for the sport with possibly the most potent wave-producing pattern in modern history supercharging the oceans," added Sharp. "The El Nino's of 1969/70, 1982/83 and 1997/98 created many of the heaviest swells surfers have ever known in Hawaii and the West Coast of North America -- and this winter could conceivably be on those levels or even beyond. The difference this time is there have been almost unfathomable advances in both paddle-in and tow surfing since 1998 and many of the limits known in those days have been completely erased. Everyone is getting ready for the coming winter season... it should be an amazing show."