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Guide: Big Wave Awards

The Big Wave Awards first launched in 2000, to recognize the surfer who rode the year's biggest wave. Now in its 17th season, the Big Wave Awards has grown to include seven categories.

Perusing hundreds of big wave submissions can be daunting, especially if you're new to Big Wave Awards. Here's what you need to know:

Timeframe: The Big Wave Awards are open to waves ridden between March 21, 2015 and March 15, 2016. Nominees are announced the last week of March and the winners are revealed at a gala awards ceremony in Southern California.

Who are the judges? There are two panels: One small group of professional surf photography analysis experts and experienced big wave veteran surfers who measure the tallest waves in the objective categories including the Paddle Award and the XXL Biggest Wave Award (caught by any means including tow-ins). The other subjective (or "gut feel") categories are decided by a veritable academy of respected members of the big wave community, including all Big Wave Award competitors, photographers and videographers and members of the media who cover big wave surfing.

How do they judge? The biggest wave awards use techniques which estimate the height of the wave relative to the known height of the surfer while factoring in the distortion caused by the photo's angle and lens size. The judges for the subjective divisions are urged to consider sustained performance throughout the entirety of a ride -- including the overall quality and quantity of maneuvers or critical positions achieved -- and to evaluate the skill of the surfer in a challenging situation above the good fortune presented purely by the unique shape of a particular wave.

With prize money going to surfers, videographers and photographers, the Awards are comprised of the following categories:

Billabong Ride of the Year

Awarded to the individual surfer who demonstrates the most advanced and committed level of big wave surfing during a successful ride, as judged by available video-footage.
First Place: $60,000; Second Place: $15,000; Third Place: $10,000; Fourth Place: $5,000; Fifth Place: $3,000; First Place Videographer: $6,000; Second - Fifth Place Videographer: $750

2014/15 Billabong Ride of the Year Winner: Shane Dorian
Shane Dorian wins the 2014/15 Billabong Ride of the Year for a massive barrel at Puerto Escondido. Video winner: Alejandro de la Torre.

Paddle Award

Awarded to the surfer who paddles into and successfully rides the biggest wave of the year.
Surfer Prize: $25,000; Photographer Prize: $5,000

Jamie Mitchell / Fred Pompermayer Jamie Mitchell wins the 2014/15 Paddle category for a wave at Maverick's, CA. Photographer Winner: Fred Pompermayer WSL / Fred Pompermayer

TAG Heuer Biggest Wave

Awarded to the surfer who, by any means available, catches and successfully rides the biggest wave of the year.
Surfer Prize: $20,000 + TAG Heuer Watch; Photographer Prize: $5,000

Sebastian Steudtner / Mike Jones Sebastian Steudtner won the 2014/2016 XXL Biggest Wave Award. Photograph Winner: Mike Jones. WSL / Mike Jones

Pure Scot Barrel of the Year

Awarded to the surfer who rides the single most spectacular tubing wave of the year, judged on the impact generated by still photo images.
Surfer Prize: $10,000; Photographer Prize: $4,000

Matahi Drollet / Tim McKenna Matahi Drollet won the 2014/2015 Tube Award. Photograph Winner: Tim McKenna. WSL / Tim McKenna

Surfline Men's Best Overall Performance Award

Awarded to the male surfer who not only puts on the greatest number of outstanding performances in the most diverse number of venues, but also demonstrates a high level of excellence in water safety leadership. Both paddle-in and tow-in disciplines are considered.
First Place: $15,000 + TAG Heuer Watch; Second Place: $5,000; Third Place: $2,000

2014/2015 Surfline Performance Winner: Shane Dorian
Shane Dorian wins 2014/2015 Surfline Overall Performance Award.

Women's Overall Performance Award

Awarded to the female surfer who not only puts on the greatest number of outstanding performances in the most diverse number of venues, but also demonstrates a high level of excellence in water safety leadership. Both paddle-in and tow-in disciplines are considered.
First Place: $10,000; Second Place: $2,000; Third Place: $1,000

2014/15 Women's Overall Performance Winner: Paige Alms
Paige Alms performance at Jaws helped her land the 2014/15 Women's Overall Performance Award

TAG Heuer Wipeout Award

Awarded to honor the most committed -- yet least successful -- wave of the event window.
First Place: $3,000 + TAG Heuer Watch - Videographer: $3,000; Second - Fifth Videographer: $500

2014/15 Wipeout Winner: Benjamin Sanchis
Benjamin Sanchis earned the 2014/15 Wipeout Award at Nazaré. Video winner: Michael Darrigade.

To be considered for competition, a surfer must be invited to compete.

The winners will be announced at the annual awards show in Southern California.

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