About Big Wave Awards

Big Wave 101: How the WSL Big Wave Awards Work

The WSL Big Wave Awards first launched in 2000, to recognize the surfer who rode the year's biggest wave. Now in its 20th season, the Big Wave Awards has grown to include nine categories and a total of $350,000 in prize money. This year features the addition of a new category for the Women's Ride of the Year.

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 all qualified surfers on all waves ridden anywhere in the world between March 21, 2019 and March 20, 2020. The rules dictate video and still photo entries are to be submitted to BWA HQ within ten days of each ride where they are evaluated and the biggest and best rides are posted to the event website. Normally, nominees in the nine categories are announced in early April and the winners are revealed at a gala awards ceremony in early May of each year. However, this year's COVID-19 pandemic has forced the event climax to be held online, with the nominees announced on July 20, 2020 and the winners revealed by category over the following five weeks.

Who are the judges? There are three 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 for both men and women (caught by any means including tow-ins). The other subjective categories such as Ride of the Year, Wipeout of the Year and Overall Performance Awards are decided by a panel of one dozen extremely respected members of the big wave community who remain intensely involved in the sport, including veteran Big Wave Award competitors, photographers and videographers who understand the nuances of the various big wave breaks represented among the nominees.

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 performance 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 as well as the videographers and photographers who document the action, the Awards are comprised of the following categories:

Men's Ride of the Year Award

Awarded to the male surfers who demonstrates the most advanced and committed level of big wave surfing during a successful ride, as judged by available video-footage.
First Place: $55,000; Second Place: $20,000; Third Place: $7,000; Fourth Place: $5,000; Fifth Place: $5,000; First Place Videographer: $3,500; Second Place Videographer: $2,000; Third Place Videographer: $1,000; Fourth Place Videographer: $1,000; Fifth Place Videographer: $1,000.

Women's Ride of the Year Award

Awarded to the female surfers who demonstrates the most advanced and committed level of big wave surfing during a successful ride, as judged by available video-footage.
First Place: $55,000; Second Place: $20,000; Third Place: $7,000; First Place Videographer: $3,500; Second Place Videographer: $2,000; Third Place Videographer: $1,000.

Men's Paddle Award

Awarded to the male surfer who paddles into and successfully rides the biggest wave of the year.
Surfer Prize: $15,000; Videographer Prize: $2,500. Photographer Prize: $2,000. Each of the other four finalist surfers will receive a $1,500 appearance fee/prize. The four non-winning videographer nominees will each receive $750.

Women's Paddle Award

Awarded to the female surfer who paddles into and successfully rides the biggest wave of the year.
Surfer Prize: $15,000; Videographer Prize: $2,500. Photographer Prize: $2,000. Each of the other two finalist surfers will receive a $1,500 appearance fee/prize. The two non-winning videographer nominees will each receive $750.

cbdMD Men's XXL Biggest Wave Award

Awarded to the male surfer who, by any means available, catches and successfully rides the biggest wave of the year.
Surfer Prize: $15,000; Videographer Prize: $2,500. Photographer Prize: $2,000. Each of the other four finalist surfers will receive a $1,500 appearance fee/prize. The four non-winning videographer nominees will each receive $750.

cbdMD Women's XXL Biggest Wave Award

Awarded to the female surfer who, by any means available, catches and successfully rides the biggest wave of the year.
Surfer Prize: $15,000; Videographer Prize: $2,500. Photographer Prize: $2,000. Each of the other two finalist surfers will receive a $1,500 appearance fee/prize. The two non-winning videographer nominees will each receive $750.

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: $10,000; Second Place: $5,000; Third Place: $3,000; Fourth Place: $2,750; Fifth Place: $2,250.

Women's Best 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: $5,000; Third Place: $3,000.

Wipeout of the Year Award

Awarded to honor the most committed -- yet least successful -- wave of the event window. (The title is open to surfers of all genders). The Winner shall be decided by fan voting on the WSL website.
First Place: $5,000 - Each of the other four finalist surfers will receive a $1,000 appearance fee/prize. First Place Videographer: $3,000; Second - Fifth Videographers: $750 All the winner’s names will be posted on the event website upon the conclusion of the Big Wave Awards.

Fan Voting Rules

Nominee videos will be posted on the WSL website, www.worldsurfleague.com on July 20,2020.

The voting window will open when the nominees are posted on or about 6:00 AM PDT on July 20, 2020 and will close at 6:00 PM PDT on July 23, 2020 (“Voting Period”).

To vote for your favorite “Wipeout of the Year” nominee, you must register with a valid email address. There is one (1) vote for each email address. The nominee video that receives the most votes during the Voting Period will be deemed the winner. In the event of a tie, the BWA Director shall cast the final deciding vote in its sole discretion. During the Voting Period, video views generated by a script, macro or other automated means will be disqualified. The Winner of the Wipeout of the Year Award shall be announced on or about July 24, 2020.

WSL reserves the right, to void suspect entries, or to modify, cancel, or suspend part or all of the fan vote for the Wipeout of the Year Award (“Fan Vote’) should virus, bugs, non-authorized human intervention or other causes beyond the control of the WSL corrupt or impair the administration, security, or fairness or proper play of the Fan Vote. If cancelled or terminated early, WSL shall determine the eligible nominees receiving the most Votes by tallying the Votes that the WSL finds to be valid at the time of termination or cancellation. WSL may prohibit a participant from taking part in the Fan Vote or disqualify a participant’s vote if it determines that said participant is attempting to undermine the legitimate operation of the Fan Vote by cheating, hacking, deception, or other unfair playing practices (including the use of automated quick entry programs) or intending to annoy, abuse, or threaten any other participant or representatives of WSL. WSL assume no responsibility for any problems or technical malfunction of any telephone network or lines, computer on-line systems, servers, or providers, including, but not limited to, computer equipment, software, failure of any entry to be received by the WSL on account of technical problems or traffic congestion on the Internet or at any web site, any combination thereof, or otherwise, whether caused by WSL, participants, or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the promotion or by any technical or human error which may occur in the processing of submissions which may damage a user’s system or limit a participant’s ability to participate in the promotion. Rules and procedures are subject to change as determined by the WSL without notice. All personally identifiable information provided during the Fan Vote process will be treated in accordance with the WSL Privacy Policy. By participating in the Fan Vote, you agree to the WSL privacy policies and to the decisions of WSL which decisions shall be final and legally binding in all respects.

Download a copy of the Big Wave Awards Rules here.

World Surf League
Download it for free on the App store. Download it for free on Google Play.
Download
Download