Billy Kemper, Haiku, Hawaii, USA Big Wave Tour ranking: Sixth
When the world of big wave surfing changed forever and paddling surfers overran Pe'ahi, pushing the jetski to further outside reefs, it was a glorious moment. To the casual observer however, it didn't seem like the best big wave surfers were being heroic, but instead had bitten off a lot more than they could chew.
On any decent sized day it seemed that there were so few waves that offered an in, that it was nearly impossible to catch the sets because there was too much moving water and too much wind. The dynamics of paddling a surfboard into these behemoths was just not yet that feasible.
It didn't take long for that notion to fade, and before long surfers had dropped board size, were taking off deeper and later, and were surviving despite being caught by the big sets. By the time they were pulling into barrels at Jaws, big wave surfing had been totally redefined and one of the chief exponents of this new movement was Billy Kemper from Hawaii.
An unfettered approach to the big sets at Jaws and a willingness to pull in, soon saw him riding the barrel at Jaws like other surfers would surf V-Land on three-foot days - easily and calmly. He knew which waves to go on, and he knew precisely where to sit on different swell sizes and directions - every spot has its variables and it is a surfers job to understand as best he or she can.
Billy got it right - in fact he got it so right that he won back-to-back Pe'ahi Challenge events out there in booming surf, to undeniably place himself near the top of the food chain in big wave surfing, and right on top among those who surf Jaws regularly. His nomination for this award is just reward for his solid charging.