The Surfer Big Wave Challenge

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Swellnet Dispatch

Big waves, by their nature, are more rare than their dimunitive cousins. It's this infrequent quality that makes big wave contests so troublesome to organise. In 2016, the Woz lined up nine contests on their Big Wave Tour, yet only six ran. The next year just five ran, and the year after that three.

At present there's just one contest on the Big Wave 'Tour', the rest are victims of the capricious nature of low pressure systems. Sometimes they deliver, sometimes they don't, and sponsors are only so tolerant.

It's why video awards make more sense for the big stuff. No need for organisers to fly in, they can stay where they are and have surfers submit their entries online. The contest is global, annual, and least it was up to 2023 when after two decades of various sponsors, the Woz pulled their backing of the Big Wave Awards.

Quickly stepping into the breach was Bill Sharp, who devised the whole concept beginning with the K2 Challenge and then Billabong Odyssey, this time simply calling it the Big Wave Challenge. The first iteration ran without a sponsor, however it's now called the Surfer Big Wave Challenge, as Surfer magazine have stumped up money and naming rights.

Surfer, you may recall was shuttered a few years back, along with every mainland surf magazine, yet it's reappeared as a purely online portal, led by Jake Howard and Dashiel Pearson.

Bill has organised, in his words, "a long term partnership with the owners of Surfer Magazine to back the Big Wave Challenge with massive new support, including an upgraded online and social media platform, lots of staff in every department to back the mission and solid prize money to start - and more to come. The dream is alive!"

"For 2024 the Surfer Big Wave Challenge will feature $150,000 in prize money – the first significant investment in the sport of big wave surfing in quite a few years," adds Bill. "I expect to grow the pot each year significantly as we prove the BWC’s value and grow its support."

"Our faith and dedication to the vision has been rewarded," says Bill.

The year runs from August 1st 2023 to the end of July, capturing both northern and southern hemisphere swell seasons. Currently entries are being sent in for:

  • Surfer of the Year - Men & Women
  • Ride of the Year - Men & Women, plus video awards
  • Biggest Paddle Wave - Men & Women, plus video and photo awards
  • Biggest Tow Wave - Men & Women, plus video and photo awards
  • Wipeout of the Year
  • Young Gun (top under-18 talent)
  • Videographer of the Year


Alex Papas's picture
Alex Papas's picture
Alex Papas Tuesday, 7 May 2024 at 5:13pm

love this. i know it's not new but it's, in my opinion, the only way you can make big wave surfing competitive without it being a boring af format

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Wednesday, 8 May 2024 at 2:23pm

Wait what do want to create an invite only world tour that then crowns the winner world champ?
Even if he doesn't complete his waves ? Huh weird.

kookstar's picture
kookstar's picture
kookstar Wednesday, 8 May 2024 at 5:50pm

tow ins equals courage and no skill

bbbird's picture
bbbird's picture
bbbird Thursday, 9 May 2024 at 7:19pm

Volunteers required; Essential criteria.....experience & solid thighs & glutes as shock absorbers .....or cartwheel into oblivion....