Last Friday, history was made and awarded in the big-wave realm. The 2021 Red Bull Big Wave Awards dolled out $350,000 in prize money across four categories for men’s and women’s divisions: Ride of the Year, Biggest Paddle, Biggest Tow, and Performer of the Year (be sure to catch the entire show here). The usual suspects claimed the top spots–Justine Dupont won Ride of the Year, Sebastian Steudtner secured Biggest Tow and the Biggest Paddle awards went to none other than Paige Alms and Kai Lenny. But perhaps one of the most legendary and practiced recipients of the night was first-time Big Wave Award winner 51-year-old Mavs legend, Peter Mel, who took home Ride of the Year.

“Winning my first @redbullsurfing XXL Big Wave Awards feels very nice,” wrote Mel on IG. “Thank you all for the notes of support and congratulations. Appreciate all the kind words. Especially my family. Wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.”

All the waves/rides submitted this year (there were over 600 of them) were judged and analyzed by a panel of WSL judges, pro surfers, heavy wave specialists and the WaveCo Science team. To see which fearless chargers claimed each award category, keep reading the WSL’s presser below:



2021 Red Bull Big Wave Award Winners:

Ride of the Year

Women’s Winners
1 – Justine Dupont at Jaws, Hawaii on January 16, 2021. Captured by Slater Berosky.
2 – Maya Gabeira at Nazaré, Portugal on February 5, 2021. Captured by Cesinha Feliciano.
3 – Keala Kennelly at Himalayas, Hawaii on December 2, 2020. Captured by Ken Kosada.
4 – Paige Alms at Todos Santos, Mexico on January 11, 2021. Captured by Mike Nulty.
5 – Michelle de Bouillons at Nazaré, Portugal on February 22, 2021. Captured by Cesinha Feliciano.

Men’s Winners
1 – Peter Mel at Mavericks, California on January 8, 2021. Captured by Curt Myers.
2 – Kai Lenny at Jaws, Hawaii on December 2, 2020. Captured by Elliot Leboe.
3 – Kai Lenny at Jaws, Hawaii on January 16, 2021. Captured by Marcus Rodrigues.
4 – Grant “Twiggy” Baker at Mavericks, California on December 11, 2020. Captured by Richard Hallman.
5 – Conor Maguire at Mullaghmore Head, Ireland on October 28, 2020. Captured by Clem McInerney.

Biggest Paddle
Women’s Winners
1 – Paige Alms at Todos Santos, Mexico on January 11, 2021. Captured by Ryan Craig.
2 – Keala Kennelly at Himalayas, Hawaii on December 2, 2020. Captured by Ken Kosada.
3 – Justine Dupont at Mavericks, California on December 8, 2020. Captured by Pedro Bala.
4 – Bianca Valenti at Mavericks, California on January 12, 2021. Captured by Curt Myers.
5 – Justine Dupont at Jaws, Hawaii on January 17, 2021. Captured by Maui Cartel.



Men’s Winners
1 – Kai Lenny at Jaws, Hawaii on December 2, 2020. Captured by Sebastian Tronolone Jr.
2 – Peter Mel at Mavericks, California on January 8, 2021. Captured by Pedro Bala.
3 – Billy Kemper at Jaws, Hawaii on December 2, 2020. Captured by Sebastian Tronolone Jr.
4 – Grant “Twiggy” Baker at Mavericks, California on December 11, 2020. Captured by Richard Hallman.
5 – Peter Mel at Mavericks, California on December 8, 2020. Captured by Marcus Chambers.

Biggest Tow
Women’s Winners
1 – Justine Dupont at Jaws, Hawaii on January 16, 2021. Captured by Sebastian Tronolone Jr.
2 – Maya Gabeira at Nazaré, Portugal on October 29, 2020. Captured by Jorge Leal.
3 – Justine Dupont at Nazaré, Portugal on October 29, 2020. Captured by Above Creators.
4 – Maya Gabeira at Nazaré, Portugal on February 5, 2021. Captured by Luis de Sá.
5 – Justine Dupont at Mavericks, California on January 1, 2021. Captured by Pedro Bala.

Men’s Winners
1 – Sebastian Steudtner at Nazaré, Portugal on October 29, 2020. Captured by Jorge Leal.
2 – Kai Lenny at Jaws, Hawaii on January 16, 2021. Captured by Marcus Rodrigues.
3 – Conor Maguire at Mullaghmore Head, Ireland on October 28, 2020. Captured by Clem McInerney.
4 – Sebastian Steudtner at Nazaré, Portugal on October 29, 2020. Captured by Jorge Leal.
5 – Lucas “Chumbo” Chianca at Nazaré, Portugal on October 29, 2020. Captured by Pedro Miranda.

Performer of the Year
Women’s Winners
1 – Justine Dupont
2 – Maya Gabeira
3 – Paige Alms
4 – Keala Kennelly
5 – Michelle de Bouillons

Men’s Winners
1 – Kai Lenny
2 – Peter Mel
3 – Grant “Twiggy” Baker
4 – Sebastian Steudtner
5 – Conor Maguire



France’s Justine Dupont solidified her position as one of the best in big wave surfing with Ride of the Year, Biggest Tow, and Performer of the Year honors. Continuing to push boundaries and earning the Performer of the Year Award for the second year in a row, Dupont proved that she is as comfortable in maxing Jaws as she is at Nazaré.

“I think it was my best season so far, so I’m really stoked,” said Dupont. “In Nazaré it was one of the biggest swells, it was almost too big. I got a crazy wave with Garrett McNamara who towed me. I went so fast and I could feel the explosion behind me, it was definitely one of the biggest waves I’ve had out there. At Jaws, I really wanted a big one, because at Nazaré it’s left all the time, but at Jaws you can go right. To get a barrel at Jaws is one of the top things to achieve. It was a really special wave. I didn’t think I could set this goal for myself this winter, because I thought it would be too big for me, but now I’m really stoked.”

Paige Alms’ remarkable career includes two WSL Big Wave World Titles, as well as earning Big Wave Award nominees each year since 2012 and Performer of the Year in 2018. Alms has three Big Wave competition wins at Jaws (2016, 2017, 2019), and the 33-year-old now adds this year’s Biggest Paddle Award following her incredible wave at Todos Santos, Mexico in January 2021.

“I’m just so stoked,” said Alms. “That was the best wave I got last winter. I was out for half of the season after tearing my hamstring. So I headed down to Mexico with the hopes of scoring one good wave, and I got it. The Biggest Paddle award is one of the hardest ones to win. Paddling is definitely my focus, and I won it last year too, so I’m stoked. I hope to do it again this season!”

Hailed as one of big wave surfing’s safety pioneers, Peter Mel helped break down the door for what is possible in the heaviest of conditions. The Ride of the Year for the former WSL Big Wave Champion and former BWT Commissioner is Mel’s first-ever win in the Red Bull Big Wave Awards. Mel’s comprehensive insight into the world of big wave surfing and professional surfing as a whole helped secure his place in history.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Mel. “I knew things were rolling, but this is exciting. I’ve never won a Big Wave Award before. I knew that this wave was special, Mavericks is really important in my life. It’s been a long road there and this wave that came to me was a gift. This is dedicated to my family. My parents started their surfshop the same year I was born so surfing has been a part of my life since the very beginning. My mother recently passed away and I dedicate this award to her. She gave me my life, and this is for her.”

Sebastian Steudtner has a particular affinity for the waves at Nazaré and is one of a handful of surfers pushing the envelope at this infamous break. With multiple Big Wave Awards to his name, the German is one of the most prepared and experienced surfers out at Nazaré, and he showed what he is capable of in 2018 and is recognized again for another remarkable performance this year with the Biggest Tow Award.

“It was epic, a very special moment,” said Steudtner. “I don’t think I’ve ever been that fast on a surfboard before. I just want to thank my team, my partners, and everyone that believes in me and helped me make my dreams come true.”

Kai Lenny is considered one of this generation’s ultimate watermen, pushing the boundaries in waves of consequence. Lenny now adds Biggest Paddle and Performer of the Year to his list of accolades. The 29-year-old’s big wave prowess continually makes him a threat in every category of the Big Wave Awards and he shows no signs of slowing down.

“I feel over the moon,” said Lenny. “I just remember watching all my heroes win Big Wave Awards so for me, it’s still a big achievement. I’m just trying to keep up and do my best! This award means everything because I want to be the best I can be in every session. I think my entire season was memorable, I had some rides that will forever be ingrained in my brain.”

https://www.surfer.com/features/pete-mel-just-won-the-ride-of-the-year/

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