Getting peoples’ attention in Hawaii this season has been been a bit of a challenge. The surf has been pumping for days, Pipe has provided its fair share of insanity, the contest at Jaws raised the bar on what’s possible in surf of extraordinary size, and the women’s world title was decided in absolutely pristine conditions at Honolua Bay.
But on Thursday night at the Turtle Bay Resort it was time for the best surfers in the world to get dressed up and toast to all of the other accomplishments this year.
Celebrating the 48th running of the SURFER Poll, 2018 featured moments of revelry and moments of reflection. There were jaw-dropping performances and heartfelt stories told. Just like the first SURFER Poll that SURFER Magazine founder John Severson hosted nearly half a century ago, the sport, culture and lifestyle of surfing continues to engage and inspire so many people from so many different parts of the globe.
Look no further than the Andy Irons Breakthrough Performer Award. Honoring the rising stars of the sport that have overcome hurdles and ascended to the world’s stage over the last 365 days, this year the award went to Caroline Marks and Seth Moniz.
“This is definitely the best award I’ve ever won in my whole life,” said Marks, who at only 16 years of age just wrapped up a riveting rookie year on the WSL Championship Tour, and (truth be told) attacks the lip like a young, frothing Mark Occhilupo.
“Last year I was at the door escorting people in,” said Moniz, with Irons’ young son, Axel wrapped around him in a big hug. “Now I’m on stage accepting this award.”
Irons’ fingerprint was felt throughout the evening. He ended up finishing 10th in the Men’s Surfer Poll, which is extraordinary considering he passed away in 2010. And taking home Best Documentary honors was “Andy Irons: Kissed By God,” a film that not only celebrated the man’s three world titles, it also detailed his struggles with bi-polar disorder and substance abuse issues.
“It’s been a long few years making this movie, and I couldn’t be happier how it all turned out,” said his widow Lyndie Irons.
But Irons’ story was hardly the only chord struck at the 2018 SURFER Poll. Bethany Hamilton‘s ability to inspire shone brightly as she won the Best Female Performance award for her film “Unstoppable.” The first time this award has ever been given, she edged out world champ Carissa Moore, Coco Ho, Laura Enever and Ainara Aymat.
On the men’s side, after suffering an ankle injury in Bali earlier this year and largely staying out of the limelight thereafter, John John Florence found himself called to the stage for Best Male Performance for his short film “Space.”
“I’m super stoked to win this award, especially this year, it’s been an interesting year for me,” said Florence.
Not done there, Florence also came away with his fifth consecutive SURFER Poll trophy. Voted the most popular male surfer on the planet, even he seemed a bit taken aback by his resounding popularity.
“After this year I wasn’t really expecting this, to be honest. Just the injury and everything like that, I haven’t been surfing a lot lately,” smiled Florence.
In the “not expecting it” department, when it came time to name the Women’s SURFER Poll winners it was Kauai’s Alana Blanchard that took top honors. Finishing over newly minted 7-time world champ Stephanie Gilmore, as well as title holders Moore and Tyler Wright, most of Blanchard’s year has been taken up by hanging at home and child rearing.
“I definitely was not expecting this, this is so cool. To all the moms out there, this is so cool,” said an elated Blanchard. “It’s so cool to be a part of women’s surfing right now. From Bethany Hamilton putting out her amazing movie, and all the girls charging at Jaws, I think it’s such a cool, amazing time in women’s surfing, and for me to be a part of it is so awesome.”
Be it man or woman, surfers around the world continue to chase their dreams, and in doing so they’re breaking barriers and shattering stereotypes. Whether it’s John John Florence, Alana Blanchard, a fan in the crowd or somebody just getting to their feet for the first time … Now is a very cool time to be a surfer.
Here Are All of the Results:
Heavy Water Award: Lucas “Chumbo” Chianca
Best Barrel: Nate Florence
Best Series: “The Search”
Best Maneuver: Noa Deane
Best Short: “Video No. 4”
A.I. Irons Breakthrough Performer Award: Caroline Marks and Seth Moniz
Best Female Performance: Bethany Hamilton
Best Male Performance: John John Florence
Best Documentary: “Andy Irons: Kissed By God”
Movie of the Year: “Never Town”
Best Female Performance Runner-Ups
1. Alana Blanchard
2. Bethany Hamilton
3. Stephanie Gilmore
4. Coco Ho
5. Carissa Moore
6. Lakey Peterson
7. Tyler Wright
8. Sage Erickson
9. Caroline Marks
10. Courtney Conlogue
Best Male Performance Runner-Ups
1. John John Florence
2. Jack Freestone
3. Kelly Slater
4. Filipe Toledo
5. Gabriel Medina
6. Julian Wilson
7. Mick Fanning
8. Dane Reynolds
9. Griffin Colapinto
10. Andy Irons
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