The 2016 season is over and what a season it was. We lost some of our Aussie favourites from the circuit; there was upsets, triumphs, spats at the judges and some feel-good, warm and fuzzy moments, too. Here are our favourite moments from the year.
Tyler and Owen’s Emotional Embrace at Snapper
It was a tough couple of months for the Wright family following Owen’s head injury during a Pipemasters warm up session in December 2015. So when Tyler Wright won the first event of the season and was chaired to the beach by family, to then be surprised by big brother Owen watching from the tower, the ensuing the embrace tugged the heartstrings of viewers worldwide.
Matt Wilkinson Wins Bells
Wilkinson dominated the Australian leg of the 2016 season with wins at Snapper and Bells. A bemused ‘Wilko’ was famously heard screaming, “What’s going on?” into Mick Fanning’s ear during a hug immediately following his Bells victory.
Bethany Hamilton Charges 40-foot Jaws
While most women take some kind of maternity leave after having a baby, Bethany Hamilton did the opposite and charged harder. Just six months after the birth of her first son, Hamilton was towing into 40-foot Jaws, a wave which earned her a nomination for 2016 Ride of the Year at the WSL Big Wave Awards.
Hamilton also surfed as a wildcard in the Fiji Pro, taking down world champ Tyler Wright to finish with a 3rd and the Swatch Women’s Pro at Trestle earning a 5th-place finish. Hamilton was the only female surfer to be invited to participate in the 2016 Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Championship Trophy. The courageous Hawaiian famously survived a shark attack in 2003, aged only 13, where she lost her arm.
Paige Alms Becomes First Women’s Big Wave Champion
For the first time in surfing history, women were invited to compete in a specific big wave event at 30-foot Jaws. The six-strong contingent was to feature Australians Felicity Palmateer and Laura Enever, and Hawaiians Keala Kennelly, Emily Erickson, Paige Alms and Frances Justine Dupont.
Alms took the first-place finish after Kennelly, Erickson and Enever all suffered knee injuries preventing them from surfing in the final. Her gutsy display included a nomination for Wipeout of the Year at the WSL Big Wave Awards.
Mick Fanning Wins J-Bay
Announcing a part-time schedule for 2016 at the start of the season after a torrid previous year in and out of the water, Fanning was determined to compete in the J-Bay event where in 2015 he had the memorable encounter with a great white shark. Fanning took to the water and then the podium to win the event.
John John Takes Over the World
John John won the Eddie, the World Title and the Vans Triple Crown to take his place as the best surfer in the world.
Tyler Wright Wins World Title
Tyler Wright took the title in France, dedicating her win to her late uncle and her family. It was a watershed year for Wright, overcoming family tragedy to claim a maiden world title.
Stephanie Gilmore Wins Pipe Invitational
Gilmore has been quiet on the professional front this season, with a 2nd-place finish at Trestle her highest for the year. That was until she won the Women’s Pipe Invitational last week, with the veteran beating out world champ Tyler Wright and Hawaiian Carissa Moore.
Pipemasters: 2016’s Underdog Hero Story of the Year
It was a dramatic final event for the season and a true underdog hero story in which I am sure everyone is up to date on. Michel Bourez and Kanoa Igarashi shocked the world and caused major upsets within the top ranking surfers to land themselves in the final. Bourez took the lead and held onto it to take the win.
Jamie Mitchell Wins the First Nazaré Challenge
Five years ago, Nazaré at Praia do Norte gained the attention of media worldwide for its 100-foot waves. Over the years the Portugal location has inadvertently played host to Big Wave world record title after title. This week the feared wave hosted its first professional event. Australian Big Wave surfer Jamie Mitchell carved his name into the history books as the event’s first winner.