"The February 4th swell was as good as Mavs gets - sunny, offshore all day, and good tide," says SURFER Staff Photographer Ryan "Chachi" Craig about one of his highlights of 2016. Whether it was covering one of the best Mavericks swells in decades, buying a one-way ticket to Mainland Mexico, or crossing cultures in rural Papua New Guinea, Craig's year was punctuated by big trips during prime swell windows. Here, Chachi catches Mavericks regular Ben Andrews on that early February afternoon. "Ben's a trawl fisherman from the region, so he’s a guy who spends a lot of time in the ocean. There were 50 guys out on this day, and there’s Ben, sitting way on the outside bowl, getting these sweet-spot waves and doing it super-casually. He's a guy who a lot of the surfing world might not know, but the wave that Ben caught is a testament to the level of surfer he is."


Title Photo: Matt Becker, Mavericks

Unknown, Mavericks. "When you have one of the best Mavs days of the year, plenty of waves go unridden. It has many qualities of a slab wave. Some barrel super hard. Some clamp. Some stay open. And in the process, plenty of people get caught inside, as this guy did. The violence of that wave is more than photos or videos can translate."

Papua New Guinea. "On our trip, there was a bridge that we had to cross to reach some nearby islands. The local people strip the wood on the bridge for their personal use and replace them with long planks, so the bridge physically sways. I was sitting on top of another car as we pulled up. Mark [Palm], the Medevac who led us around the area, called it the ‘Bridge of Doom.’"

Grant "Twiggy" Baker, Puerto Escondido. "During the summer, I bought my ticket to Mexico when the World Tour had its first event at Puerto. This was a few days before Twiggy's victory, right at sunrise, with sets piling out the back. It was pumping Puerto, and he got it all to himself. Twiggy is always one of the most dialed-in and patient guys you’ll find down there."

Jesse Columbo, Santa Cruz Harbormouth "This is such a mechanical kind of wave that you can just hold your line and go. So to mix up the look, I used a different shutter speed and got some cool effects. This is Jesse at 1/5th of a second."

Josh Moniz, Papua New Guinea

Koa Smith, Mainland Mexico. "I shot this through my water housing before I jumped in the ocean, after I walked up the point. From this angle, you can’t see the pack behind him, so it looks like it's more remote. One of my goals is to give common spots a different look, as if they’re off the beaten path or less crowded."

Kyle Thiermann, Puerto Escondido. "It wasn’t a crazy big day when Kyle was surfing, but when the right wave came in, it would hit the sandbar perfectly and there were these wide barrels, as big as Backdoor or Off The Wall."

Ryan Augustine, Mavericks. “At sunrise, when it’s not foggy, the morning at Mavs is like a studio. Conditions were spectacular this entire day.”

Nat Young, Santa Cruz. "This was on a crazy offshore day at The Lane, and everything looked much more dramatic with the spray, so I threw on a ten-stop graduated filter, which allows you to do these long speed blurs. I used the filter for five waves, but it was so dark - I could barely see the ocean - that this shot of Nat was my last one before taking it out."

Nic Lamb, Mavericks. "Nic’s a freak out at Mavs. He's been surfing there since he was 16. A lot of big-wave guys are crazy, but they’re safe. Some guys, like Nic, go for it regardless. On this wave, his board is sideways, his back heel is off the deck, but he pulled this one off and kicked out the back, no problem. It was a sign of finer things to come when he won the Titans of Mavs contest a while later."

Matt Bromley, Puerto Escondido. "The fish-eye lens is deceptive, but you can tell how big this wave is by how big of a board Matt’s riding, and how big of a guy Matt is in general. He looks like he’s headed into a chandelier closeout, but he made this one."

Noah Wegrich, Santa Cruz. "Noah’s as talented as any local around. The kid has crazy good style, and he’s one of the best aerialists in our town, which is saying something. On top of that, he can ride a bunch of different boards."

Santa Cruz, California. "These days are way more photo-friendly than surfer-friendly. It was the wrong wind direction for The Lane, and there was so much chatter and texture on the face, but the conditions were excellent for images."

Somewhere north of Santa Barbara. "One of those ‘Almost’ days - the waves looked perfect, but it was just too small, and guys weren't paddling for many sets. It was a great day to mind-surf, though."

Roger Ramirez, Puerto Escondido. "Roger is a local who looked as casual and stylish as ever at the BWWT event. It was cool to see a couple locals get wildcards into the contest, to show what they can do at their home breaks."

Torrey Meister, Mainland Mexico. "You can find some of the most ripple places on earth in Mexico. But the action can get repetitive after a guy does 15 turns on a wave. A guy like Torrey getting above the lip allowed me to get creative with the angle."

Will Skudin, Mavericks. "For a still photograph, there are a lot of these moments where the image creates curiosity - he’s either going to wipe out or stick the gnarliest drop ever. All these guys are brave out there. It’s how much you want to flirt with the bowl that could give you the glory shot."

Tom Lowe, Far Bar. "This happened during the Puerto contest period, where Tom was an alternate in the event. Tom’s not only crazy in big waves, but he's one of the most humble, down-to-earth guys I’ve met. This was about 30 minutes after sunrise, with a rainbow visible in the offshore winds. I was shooting the event 90 degrees to my right, up the beach and to the north, and I nearly missed Tom tearing through, hands raised, pulling into this closeout."