While most of the surfing world's attention was honed towards the anemic swell lapping upon the Gold Coast this week, the Big Wave Tour (BWT) crowned Makua Rothman its champion on the North Shore of Oahu. Makua has always been a standout performer when swell models darken and buoys strain, but with the exception of the Triple Crown and some specialty Pipe events, he's forged his reputation for heroics surfing away from heat horns and judging towers. He, like so many others among his hell-raising, hard-charging brethren, followed big swells wherever they went. Contests be damned.
But things changed when the WSL took control of the fledgling big-wave contest circuit and created the BWT. For many big-wave surfers, this new Tour was something that they could actually get behind. Makua included. And after being granted a wildcard into the season, Makua promptly won the inaugural event of the year at Pico Alto and darted his way to the top of the BWT ratings, just a few days after the birth of his son no less.
In the following event, the Punta Galea Challenge, Rothman finished second and secured his place as the front-runner of the BWT. He’d finish the year on top. "I feel amazing to be the WSL Big Wave Champion, it's a dream come true," said Rothman. "I wasn't invited to all events and here I am, the world champion this year as a wildcard".
Unlike the World Tour, if the conditions needed for the BWT don't materialize, the contest simply doesn't run. And after four of the six possible contests in the season, which was broken evenly with three events in the Northern Hemisphere and three in the Southern, failed to produce swell big enough to fit the event's criteria, the window came to a close and Makua, as the ratings leader, took the BWT title.
"My whole life I've dedicated myself to big waves," Rothman said. "There's a lot of talented surfers on the Tour, a lot of people that I look up to, that push me to be my best. I’ll be back next year, and to defend this title again and come out victorious is going to take a lot of hard work."