This winter, at an outer reef with a name I dare not mutter, Sion Milosky had been bobbing in the lineup for nearly three hours when fate struck. His arms were heavy but his heart was light. Electrifying bolts of adrenaline shot through his body and kept his reactions sharp. From his vantage point, through the deep breaths that accompany paddling into waves that could kill, the smell of Jet-Ski exhaust swept into his nose and the sounds of exploding masses of water filled his ears. In a few minutes, staring down a mountain of water, Sion will snap to attention and hurl himself down the face of a wave that many hard-charging veterans deemed the biggest they've ever seen anyone paddle into. The wave, an eerily blue aquatic nightmare to the meek and a grin-spawning chance of a lifetime for others, quickly became the stuff of legends on the North Shore.
To those in the lineup on that day, Sion's wave was jarring, terrifying, unforgettable. But for Evan Valiere, it was simply a winner. As the host of the inaugural North Shore Big Wave Challenge event, from the moment Evan's cat-like eyes scanned the photo, he knew he had a clear-cut victor before him. The rules were simple: the biggest wave caught in Hawaiian waters would win. And judging from the jpeg just uploaded to his computer, it would be nearly impossible for anyone to top Sion's wave.
"I started this event as a real grassroots contest to see who could catch the biggest wave in Hawaii," said Valiere. "This wasn't about winning a lot of money or getting famous, this was just about surfing big waves. Doing it for the sake of doing it. And that's why I think it's killer that Sion won this event. Anyone can enter, but it was really for the underground guys."
As Valiere alluded, The North Shore Big Wave Challenge wasn't a glitzy contest put on by the surf industry, but rather a homespun, backyard challenge amongst friends and fellow chargers. Stickered or sans sponsored, once word spread through the islands, videos and photos began appearing on the event's web page.
"A ton of work went into making that site. Fortunately I had expert help from Jordan Fripp who created and designed the website, and layed out all the graphics for the event. Then I was left with a few simple directions to learn all the ins and outs of Word Press and how to type in the code for the media galleries," added Valiere. "It was pretty nuts, I had to learn how to do all that stuff. I was amazed at the response and how stoked everyone was about the challenge. I couldn't have dreamed of a better ending to my first event."
By the end of the event's holding period, at a family-style gathering at the Oakley house, the top nominees were gathered together over dinner and the winners were announced. To no one's surprise, Sion Milosky's outer-reef bomb would take the biggest wave award and a Steve Valiere painting with the likes of Reef McIntosh, Bethany Hamilton, and a host of others being crowned in different divisions as well. But in the end, you just couldn’t shake the girth of the Sion’s wave. On the North Shore Big Wave Challenge website, Sion broke down the award-winning ride.
"I set my rail right off the bat. The hard part of that wave was resetting after the steps. I had my edge and I knew the line I wanted from the get go. Trying to hold my line was hard, right off the bat there was a step, I got through that and started getting down the face and it felt like the fastest I've ever been. At that time I reset my line and took a good look at the wave to see where I needed to go. So next thing I'm getting to the bottom and there is another step sucking out. It felt like I jumped it. As I was regaining my balance, my line changed. Last thing I wanted to do was go straight, so I put all my might into resetting my line in the direction I needed to go."
And go he went.
"I've seen Garrett paddle into some big waves at Outer Logs," said Daniel Russo, the photographer who captured Sion's wave. "But this is by far the biggest one anyone has paddled into this winter…maybe ever."
With one of the most monumental waves of the season taking top honors at the North Shore Big Wave Challenge, Evan Valiere is already gearing up for next year.
"It'll be hard to top this past winter, but we're gonna try next year," said Valiere, "and with any luck, we'll go even bigger."
To see the rest of the winners, click here.