The level to which big surfing has risen over the last five years is staggering. Advancements in technology and training have ushered in a Paddle Revolution, which couldn’t have arrived at a better year than 2016, in the teeth of the atmospheric monster known as El Niño. This year’s Heavy Water nominees showed their dominance in the gladiator pit when the biggest season in big-wave history called for it: a methodical pursuit that concluded with a Big-Wave World Title for Greg Long; massive Pe’ahi barrels from Shane Dorian and Ian Walsh; a tactical assault from Kai Lenny on all fronts, whether paddling Mavericks, charging Waimea, or owning Jaws; and a massive mic drop, “the largest wave ever paddled into,” from Aaron Gold.

Shane Dorian:

Photo: Noyle

Photo: Noyle

Kai Lenny:

Photo: Fred Pompermayer

Photo: Pompermayer

Greg Long:

Photo: Erik Aeder

Photo: Aeder

Ian Walsh:

Photo: Zak Noyle

Photo: Noyle

Aaron Gold:

Photo: Erik Aeder

Photo: Aeder