“You must suspect by now why we’ve asked you to meet with us?” I say to James Taylor. He looks at me blankly. Neil Webster is prepping a video camera behind us whilst his teenage son Joseph is pulling a giant cheque out the car. “Really?” I ask in amazement. “You have ABSOLUTELY NO idea why we asked you to meet with us?” (I am genuinely amazed) Taylor smiles and looks confused. “Well then,” chirps Webster from behind me, “we’ve got some good news for you, ‘cause you just won the Rebel Sessions Biggest Paddle-In Wave award!”
As it turns out, all the winners responded in the same way. Not one of them (aside for perhaps Andrew Marr) had an inkling that they might win. There was a huge volume of entries considering there were only a handful of big days this year. In the end it was anyones game and the judges had a hard time choosing the final winners. We met Andrew Marr on a building site in Kalk Bay. He smiled broadly shaking our hands whilst delightedly giggling his ‘trade mark giggle.’ Referring affectionately to his long time tow partner, he said. “That clever old man did well to get me onto that wave.” As we walked away from the site I could hear Andrew saying to his workers. “Look how lucky I am. Look what I just won! (holding up the oversized cheque) Now I can pay you your Christmas bonuses!!” (insert trade mark giggle)
The winner in the highly anticipated and fiercely contested, “Best Performance By A Rookie” category was won by Ethan Koopmans. His older brother, Bas, won the “Biggest Wipe Out” award. James beamed from ear to ear when we told him that they were winners too. “My two protege’s.” He says happily. “I first met them when they were 12 and 14 respectively. They would see me riding my guns in small waves at Melkbos and asked if they could try riding them. I put the brothers on some of my other guns and over the years we built up to riding bigger waves. In November 2013 I took them out to Sunset for the first time and then Dungeons soon after that. I’m so proud of them. It couldn’t have gone to two better people.” Both brothers are presently in the USA so we got James to give them the good news later that evening over skype (see the video link to follow.)
The category with the biggest payout was the “Best Surfed Paddle-In Wave.” Our 3 judges were hard pressed over who to choose, so in the end it was a split decision. The two winners can’t have been more different from each other. Josh Redman is presently at the apex of the sport, having proved himself to be one of the best surfers at Jaws this past season. On the other end of the scale, is geologist Mad-Mike Baletta. Mad-Mike only recently returned to riding big waves after almost 5 years of absence. “This is AWESOME!” He told us over the speakerphone. “I’m sitting in the middle of a desert and you’re phoning to tell me that I’ve won a big wave contest!!”
We have 2 winners in the media submissions category. The first being photographer Sean Thompson who shot an INCREDIBLE 4 out of 5 of the winning sequences. We’re also very proud to say that we have a LADY winner too this year. Lisa Labinjoh, who was right in the thick of the action on most of the biggest days. She co-piloted a small rubber duck to within a few meters of the breaking waves to get frontline imagery which she later submitted to our contest.
It was Lisa's video of matric student Fabian Campagnolo that finally got her the nod as winner in the “Best Video Submission” category. Fabian gets a special mention in this post, for being the youngest finalist in this years contest, as well as being the featured rider in the winning video submission.
THE FINAL RESULTS ARE AS FOLLOWS:
“Biggest Paddle-In Wave” - James Taylor, 30K
“Best Surfed Paddle-In Wave” - Mike Baletta & Josh Redman, 20K each
“Worst Wipe Out” - Bas Koopmans, 10K
“Best Rookie Performance” - Ethan Koopmans, 10K
“Best Video” - Lisa Labinjoh, 5K
“Best Photographic Sequence” - Sean Thompson 5K
“Special Mention” - Fabian Campagnolo