For his feat of riding a nearly 15-foot wave at the tip of the El Porto Jetty in Manhattan Beach like an aquatic matador, the committee named Matt Mohagen as this year's winner in a ceremony Friday night.
The panel decided that Mohagen rode the largest recorded wave this winter and awarded him with $1,000, a surfboard and wetsuit in front of a nearly packed crowd at the Hermosa Beach Playhouse.
“I'm so psyched—it's been a long winter,” Mohagen said. “I got that wave in January, and actually have been really nervous, actually hoping another big swell wouldn't come in.”
A breathtaking video of the wave showed Mohagen streaking across the water while the jetty loomed near. Surf photographer Jeff Farsai swam towards the wave while positioning a waterproof camera to capture Mohagen.
Farsai was equipped with only swim fins as he pushed himself and a custom CMT housing structure for his Canon digital SLR camera and lens to record Mohagen through the monster wave.
Other Big Wave Challenge contenders included Derek Levy at the Redondo Breakwall, Tyler Hatzikian at Hammerland, Marcello Malinco at the Breakwall and Chris Rodriguez. The contest for the region’s biggest wave that had been ridden kicked off last year on Dec. 1 and ended March 31.
There were “no ifs, ands, or buts” about awarding Mohagen as this year’s winner, said Hermosa Beach resident and photographer Mike Balzer, who founded the South Bay Boardrider's Club.
Even Hatzikian was “really proud of Matt, seeing him grow up and advance [in surfing], and charge, seeing him come back from the [Hawaiian] Islands,” he said.
“I grew up surfing Hammerland, growing up watching Tyler [Hatzikian] charge and pull into massive barrels, he's definitely one of my heroes out there,” Mohagen said before a crowd while accepting his award. “I'm definitely psyched to be on stage and have him say some positive stuff about me.”