Big wave surfers experience a transcendent thrill only Mother Nature can offer -- but they also have to endure her violent wrath.
The World Surf League's Big Wave Awards celebrated the top surfers this past weekend, paying respect to the best rides and the worst wipeouts of the year. And after an especially massive surf season this past winter, the competition was fierce.
While the Biggest Wave and Best Performance awards are always celebrated, the Wipeout of the Year award -- where the ocean's power, not the surfer's, is put on display -- is the clear crowd favorite.
This year's wipeout winner was Niccolo Porcella, who was tossed over the lip of a heavy wave at Tahiti's Teahupoo, then smashed back down like a rag doll. The shallow surf break is famous for having a dangerously jagged reef, and Porcella's wipeout is a stern reminder that the ocean always has the final say.
Fortunately, Porcella was not seriously injured. Other wipeout nominees, such as Garrett McNamara, did not fare so well.
While no surfer wants to win a Wipeout of the Year award, these brave souls have definitely earned our respect.
So watch this year's most insane surf wipeouts from the safety of your own home.