Surfers and snowboarders dominate the nominations for the 2019 Laureus Action Sportsperson of the Year Award announced this week.
Aussie surfing great Stephanie Gilmore, who won her record-equalling seventh world title in Hawaii at the end of last month, joins two Brazilian surfers: men’s world champion Gabriel Medina and big wave surfer Maya Gabeira.
Gabeira broke the Guinness World Record in January last year for riding the largest wave ever surfed by a woman – a beast of a 68-foot wave in Nazaré, Portugal, which in my books is a fairly big deal.
The three surfers are joined by three snowboarders: US Winter Olympic champions Chloe Kim and Shaun White, and Austrian Big Air gold medallist Anna Gasser.
As one of the judges in the action category, it was gratifying for me to see my top three votes represented on the short-list: Gasser, Kim and Gabeira.
The 2019 Laureus World Sports Awards, which recognise a range of categories of sporting achievement in 2018, will be held in Monaco on February 18.
The action sport finalists easily fulfil the criteria of the athlete who “best demonstrates supreme athletic performance and achievement in action sports in the qualifying year, such as winning world or national championships or the establishment of world records.
“Special recognition will go to those who push the limits of action sport even further by devising and executing new tricks and moves in competition.”
‘Gabby’ Medina and Gilmore both won surfing world championships, and used some pretty amazing tricks and moves to get there.
American snowboarder Kim was the youngest woman (17) to win a Winter Olympics snowboarding gold medal in the Halfpipe.
It was her first Olympics, and she got an almost perfect score of 98.25 in her final run. She is also the youngest to complete two 1080-degree spins in a row at the Olympics.
White, the 31-year-old American legend, confirmed his iconic status with a third Halfpipe gold medal, but that was pretty much it, while Gasser won the gold medal at the inaugural Big Air competition at the Olympics.
She did it with snowboarding’s hardest trick: a cab double cork 1080, which required her to flip the board twice and spin it three times before landing.
That is something pretty special in my book. To me, it’s all about degree of difficulty in a rare atmosphere of exclusivity.
That is why Gabeira’s achievement is special too. You may remember that she almost lost her life in a horrific wipeout at Nazaré in 2013 that snapped her tibia.
The shock of this near-drowning acted as a catalyst for change. She moved to Nazaré to face her demons and conquer the wave, and an action sportsperson title would be vindication of three years of training and preparation.
At the ceremony last year, she said that the world record was a dream she’d had for many years.
“After the accident, it felt like a very distant dream. It took a lot of work to have a season like last year, to be 100 percent again; and to complete it with a Guinness Records title is quite special.”
According to Guinness, judges went through archives from 20 years to substantiate the award. For the men, Brazilian Rodrigo Koxa has the record – an 80-foot monster at Nazaré in November 2017.
Feats at the Winter Olympics also feature in the more general categories, with the Norway nominated in the World Team of the Year category along with a host of individual nominations, such as Italian downhill ski racer Sophia Goggia for Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year.
For the action stars though, the choice is surely between the hardest trick and the biggest wave.
Solid surf around the Cape Peninsula this weekend. Today looks six foot or bigger in clean light SSE to SE breezes, freshening to strong SSE later.
Muizenberg is light onshore and 1-2’, but blown out and messy later.
On Sunday, the wind is subsiding and blows from a much better straight SE direction, which means fun waves on the beachbreaks in 4-5’ surf early.
The surf slowly dwindles, down to 3-4’ by evening, and the wind picks up again later. Muizenberg suffers another day of messy onshore.