SHORT AND SWEET: The 2017 Surfer Awards

John John Florence glows with pride as he accepts his trophy for the #1 position in the Surfer Magazine Reader’s Poll. Frame grab courtesy Surfer Magazine Surfer Awards.

Even the title of this shindig is shorter now. What used to be the Surfer Magazine Reader’s Poll and Surf Video Awards and tried to cram way too much into a show that ran two-plus hours, has been edited down to The Surfer Awards. A short and sweet title, as is the show, which started late at around 8:30 on a blustery North Shore night, but was all pau only an hour and a half later.

So that means in an hour and a half the Surfer Awards recognized the top 10 male and female surfers – as voted on by Surfer Magazine readers – but only let two of them take the podium and say a few syllables – a time and attention saving device.

And the Surfer Awards also handed out 10 statuettes for performances in the gazillion surf videos, movies and documentaries made in the past year.

Kelly Slater stuffed in man-made perfection from the opening montage to the Surfer Awards. Frame grab courtesy Surfer Magazine Surfer Awards.

The Surfer Poll has existed since 1963, but the Video Awards were started (by your humble narrator) in 1996. At the time, the thinking was that there was so much product being released in the Digital Age, it would be the job of the Video Awards to wade through it all, separate the wheat from the chaff, nominate them and reward the athletes and artists – based on reader feedback.

The first Surfer Magazine Reader’s Poll and Surf Video Awards were held at the Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana – a sweaty, dark, rowdy, private, Cab Callowayish venue that was perfect for turned out to be a sweaty, dark, rowdy, private and very funny night. Back then we just stole whatever music and movie clips we wanted to use, because this was before the show was broadcast live and we didn’t have to worry about anything being cleared and above board.

We just stole it all, and that was liberating.

Even way back in 1996 there were dozens of videos and hundreds of hours of footage to wade through – but we did it, and the first year we did it, we did it offline, using Beta tapes and editing on an AVID.

A lot of work, but sometimes hard work pays off and the first one certainly did. Along with the expected categories like Best Barrel, Biggest Wave, Worst Wipeout and Male and Female Performer of the Year, we also had the Trophee du Beavis and Butthead for rewarding the most dangerously stupid stunt – like Jeff Clark and Brock Little placing a propane container on an Alaskan camp fire and shooting it with a rifle. There was also the Jeff Spicoli Memorial, to find a dunderheaded surfer caught on video whose stoned reality matched the fiction of Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Forget who won that one, but there were heaps of contenders.

To make a long evening short: It worked. Big time. People were dying with laughter and there were some drunken, X-rated acceptance speeches. But the show was also way too long – close to three hours with all the Video Awards winners making speeches, along with the Top 10 Men and Top Five women.

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