Hawaii's Makuakai Rothman won the Billabong Pico Big Wave World Tour event on Friday in Punta Hermosa, Peru. Rothman is not a regular competitor on the Big Wave World Tour (BWWT). In fact, he was a last minute entry to the contest and had never before surfed the giant Peruvian wave. But two hours after the birth of his first child he decided to get on a plane in Honolulu and make the long trip to Lima.
"I just want to say I love you to my daughter who was born two days ago," Rothman said from the podium. "I wore her hospital bracelet the whole time and now I can't take it off. I don't even know what to say. I'm happy."
A powerful south swell created surf that measured 30 to 40 feet on the face, and the swell built in size and intensity throughout the day. Rothman triumphed over a field that included the world's best big-wave surfers, including former Big Wave World Champions Greg Long and Grant "Twiggy" Baker.
Rothman's most dramatic wave in the final featured a wild air-drop over the ledge into the pit that left him dangling on his tip toes.
"I thought I was going over the falls to tell you the truth," said Rothman. "I thought I might as well hang on."
He made the right call as he stuck the landing, scored a 9.4 and celebrated in the channel.
Santa Cruz's Shawn Dollar took two heavy wipeouts in the final but still managed to finish second. Fellow Mavericks surfer Anthony Tashnick took third. Local Peruvian standout Gabriel Villaran finished forth, but scored the highest single wave of the event -- a 9.63 in the semifinals for an incredible late drop followed by a searing series of turns on the inside bowl.
Perennial big wave stars Baker and Long were largely shut out during the final. Both sat far out to sea and only caught one wave each. Baker, the reigning BWWT champion, caught the biggest bomb of the day, but was mowed down by the whitewater. Long, winner of the 2012 BWWT, also did not successfully make the one wave he rode.
The Billabong Pico Alto contest is the inaugural event of the 2014 Big Wave World Tour. Upcoming events in the Southern Hemisphere are planned for Punta de Lobos, Chile, and Dungeons, South Africa.