Maroubra¹s very own hard man and all round charger Mark Mathews is $20,000 richer after collecting the Biggest Wave Ridden award at a gala presentation for the Oakley Surfing Life Big Wave Awards.

In what judges described as the closest contest in the event¹s seven year history, the 24-year-old Mathews just edged out Bronte¹s Kobi Graham and Western Australian Damien 'Taco' Warr for the big one, with a ride estimated at nearly 14 metres (45 feet in surfer lingo) at Cow Bombie, WA last September.

"I¹m ecstatic," exclaimed Mark as he was surrounded by well-wishers at the celebrity-studded Bondi Pavilion party. "I still think we should¹ve had a paddle-in contest to decide the winner from the finalists. I know it was that close."

Judges were torn until they were able to view high-quality video of Mathews¹s ride, provided by well known surf filmmaker Tim Bonython. Bonython¹s footage¹s role was rewarded with $3000 for the Biggest Wave Shooter Award. ³I didn¹t know if Mark wanted me to submit the footage,² said a thrilled Tim. ³Then he called me at the last minute. Now I¹m extremely stoked I did!²

Marti Paradisis, the 'Tasmanian Tiger', made his own kind of history last night by becoming the first surfer to take two Awards in the one year: one for Biggest Paddle-in Ride (at his beloved Shipstern Bluff), and one for Best Overall Performance for 2008/09.

And in a sensational, crowd-rocking announcement, event presenters Oakley busted out an extra $5000 People¹s Choice Award for young Western Ozzie boy Kerby Brown, whose crazy 'slab' ridden last year at a secret reef near his home town has had everyone slack-jawed. The wave fell just short of Biggest Wave contention ­ yet it, and some other super-thick waves entered this year, will almost certainly become the new benchmark for the hell-wave fraternity this coming season.

Said Kerby: "I¹m without a major sponsor at the moment so the money will allow me to continue doing what I love: chasing the biggest swells around the country and finding new crazy waves to ride."

"These surfers are like gladiators," he continued. "Taking on anything nature can throw at them. It¹s got to the point where it is extremely dangerous and lives are on the line so hats off to everyone pushing it so far. We are only going to see bigger and heavier rides this year. I can assure you of that!"

Organizers promise exciting new developments with the Awards in 2009/10 ­stay tuned!

Prizes: BIGGEST WAVE RIDDEN: Mark Mathews BIGGEST PADDLE-IN RIDE: Marti Paradisis BEST OVERALL PERFORMANCE: Marti Paradisis SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT: Kerby Brown SHOOTER AWARDS: Tim Bonython, Dave Otto