The year long event boasts R50, 000 in prize money. The O’Neill Raw Courage Awards started on May 20, 2007 and will culminate in a Red Carpet Awards presentation on May 20, 2008.
The O’Neill Raw Courage Awards is solely a big wave recognition event. It is a first in the history of South African surfing with a one year waiting period and the emphasis on big wave paddle surfing as some of the big wave elite classify Jet Ski assisted tow-in surfing as the easy way out.
“The recent craze of tow-in surfing has taken the world by storm but almost anyone can let go of a rope when they are perfectly positioned by a Jet Ski with speed on a big wave,” said O’Neill Brand and Team Manager Chris Bertish.
“Paddle surfing takes guts, knowledge, experience and raw courage. To paddle out, line up for a big slab of ocean, turn your board around, commit to a wave, paddle your heart out and have the courage to take the drop – that is what big wave surfing is all about.

“There is no easy recipe and no shortcuts, just pure determination to catch the biggest waves Neptune can throw at you whilst paddling with one’s bare hands.

“These are the warriors, the big wave watermen and O’Neill has set out to reward them for their passion, courage and commitment,” concluded Bertish.
Nominations for the O’Neill Raw Courage Awards are expected to start coming in fairly soon as one of the first major winter swells started battering the Cape over the weekend and is moving north at a rapid rate up the east coast.
The event is only open to South African surfers, but they must be pictured on a wave that is classified as 15ft or bigger, in order to be in contention for an award.
All nomination rides are to be sent to O’Neill to be showcased on the O’Neill website, where they will be judged and voted for during the year, until the awards evening in May 2008 where the winners of each division will be announced.
There are five categories for awards namely the Raw Courage Award for the biggest wave paddled into, ridden and completed; Balls to the Wall Award for the most committed surfer, the Green Room Award for the best big wave barrel, Ultimate Ride Award for the ride of the year and the Biggest Wave Award for the biggest ridden wave of the year which includes tow-in surfing.
First prize for the Raw Courage Award is a trip to California’s world renowned big wave spot Mavericks in Half Moon Bay with Mavericks pioneer Jeff Clark valued at R25 000. The other categories all carry cash prizes.
Photographs or frame grab submissions will be accepted for all categories with the exception of the “Balls to the Wall” Award where the event chairman will select a winner. Surfers interested in reading more about the rules can visit the O’Neill SA website.
The event launch took place on Saturday, May 19 at the Banana Jam Bar in Kenilworth, Cape Town and was attended by some of the country’s big wave surfing greats such as Marr, Jonathan Paarman and Mickey Duffus. 
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