Red Bull’s Illume Image Quest photography competition happens every three years, attracting 5.645 photographers from 120 countries, submitting a record-breaking 34.624 images. View the 2016 finalists over on the Red Bull Illume website.

The categories in the 2016 competition included: Wings, Sequence, Close Up, Playground, Mobile, New Creativity, Masterpiece, Energy, Enhance, Spirit and Lifestyle.

The Best Surf Photos from the 2016 Competition

Surf photos were entered into every category in 2016, including images taken on mobile phones. Some of the world’s best surf photographers submitted entries, with masterful shots by Russell Ord, Zak Noyle and Corey Wilson receiving accolades.

We’ve selected 12 of the best surf photos for your viewing pleasure.

1. Kenny Martinez’s wild Waimea Bay

Photographer: Kenny Martinez Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Energy Athlete: Koa Rothman Location: Waimea Bay, Hawaii, USA

Reminiscent of the Guinness Wild Horses ad, this photo captures the majesty and power that is Waimea Bay, and the rare warriors prepared to take her on.

2. Sophie Zander’s Norwegian black & white

Photographer: Sophie Zander Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Lifestyle Athletes: Carl Werner Roper, Oyvind Starheim Nilsen and Simon Brian Hansen Location: Lofoten Islands, Norway

Norway is one of the last surfing frontiers and this shot captures the essence of the surfing lifestyle up there. It’s not all clean waves and northern lights. Here you feel the journey and it’s all about friendship, rocks, fog, and neoprene.

3. Fred Pompermayer shows Kai Lenny at his best

Photographer: Fred Pompermayer Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Energy Athlete: Kai Lenny Location: Peahi, Hawaii, USA

Kai Lenny is changing surfing one water craft at a time. He does what he does and he does it better than anyone. Here he dominates Jaws on a SUP.

5. Leroy Bellet gets insanely barrelled

Photographer: Leroy Bellet Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Energy Athlete: Scott Dennis Location: New South Wales, Australia

Nothing can beat a good barrel shot and Leroy Bellet really got himself in prime position for this one. His masterful timing, composition and willingness to take a thrashing produced a gift for us all.

6. Ben Thouard captures Teahupoo perfection

Photographer: Ben Thouard Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Masterpiece Athlete: Landon McNamara Location: Teahupo’o, French Polynesia

This shot is perfect. That is all.

7. Zak Noyle shows another side of Pipeline

Photographer: Zak Noyle Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Energy Athlete: Shinpei Horiguchi Location: Pipeline, Hawaii, USA

Lens flare is not usually a good thing, but Zak nailed it here, with his effervescent entry into the Energy category.

8. Corey Wilson captures Mick Fanning’s joy

Photographer: Corey Wilson Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Spirit Athlete: Mick Fanning Location: O’ahu, Hawaii, USA

Mick Fanning is one of surfing’s favourite sons. Corey Wilson captures his spirit in this glittering swirl of Hawaiian blue.

9. Jean Louis de Heeckeren gets truly intrepid

Photographer: Jean Louis de Heeckeren Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Spirit Athletes: Ramon Navarro and Dan Malloy Location: Antartica, Chile

Cold, but happy. Looking forward to the action shots.

10. Gaps Sabuero’s full immersion

Photographer: Gaps Sabuero Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Masterpiece Athlete: Manuel Melindo Location: Siargao Island, Philippines

Seek and you will find… the light, the surfer, the wave.

11. Seth de Roulet gets close to the action

Photographer: Seth de Roulet Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Close Up Athlete: Eithan Osborne Location: Outer Banks, NC, USA

In a cocoon of moving ocean, surfer Eithan Osborne finds a home.

12. Nathaniel Harrington’s perfect timing

Photographer: Nathaniel Harrington Red Bull Illume 2016 Category: Lifestyle Athlete: Blake Speir Location: Sebastian Inlet, Florida, USA

It’s true. Only a surfer knows the feeling.


All images are © copyright the respective photographers / Red Bull Illume