Anthony Tashnick was surfing Pipeline in Hawaii when the call went out to the world's best big-wave surfers that the swells were up at Mavericks, and the contest was on. He heard the news on March 1, a Tuesday, flew to California on Wednesday and, after a sleepless night, was paddling out in the 56° water of Half Moon Bay on Thursday. Twenty-six other competitors were there, from as far away as Brazil and Australia, but Tashnick (left) bested them all. With time running out in the final heat, he paddled straight into the path of the 40-foot waves, rather than taking the long way around. "If a big set came in, I would have gotten mowed," Tashnick says. It didn't, and the wave he caught just before the horn propelled him to the win. Tashnick, of Santa Cruz, Calif., flew back to Hawaii the next day, his head still spinning. "I've looked up to those guys all my life," he said of his competitors. "I couldn't believe I was surfing with them, let alone that I won."