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Underside of one of the world's biggest waves takes out Ocean Photographer of the year award

The winners of the 2022 Ocean Photographer of the Year competition have been announced, with a picture of a surfer held down by one of the heaviest waves in the world taking out the top prize. 

Ben Thouard snapped this image of a surfer in Tahiti at the famed wave known as Teahupo'o.

"This is the unseen part of surfing," Thouard said.

"I have so much respect for both the wave and the surfers — surfing such a heavy wave is a huge challenge."

A total of nine categories were judged in the competition, ranging from Wildlife, Fine Art, Conservation Hope and Conservation Impact, Adventure, Portfolio, Young, and Human Connection categories.

An image of a blanket octopus in the Philippines won second place, by photographer Katherine Lu.

Lu said she was having difficulties on the dive before she took the photo and hesitated before going down deeper. 

"Luckily, my ears equalised and there before my eyes was this beautiful blanket octopus," she said. 

"We swam alongside her and then, like magic, she opened up her blanket to show herself in all her glory."

Brook Peterson took out third place, with an image taken under an oil rig platform off Los Angeles in the US. 

"There was a large school of baitfish under the platform for several weeks and, as a result, numerous other animals [were] there to feed off the baitfish: sea lions, bonita and cormorants," she said. 

"The image depicts a cormorant hunting through a large bait ball."

More than 5,000 candidates submitted photographs across all categories — that's an increase of about 2,000 on the number of entries last year.

Major prize for Australian photographer

Western Australia-based photographer Brooke Pyke took out the Female Fifty Fathoms Award, which was announced alongside the Ocean Photographer of the Year winners. 

That award was created last year to encourage women to share their perceptions of the undersea world.

"Words cannot explain what this level of achievement means to me and how grateful I am to work in such a wonderful industry, surrounded by so much natural beauty here in Western Australia," Pyke said in an Instagram post. 

"I only just started professionally as a photographer two years ago and the journey since then has taught me so much.

"It just goes to show how far perseverance and dedication can get you."

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