Editor’s Note: this intro applies mainly to wakeboarders and wakeskaters in the northern hemisphere…

Ahh yes, it is once again that time of the year. The cold winds of winter are beginning to whisper their ways into our watery existence. Boats are being put away. And thanks to that silly daylights savings thing, the sun is now setting an hour or two after we eat lunch. But it is during this time of year that from the darkness and impending cold fronts comes the hope-giving, stoke-stoking, inspiration-filled edition of Alliance known as the Photo Annual (cue angelic chants). If you only read one wake publication a year, this is the one you want. Let us give you a sneak peak inside (and out) and tell you why.

First thing’s first: the cover. Maybe you’ve only seen the pictures above. If so, go find the actual print copy right now. Seriously, stop reading this and go find it. It’s glorious. And it looks insane in the large format size of the Photo Annual issue. Major props to Shredtown’s Chris Abadie for packing some serious nuts and bolts when it came time to hit this spot and to the one and only Bryan Soderlind for capturing the magic. This is one of those photos that will be talked about for years to come. There is even a story inside the mag about how they got the shot that you will definitely want to read.

The Photo Annual edition also contains our yearly Superlative Awards. We make sure to give recognition to the riders (and filmmakers) who’ve gone the extra nautical mile over the past year and set themselves apart from the rest of their peers. Categories include: Female Rider of the Year, Wakeskater of the Year, Wakeboard Rookie of the Year, Wakeskate Rookie of the Year, Video of the Year, Wakeboard Video Performance of the Year, Wakeskate Video Performance of the Year, and Comeback of the Year. Flip through the pages to find out who won.

One of the most popular pieces in the Photo Annul issue is that for which the issue is named: the Photo Annual. We’ve compiled some pictures that are sure to make you say whoa, and definitely make you jones for some warmer weather, but for 2012 we’ve closed out the section in an entirely new way. Photographer Bryan Soderlind and Rusty Malinoski got together at the end of summer to work on a really unique photo-based project. Put it this way, it involved a helicopter, some high-powered strobes, and giant double ups.

Of course, you can’t have an Alliance Photo Annual without also having the Alliance Rider of the Year. This year’s selection is none other than Raph Derome. Seriously, who else could it have been in 2012? The kid dominated in a fashion that was totally different, refreshing, and unique from other dominating season’s in wakeboarding’s history. Raph is a very interesting person and his interview is one you’re definitely going to want to check out. Plus the photos are next level.