PADDLE power came back into the ascendancy as the gladiators of big wave surfing took centre stage for the ninth annual Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards. Regarded as the Oscars of big wave surfing, the XXL awards recognize the biggest and ugliest waves ridden over the past 12 months, as judged by a global panel of 250 surf industry former pros and big wave specialists.
Californian big wave surfer Greg Long, 26, took top honors at the gala ceremony and was handed $50,000 for winning the Ride Of The Year Category. South African big wave pioneer Grant Baker, 35, (pictured left) was awarded two honours: taking out both the XXL Biggest Wave Award and the Surfline Men's Best Overall Performance. More than 2000 people packed the Grove Theatre in Anaheim to witness mind-blowing rides from Chile, Europe, South Africa, Australia, Mexico, California and French Polynesia.
Greg Long, Winner, Ride Of The Year
Greg Long's Ride Of The Year entry came during the Red Bull Big Wave Africa event on July 26th 2008 at Dungeons, an infamous location off Cape Town. Here there is no real channel and wipeout sets swinging wide are common. Of all the entries in the Ride Of The Year Category, Long's was the only wave ridden without the assistance of a PWC (Jet-Ski). Paddling into a monster Dungeons peak and banking off the bottom into a huge tube ride, Long walked a fine line between glory and the punishing of a lifetime, before being spat out into the channel. Caught on film by Fixerfilm/RedBull BWA.
I am glad to have won this as a paddle in wave and without a PWC, because most recognized big wave surfers will tell you this is the most difficult of the two. To catch a wave on your own power is an unbelievable feeling. I am feeling great, it's my fifth time and now it's the big one. That is what is so amazing about this event, it brings everyone together at the end of the year. When we are out there riding waves, this is the last thing on our mind, we are out there because we love it. Greg Long
Ryan Hipwood, Second Place, Ride Of The Year
Ryan Hipwood took a deserved second place with a ledgy monster at Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania on October 11, 2008. Negotiating a monstrous tube section and sticking a massive air-drop netted him The video was captured by Tim Bonython.
Grant Baker, Biggest Wave Award and Best Overall Performance Award
Grant Baker's tow-in assisted ride which took the Biggest Wave Award and was ridden at Tafelberg Reef in South Africa, on August 9, 2008, judged at 61 feet. Some nine feet under last year's record breaking ride by Californian Mike Parsons. The wave is claimed to be the biggest ever tackled in his home country of South Africa. Baker's victories came as a long overdue reward for diminutive natural footer, who has been consistently nominated since the XXL awards' inception but was without a win until now. This monster was caught on camera by Brenton Geach. His second triumph was claiming the Best Overall Performance Award. Coming from a combination of his outstanding rides during 12 months of big wave events in South Africa, California and Mexico. For winning both divisions, Baker claimed $USD 20,000 in cash and a new Honda Aquatrax PWC.
The whole experience is not just satisfying for me personally but to see South Africa up there, to see Dungeons up there, seeing James Taylor up there, overall to put South Africa on the map is most satisfying for me, said Baker. When you look at my eyes right now, you can see that I am pretty pumped, it is an amazing feeling, not just to myself but also to my family back home in South Africa.Grant Baker
Derek Dunfee, Monster Paddle
San Diego resident Derek Dunfee took out the coveted Monster Paddle Award. Ridden during the giant session at Mavericks on November 30th 2008, which produced three of the five rides in the same category, Dunfee used perfect positioning to complete a classic big wave ride. Fred Pompermayer managed to claim this shot.
That day was the best day of my life and I wasn't sure if I was getting nominated - I am 26 and I feel pretty honored to win and be up here with guys I have been looking up to all my life. I want to continue to work my way up and this could be a true turning point towards the next stage of my big wave surfing career.Derek Dunfee
Maya Gabeira, Girls Best Overall Performance
Maya Gabeira (Brazil) maintained her stranglehold on the $5,000 Billabong Girls Best Overall Performance Award by winning the category for a third consecutive year and probably several male hearts. The 22-year-old has continually pushed the boundaries of female big wave surfing over the past 12 months, basing herself in the Hawaiian islands and chasing swell events around the world with tow partner Carlos Burle.
Mark Healey, Monster Tube
Hawaiian, Mark Healey, 28, cemented his big wave surfing reputation with a win in the $5,000 Monster Tube Category, his first ever Billabong XXL Award. During a swell run to a remote break in the Pacific Northwest, Healey towed into a crazy left slab at a break called Yeti in Oregon. Unleashing on dry reef and virtually below sea level, the monster tube ride was a deserving winner. Caught on film by Jason Murray.
Ross Clarke-Jones, Verizon Wipe Out Award
The Verizon Wipe Out Award went to Australian surfer Ross Clarke-Jones for a near life-ending battering at Pedra Branca, located off the Tasmanian coast. Just looking at it, it is a wonder that the frail human form can withstand such an impact. Awesome power. http://www.billabongxxl.com