- 19 August 2009 | Surfing
An El Niño condition may be brewing, but in the Southern Hemisphere there is no more waiting as extraordinary storms have been a regular occurrence over the last several weeks, generating some of the most intense surf seen in years. Most recently, one of the biggest and best swells to ever hit South Africa arrived last Sunday, producing more eye-popping entries into the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards fueled by Monster Energy. Those latest photographs may be viewed on the BillabongXXL.com website.
This was the third significant swell to strike the region in ten days, sparking a series of key sessions at the spooky big wave break of Dungeons, off of Cape Town. A warm-up swell hit the region on August 6, followed by a huge and windy episode on August 11 which saw some massive tow-in waves worthy of the XXL Biggest Wave category. And on August 16 yet another enormous swell arrived, but this time with pristine sunny weather and light offshore winds -- every surfer's ideal scenario.
According to Surfline forecaster Ken Wallis, "A large complex low pressure system was spinning in the South Atlantic this past week, occupying most of the ocean between South Africa and Argentina. As a result of this consistent storm activity, a series of XXL size southwest swells have been slamming the West Coast of South Africa and, more specifically, the big wave break Dungeons.
"The most recent of these very sizable swells arrived as high pressure briefly settled over the region," added Wallis, "setting up light wind, clear skies and near flawless conditions."
Durban's Grant "Twiggy" Baker -- South Africa's most decorated big wave surfer -- was on the scene at Dungeons for the duration, part of the annual "Endless Winter" pilgrimage for the sport's elite. But even to Twiggy's experienced eyes, this recent swell was something special.
“Obviously this was a historic day for us at Dungeons, not just the size of the waves but also how clean it was and that it lasted an entire day," said Baker. "This is very unusual and the fact that we got to surf it for ten hours straight meant we became very comfortable out there and managed to push ourselves that little further.”
The day's exploits were yet another clear example of the growing dedication to paddling into ever bigger waves among the top athletes and not simply "grabbing the rope" and utilizing watercraft tow-in assists on extreme surf situations. In the Billabong XXL Awards, the biggest of these rides qualify as entries in the Monster Paddle Award. On a number of waves the riders were able to get into the barrel -- a special feat which has its own category, the Monster Tube Award.
“The local crew was pushing it all day with James Taylor, Andrew Marr and Mike Baleta standing out," said Baker of his fellow countrymen. "Greg Long had some bombs as well. It’s so important to have the right mix of surfers on a day like this to really help force the level of commitment.”
The Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards, now in its tenth annual cycle, has never experienced such a deluge of world-class entries this early in the season. Huge Southern Hemisphere storms continue to slam south-facing coastlines worldwide, and many top surfers view this as just the precursor to things to come. The National Weather Service has announced a strengthening El Niño condition in the world's oceans, which has many times in the past produced historic swell episodes in the North Pacific for Hawaii and the West Coast of the USA.
Grant Baker is happy with the booming start. "It's good to know we have had some big waves in Cape Town this season that will go up against what looks like a major Northern Hemisphere El Niño winter," he said.
The XXL Awards acknowledge the biggest and best waves ridden anywhere in the world based on the photographic evidence, with the annual awards gala occurring in California each April. Over $130,000 in prizes are awarded to the top male and female big wave performances in a variety of categories including the XXL Biggest Wave, Monster Tube, Monster Paddle and Verizon Wipeout of the Year. The top-line Billabong XXL Ride of the Year carries a $50,000 first prize.
In addition to all the latest entries in each category, full event details including formats, rules and archives of past XXL years can be seen at the event website at www.BillabongXXL.com
SOURCE: Billabong XXL