Twiggy in action 

Winter may still be technically a month and a half away in the Northern Hemisphere, but the ninth-annual Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards presented by Monster Energy is off to an all-time start thanks to numerous major swells all around the surfing world over the last seven months.  The brand-new BillabongXXL.com event website is brimming with both video footage and still photos of some of the biggest waves and best rides in the history of the event.

Among the most dramatic images are those from South Africa's Cape Peninsula region.  Durban surfer Grant "Twiggy" Baker is clearly among the XXL front-runners for the 2008/09 year with a massive wave at Tafelberg Reef as photographed by Brenton Geach and Alan van Gysen in early August.  Baker is also an early favorite for the Monster Paddle Award along with James Taylor for a huge wave they shared during the Red Bull Big Wave Africa event two weeks earlier.  Another epic Ride of the Year contender from the Red Bull BWA is the successful tube by California's Greg Long.  Long's ride stands out as one of the biggest paddle-in tubes of all time and must be seen to be believed.

The current event window continues through the Spring Equinox on March 20, 2009, with the annual gala awards ceremony scheduled to take place in Southern California during the second week of April, 2009 and will be featured as a one-hour show on the ESPN networks.  The Billabong XXL event features over $130,000 in cash and prizes in an array of categories and is open to all qualified and invited surfers at every big wave break around the world, based on the photographic evidence.

Australia has been another hotbed of XXL production in recent months.  Western Australia's Outer Bommie reef produced some massive walls on several days, some clean and some quite ugly, with Damien "Taco" Warr and Mark Matthews among those scoring key rides.  And Tasmania's notorious Shipstern Bluff has outdone itself once again, with a pair of astonishing rides by emerging big wave star Ryan Hipwood (Gold Coast, Australia) among the potential nominees for Ride of the Year at this early juncture.

But there are also some superb entries from unlikely locations -- such as the first ever XXL submissions from Puerto Rico.  Shot on the very first day of spring (and the first day of the annual XXL cycle) the images of Carlos Cabrero at Tres Palmas by Steve Fitzpatrick are clearly the biggest waves ever ridden in that part of the Atlantic Ocean.

More recently, Spain has opened the Northern Hemisphere bidding, with Basque surfers (and perennial XXL notables) Ibon Amatriain and Axier Muniain both off to an early start with solid waves in just the last week.

The format for the 2008/09 Billabong XXL Awards remains consistent with last year, with the top prize in the XXL Ride of the Year category going to "the individual surfer who -- based on review of available video images by a panel of experts -- demonstrates the most advanced and committed level of big wave surfing performance during a single successful ride during the annual event period."  The winner is decided by a vote of a large "academy" of experts including top surf magazine editors, photographers, videographers -- and the surfers themselves.

Last year, the $50,000 Billabong XXL Ride of the Year Award was captured by Shane Dorian of Kona, Hawaii for his remarkable near-disaster backside tube ride at Teahupoo, Tahiti.

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.

The Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards are presented by Monster Energy.  Surfline is the official surf forecast, Verizon Wireless is the official communications provider and Honda Aquatrax the official watercraft.  The event is sponsored by Surfing Magazine and Hawaiian Airlines.

2008/09 BILLABONG XXL GLOBAL BIG WAVE AWARDS
CATEGORY SUMMARY

Billabong XXL Ride of the Year Award
(Greatest big wave performance on a single wave as captured on video and voted by large judging academy)
Surfer Prize: $50,000
Second Place: $5,000
Third, Fourth and Fifth Place: $1,500
Videographer Prize: $5,000

Billabong XXL Biggest Wave Award powered by Honda
(Biggest tow-in wave ridden based on available images showing maximum face height)
Surfer Prize: $15,000
Photo/video prize: $4,000

Monster Paddle Award
(Biggest paddle-in wave ridden based on available images showing maximum face height)
Surfer Prize: $15,000
Photo/video prize: $4,000
 
Monster Tube Award
(Best big-wave tube based on votes of large judging academy)
Surfer Prize: $5,000
Photo Prize: $2,000

Surfline Men's Best Overall Performance Award
(Best yearlong big wave performance at a variety of spots as voted by large judging academy)
Surfer Prize: $5,000
 
Billabong Girl's Best Overall Performance Award
(Best yearlong big wave performance at a variety of spots as voted by large judging academy)
Surfer Prize: $5,000


SOURCE: Billabong XXL