Ryan Hipwood 

Two months remain in the yearlong period for the Ninth Annual Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards and a swag of Australia’s top riders are well in contention.

The $USD 130,000 Billabong XXL Awards are the Oscars of big wave riding, with eligibility open to big wave surfers at every break around the globe during the one-year contest window.

The event closes at the end of the Northern Hemisphere winter on March 20, followed by the award ceremony in California on April 17, where the gladiators of big wave riding meet. 

West Australian Damien “Taco” Warr is among a host of Aussie daredevils leading the way for XXL contention after tackling a monster ride at a secret offshore location on the West Australian coast.  Warr’s ride, currently entered in the $USD 15,000 Biggest Wave Category, is over 50ft (15m) tall on the face, similar to a five story building, and was tackled in April of 2008.

“The conditions were perfect that day, the wind was light offshore, the sun was out and it was the first swell of the year so there was no one else around,” said Warr.  “I remember going across the ocean heading out to the reef, which is about 3km off shore and from side on we were watching these monstrous waves breaking top to bottom.”

“I jumped straight off the ski when we got out there and as we were making our way out to the take off zone, a series of sets came through. We let the first set pass and the second one was just absolutely huge,” he said.  “It was the biggest wave I had ridden by far and at the time I didn’t realise just how big it was because I hadn’t surfed out there for a year and a half.”

“You are so focused on what is going on at the time that everything around you is a bit of a mind blank you are just so intent on making the wave and making sure it doesn’t land on your head.”

“I would hate to think what a lip like that landing on you would do to your body.”

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Surfing Australia

Surfing Australia, the peak body for the sport of surfing in Australia, today announced the appointment of Andrew Stark as its new Chief Executive Officer.

Andrew Stark comes to this role from his similar position as CEO of Surfing Queensland, a position he has held for the past eight years.

Norm Innes, Chairman of Surfing Australia, today said, “ The Board is very pleased to welcome Andrew to Surfing Australia. Andrew has “runs on the board” in Event Management, Education Development and Sport Administration and we look forward to him bringing his skills to the challenges of the national organization”

Andrew Stark commented on today’s appointment by saying, “I am extremely excited about the challenge that lies ahead. Surfing Australia and ASP Australasia have enormous opportunity for growth and development and I look forward to taking the sport to new heights in the region. “

Brodie Carr, CEO of ASP International feels that Andrew will be a great asset to Surfing Australia in it’s role as service provider for ASP Australasia.

“Andrew’s credibility, energy and proven track record will be critical in ensuring the viability of ASP in this region, particularly as we go forward in difficult economic times” commented Carr.

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Wayne Bartholomew 

After 10 years of service as President of ASP International, Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew (AUS), 54, will be stepping down from the post, effective at the end of March 2009.

“After deep consideration, I have decided not to seek a fifth term as ASP President,” Bartholomew said. “I depart from ASP with nothing but positive feelings. After 36 years in the engine room of the sport, the timing of this decision is of the utmost importance to me. I feel the time is right. I leave at the height of my effectiveness perhaps I could say the height of my popularity in the surfing world.”

Bartholomew has been a central figure in professional surfing for over three decades. As a young Australian, the stylish natural-footer stormed onto the international scene in the 1970’s, dominating lineups and planting the seeds for what would one day become professional surfing.

“Wayne has been the most fitting and articulate ambassador for the sport,” Richard Grellman, Chairman of the ASP Board of Directors, said. “He has always represented ASP with integrity and candor. He is the visionary that started the Tour and then reinvented it again with the Dream Tour. We have a global, respected professional surf tour thanks to Rabbit and owe him a mountain of thanks.”

The original “Coolangatta Kid” punctuated a stunning 12 years as a touring professional surfer with a World Title in 1978 and 8 consecutive years in the top 5. Bartholomew’s 36 years in the sport also saw him collect World Titles in the ASP Masters (1999) and ASP Grand Masters (2003) divisions, serve 11 years as surfer representative on the ASP Board, eight years as the regional representative, four years as CEO/President and finally his decade-long stint as President of ASP International.

“All of my roles and especially my time as President have been a fulfilling and rewarding experience,” Bartholomew said. “I consider it a privilege and an honour to have held this position of great responsibility and to have worked alongside a group of very dedicated and talented individuals.”

A champion of surfers’ rights and in possession of incredible market foresight, Bartholomew orchestrated the transition of professional surfing venues from metropolitan locations with marginal surf to the best waves on the planet, resulting in what is today referred to as the “Dream Tour.”

“I have a deep affinity with professional surfing and my personal journey has run a parallel course with the evolution of the sport,” Bartholomew said. “This leaves me with a feeling of deep satisfaction and I am confident about the future of the sport of professional surfing. Thank you for allowing me to serve the sport in the capacity of ASP President.”

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