2009 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards 

The finalists for the 2009 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards presented by Monster Energy were announced today following yet another remarkable year of surf.  Following 12 months of enormous swell events from Europe to South Africa to Australia to California and beyond, over 550 entered images have been distilled down to this year's elite nominations.  Video and still images of all the top rides are now available for viewing on the updated event website at BillabongXXL.com.

The winners will be announced on Friday, April 17, 2009 at the ninth-annual invitation-only awards gala at the Grove Theater in Anaheim, California before 2,250 surf world VIPs.  The entire night's festivities will be webcast live on the event website and will also be the focus of a one-hour television special airing on the ESPN2 network on the evening of May 29.

The top prize in this Oscars of surfing -- the Billabong XXL Ride of the Year Award -- carries a $50,000 prize for the surfer with the single most amazing performance on a big wave captured on video.  This year features a diverse array of epic rides, including a pair at Tasmania's Shipstern Bluff -- local surfer James Hollmer-Cross qualified with a thick double-tube ride while Gold Coaster Ryan Hipwood made entry by surviving a massive airborne leap down a heaving stair-step face.  California's Greg Long became a finalist for one of the biggest paddle-in barrels ever seen during the Red Bull Big Wave Africa event at Dungeons, off Cape Town South Africa, while Hawaiian hellman Garrett McNamara is up for his backside vanishing act inside the spitting guts of Tahiti's famed Teahupoo break.  And in a new twist to the Ride of the Year category, California's Brian Conley is nominated both for escaping a deep tube in Mexico, and for filming it as well, using a hand-held Point-Of-View camera throughout the ride.

The Billabong XXL Biggest Wave Award will likely generate double extra large debate as to which was the tallest face of the year.  Two of the nominees come from Belharra, France and feature Benjamin Sanchis (France) and Axi Muniain (Basque Country, Spain) atop huge faces at the break which has been nominated numerous times before but has yet to win the XXL title.  Another pair of massive contenders come from Western Australia's Cow Bommie with local Damien "Taco" Warr and Sydney surfer Mark Mathews in the right spot at the right time.  The fifth nominee is Grant "Twiggy" Baker of Durban, South Africa for his wild ride down a bumpy, mountainous face at Tafelberg Reef off Cape Town -- a wave which has been widely acknowledged as the biggest ever faced on that continent.  One of the five nominees will receive $15,000, a Honda Aquatrax watercraft and a HSA rescue sled in honor of their accomplishment.

This year, the Monster Paddle division has raised the bar ever higher as top surfers refocus their energies on stroking into bigger and bigger waves without the use of a jet ski assist.  Three rides come from what may be the best day ever at Maverick's -- the legendary California big wave break just south of San Francisco -- with Grant Baker and Californians Nathan Fletcher and Derek Dunfee in contention.  Also in the running is Axi Muniain for one of the first paddle-in rides at big Belharra, and James Taylor of Cape Town for a late, great drop at Dungeons during the day of the Red Bull BWA.  Interestingly, three of the rides feature two surfers on the wave, but according to the XXL rule book, the surfer furthest back gets credit for the feat.  Also of note is the fact that for the first time, two athletes have been nominated in both the Monster Paddle and Billabong XXL Biggest Wave categories: South Africa's Grant Baker and Basque surfer Axi Muniain.  Some $15,000 is at stake for the largest wave caught by arm-power alone.

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Shark attack in South Africa 

A 16-year-old boy was killed last weekend in a shark attack while surfing at Port St Johns, South Africa.

It is the second attack within two months.

The tragedy boosted investigations in order to find alternative ways of safeguarding surfers and swimmers at the Transkei resort.

Luyolo Mangele was surfing at Second Beach with four friends and their instructor. He separated from the rest of the group and paddled further out to sea.

After the attack, the teenager managed to get to the shore. The lifesaver and the instructor tried to stabilise him. He was then transported to the nearest hospital.

This shark attack happened about 300 metres from a place called Shark Point.

About 300 metres from the shore there is an area known as Shark Point.

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Jordy Smith 

The third day of competition at the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP)  O’Neill Cold Water Classic and the event found itself at its third new location where surfing’s big names took to the water.

With conditions easing ever so slightly, contest director Matt Wilson chose Marrawah’s exposed Lighthouse Beach as the spot to finish off the round of 96.

In this isolated northwest corner of Tasmania, the likes of Jordy Smith, Cory Lopez, Ben Dunn, aerial master Josh Kerr, and Damien Hobgood made the most of the powerful beach break.

There are high expectations for the 21-year-old South African surfing phenomenon, Jordy Smith – winner of this ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) tour two years ago.

And he didn’t fail to disappoint, waiting until the second half of his heat to pull out his high scoring waves. “It’s interesting being back on the WQS,” he said, “because you can go through with 5’s… I can’t get away with that on The World Tour,” he said.

This is the first time for Jordy on Australia’s island state, but he is fitting right into the Tasmanian waters,

“I met a few of the locals yesterday evening out in the water. I was asking them how to get back because it was getting pretty dark and we were pretty far from anything,” he said. “They were like, no worries catch a ride with us. It was crazy driving through the night with all the Tasmanian Devils about and stuff. We almost hit something the other day – I would have felt bad. We didn’t though, we stopped and let it cross the road.”

The heat of the day today was a battle of spectacular young talent, with 19-year-old up and coming Australian star, Owen Wright taking it out ahead of Dusty Payne, Lincoln Taylor and Wiggoly Dantas.

It was a pretty close heat,” said Owen who has been appreciating the good conditions made possible by the mobile format of the event. “The first day was incredible – the Bluff is an awesome wave,” he said. “But it’s great it’s mobile. It keeps all the options open and you can get the best waves every day.” 

“I’ve been over to Tasmania before,” he said. “But never to this corner. It’s a nice untouched place - it’s an awesome place to have an event.”

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