Benjamin Sanchis: charging Hossegor

European big wave surfers are boosting the 2011 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards, one month before the closing of the competition window. The old continent has produced huge waves that were bravely surfed by local surfers.

Ireland’s Mullaghmore Head, a Teahupoo-esque left-breaking cold-water slab, delivered a bounty of huge barrels just in time for the Billabong/Monster Tow In contest, on February 14. Some of the 30-to-40 foot tubes ridden that day may figure well into the "Monster Tube" and "Ride of the Year" divisions of the XXL event.

Two days later, another swell slammed the region and deep within the Bay of Biscay a number of intrepid surfers were there to take on much larger (albeit less hollow) walls of water at the famed break of Belharra, a break that has produced a stream of XXL entries since it was pioneered a decade ago. Watch the best entry waves of the 2011 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards, here.

Several top European surfers were able to capitalize on both sessions, including Benjamin Sanchis, Eric Rebiere and Axi Muniain, all well-known big wave talents from the Basque Coast. The new entries join hundreds more sent in from around the globe including Chile, Fiji, Western Australia, Tasmania, Mexico, Oregon, California and Hawaii.

The gala invitation-only XXL awards ceremony will take place on the evening of April 29, 2011 at the Grove Theater in Anaheim, California and features over $130,000 in prize money to be distributed to the worthy champions in categories which include the "Monster Paddle", "Monster Tube", "XXL Biggest Wave", "Billabong Girls Best Performance", "Surfline Best Men’s Performance" and the ever-popular Verizon "Wipeout of the Year".

In a new twist, the winner of the top-line "Ride of the Year" Award will not only receive $50,000 but a one-year lease on a Toyota Tacoma truck to assist in their big wave quest in the coming year.

While Hawaii, California and the rest of the Pacific shores continue to suffer through one of the least consistent winters in memory, all eyes have suddenly turned to The Continent.

Frances Osorio Rivera is just another kiteboarder. The only noticeable difference is that she rides the winds of her favorite spots with one only one leg.

+ Kiteboarding News