Dave Wassel: surfing big waves and huge lips

The nominees for the 2012 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards have just been announced. In the all-important Billabong XXL Ride of the Year category, there are five very different waves in contention, all ridden in very different regions around the planet.

In consideration for the $50,000 winner's prize are a pair of Southern Californians: Nathan Fletcher for his earth-shattering barrel at Teahupoo, Tahiti and Greg Long for his paddle-in tube at Puerto Escondido, Mexico.

Two Australians are also represented, including Ryan Hipwood for his long, spitting pipe of a wave at Cloudbreak, Fiji and upstart Jeff Rowley for a hair-raising late paddle drop and pocket ride at Jaws on Maui (a spot generally believed to be a tow-surfing-only location prior to the last two winters).

Rounding out the five is the lone Hawaiian, Garrett McNamara, for his plunge into a massive face off the coast of Portugal, a feat that earned the big wave veteran global headlines in November.

The theme of recent years to push the envelope of what is possible in the realm of arm-powered surfing has continued unabated with another slate of stunning nominees in the highly-regarded Monster Paddle division.

Earning spots as finalists for 2012 are: Santa Cruz's Ken "Skindog" Collins at Maverick's near San Francisco, California; Australian Jamie Mitchell at Todos Santos Island off Ensenada, Mexico; and Brazil's Danilo Couto, Oahu's Dave Wassel and Big Islander Shane Dorian all being recognized for man-handling huge, windy walls at Jaws, on the north shore of Maui.

In the XXL Biggest Wave category (open to waves caught with jet skis or any other means), another five rides are being honored for maximum height - pure and simple.

McNamara is nominated once more for his Portugal ride, which will be compared to two dark and frigid late-season Irish giants ridden at Mullaghmore Head by local Ollie O'Flaherty and the UK's Andrew Cotton.

Adding to the European domination of the Biggest Wave division this year is a clean, green ride by Basque surfer Axi Muniain at Agiti, on the northern coast of Spain.

Joining the four Euro Zone rides is a beautiful big blue bomb of a wave at Cow Bombie in Western Australia, precisely ridden from start to finish by W.A.'s own Damien "Taco" Warr.

The winners will be announced at the invitation-only Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards party at the Grove Theater in Anaheim, California on May 4, 2012.

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