Benjamin Sanchis

Unusual weather patterns in the North Pacific have produced the hottest January on record in much of California, and have left West Coast big wave surfers largely starved for waves for the last two months.

Likewise, the normally battered Hawaiian coastlines have suffered through a similar drought of extreme high surf warnings this winter season.  But at the same time, the Atlantic Ocean has produced a bounty of massive storms and swells, becoming a key focus of the 2009 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards as the event heads into the final six weeks of its yearlong event period.

Among the most spectacular images to emerge from the barrage of high surf is a shot of Benjamin Sanchis (Hossegor, France) at Belharra, an outer reef located in the Basque Country near the French/Spanish border.

The photograph by Stephane Salerno is reminiscent of several other massive rides at the break which earned XXL Biggest Wave nominations in 2003 and 2008.

While some of the Atlantic storms lashing the European coastline have arrived with unfavorable weather, there have been many days where the conditions have come together for the surfers who have been on the prowl for the right window of opportunity.

Isla Pancha, in the Cantabria region of Spain, has produced some excellent entries for Basque surfers Asier Muniain, Ibon Amatriain and Aritza Saratxaga along with Cantabrian Oscar Gomez.  To view these images along with hundreds of additional entries from around the world, visit the event website at

According to Surfline, the official surf forecast of the XXL, the trend continues.

"The North Atlantic has been in a very active pattern over the past few weeks producing a series of large swells," said the Surfline forecast team. "We continue to remain in a very active pattern with plenty of solid swell due for the region over the coming days. The North Atlantic storm track is expected to remain fairly active over the next couple of weeks which means potential for even more XXL swell."

A number of top International surfers have heeded the call and gone "Across the Pond" to fill their need for winter power.  Perennial XXL finalists Greg Long of San Clemente, California and Grant "Twiggy" Baker of Durban, South Africa gave up their lengthy vigil at Northern California's Maverick's and flew to Ireland some weeks ago.

The pair connected with locals Fergal Smith and Tom Lowe and the group has been treated to what Long described as, "Crazy barrels...kinda like cold water Teahupoo," in reference to the deadly Tahitian break.  Look for some Monster Barrel entries from those sessions to appear on the XXL event site in the coming days.

Additional new video clips and still photos continue to arrive from around the world week after week in all key categories of the event including the Billabong XXL Ride of the Year Award, Billabong XXL Biggest Wave Award powered by Honda, Monster Tube Award and Monster Paddle Award.

Also featured are the Surfline Best Overall Performance Award and the Billabong Girl's Performance Award.  In total, over $130,000 in prize money will be awarded in the ninth annual edition of big wave surfing's top event. The competition is open to all qualified, invited surfers at any surf break around the world over the course of a full year and is based on the photographic evidence.

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Inilek Wilmot

The first event of the Jamaica Surfing Association’s 2009 National Open Series kicked off at the Lighthouse surfing beach along the Port Royal Main Road on Saturday 31st of January.

Top Jamaican surfer Inilek Wilmot, Brother of 2008 National Open Champ Icah Wilmot, walked away with the 1000 points on offer for the win and now leads the points race in the five event series which climaxes in December.

Twenty one surfers registered for the event which saw 4 first round heats that narrowed the field to the top twelve for the semi final round where two heats of six determined who would go on to the 6 man final.

The first semi-final was stacked with hot surfers. Luke Williams, Icah and Inilek Wilmot, Jason Pusey, Michael Panton and Ronley Lewis paddled out to try and get the two best waves in the fifteen minute heat. They managed to ride 32 waves between them with the highest scoring wave given by the judges being 8.1 out of 10. When the time expired Luke Icah and Inilek advanced to the final

The second semi final saw an equally impressive line up paddle out to do battle. Ackeam Phillips, Shane Simmonds, Eneson Lightbourn, Garren Pryce, Conrad Smith and Dwayne Tracey all paddled out into the 5’ waves.

The Judges had their work cut out for them as the surfers caught and rode 38 waves in the 15 minute heat with the highest scoring wave being 8.5 out of 10. The spray settled and Ackeam. Shane and Eneson advanced to the final.

The final was a nail biting affair with all the surfers doing very well. Forty one waves were ridden in the heat with a 9.0 being awarded for one of the ridden waves. The lead changed hands a number of times with the crowd on the beach voicing their obvious approval for every well ridden wave.

The Judges were under pressure as Jamaica’s best surfers went at it for twenty minutes. The final horn sounded and it was left up o the judges score cards. Inilek First, Shane second, Icah third, Luke fourth Ackeam fifth and Eneson sixth.

“The waves were excellent….” Said JSA President Billy Wilmot, “… and the standard of surfing displayed by the competitors was truly impressive.”

The next event in the 2009 series will be held on Saturday February 28 2009 at the MAKKA surfing Beach, Southaven Yallahs Saint Thomas beginning at 9:00am. The public is invited.

Below are the final results of the first event of the National Open Series

1 Inilek Wilmot
2 Shane Simmonds
3 Icah Wilmot
4 Luke Williams
5 Ackeam Phillips
6 Eneson Lightbourn
7 Garren Pryce
7 Jason Pusey
9 Michael Panton
9 Conrad Smith
11 Ronley Lewis
11 Dwayne Tracey
13 Dwight Roberts
13 Lennox Wright
13 Shama Beckford
13 Ackeam Taylor
17 Ronald Hastings
17 Oshane Jacks
17 Eugene Miller
17 Armani Green
21 Janoy Hall

Adam Melling

Adam Melling (Lennox Head/NSW) signalled his intentions loud and clear for the 2009 season by taking a huge win at the Rip Curl MP Classic held in excellent 1.5m (5ft) barrelling high performance surf at Coolangatta Beach today.

Melling was rated 35 on the ASP World Series last year and was always in contention to qualify for the elite ASP World Tour but didn’t quite finish the season off in Hawaii. This year he wants to erase the disappointments of last year and today’s winning start to his competitive year indicates he’ll be a serious contender.

“I haven’t competed for a few months since returning from Hawaii in 2008 and I was really looking forward to dusting off the cobwebs and getting back competitively here and that’s how it has panned out – I couldn’t be happier right now, my boards are great, fitness and injuries all good and to win in such excellent surf in this event is super great – It’s a special event named after an extraordinary surfer.”

Regardless of today’s win, Melling is focused on the big picture for the season and added “ This year is all about a top 10 finish on the ASP World Series and qualifying for the elite World Tour – I was devastated to get close last year and not get there so I’m really focused for this season to give it my absolute best.”

Melling’s final two wave scores today were a 9.4 and an excellent 8.5 to easily take the final on a total of 17.9 with Gold Coast surfer Ice Pierera – Ryan (Coolangatta) coming in second on a scoreline of 15.8.

NSW surfers Matt Wilkinson (Central Coast) placed 3rd on 14.5 and Stuart Kennedy (Lennox Head) placed 4th on 13.6.

Michael Peterson, accompanied by his mother, sat in the judging tower to watch all the days action. Peterson commented on the surfing and  surf, in reference to the sand pumping saying “It was fantastic to watch all these surfers performing so well – they were all ripping out there – The waves were good but definitely not as good as they should be or as good as I remember surfing them… There’s poor sand build up out there and the waves have chunky sections.. it’s not as perfect as it used to be – it should be barrelling all the way through to Kirra and further.” 

Regardless, it was the first great swell of the Gold Coast season and the surfing all day was incredible with outstanding 9 point plus rides common throughout.

Adam Melling scored a perfect 10 point barrel ride in his quarter final today which picked him up the Toohey’s Wave of the contest award while Blake Ainsworth (Coolangatta) took out the Air Asia X expression session which won him a return trip to Kuala Lumpa on Air Asia X.


Dimitri Maramenides, the founder and owner of Epic Kites, rode his kite a few hours before Hurricane Florence hit the East Coast of the United States.

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