Surfing Iceland

This October saw cold water adventurer and Fox Surf team rider Josh Mulcoy hit ice cold gold in Iceland. Josh’s trip, which was featured on Surfline, included Friends of Fox Timmy Turner and Sam Hammer.

Throughout their respective careers all three surfers have established reputations for braving harsh conditions in search of perfect surf. Good thing wetsuit technology has evolved by such large leaps and bounds since the first suits hit the market in 1953.

These days at frosty surf destinations like Iceland, 6mm of high tech neoprene allows surfers like Josh Mulcoy to survive and thrive in potentially deadly cold water temperatures (hypothermic water temperatures are generally considered anything below 50 degrees Fahrenheit).

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Twiggy in action

Winter may still be technically a month and a half away in the Northern Hemisphere, but the ninth-annual Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards presented by Monster Energy is off to an all-time start thanks to numerous major swells all around the surfing world over the last seven months.

The brand-new event website is brimming with both video footage and still photos of some of the biggest waves and best rides in the history of the event.

Among the most dramatic images are those from South Africa's Cape Peninsula region.  Durban surfer Grant "Twiggy" Baker is clearly among the XXL front-runners for the 2008/09 year with a massive wave at Tafelberg Reef as photographed by Brenton Geach and Alan van Gysen in early August.

Baker is also an early favorite for the Monster Paddle Award along with James Taylor for a huge wave they shared during the Red Bull Big Wave Africa event two weeks earlier.  Another epic Ride of the Year contender from the Red Bull BWA is the successful tube by California's Greg Long.  Long's ride stands out as one of the biggest paddle-in tubes of all time and must be seen to be believed.

The current event window continues through the Spring Equinox on March 20, 2009, with the annual gala awards ceremony scheduled to take place in Southern California during the second week of April, 2009 and will be featured as a one-hour show on the ESPN networks.

The Billabong XXL event features over $130,000 in cash and prizes in an array of categories and is open to all qualified and invited surfers at every big wave break around the world, based on the photographic evidence.

Australia has been another hotbed of XXL production in recent months.  Western Australia's Outer Bommie reef produced some massive walls on several days, some clean and some quite ugly, with Damien "Taco" Warr and Mark Matthews among those scoring key rides.

And Tasmania's notorious Shipstern Bluff has outdone itself once again, with a pair of astonishing rides by emerging big wave star Ryan Hipwood (Gold Coast, Australia) among the potential nominees for Ride of the Year at this early juncture.

But there are also some superb entries from unlikely locations -- such as the first ever XXL submissions from Puerto Rico.  Shot on the very first day of spring (and the first day of the annual XXL cycle) the images of Carlos Cabrero at Tres Palmas by Steve Fitzpatrick are clearly the biggest waves ever ridden in that part of the Atlantic Ocean.

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Pancho Sullivan

Congratulations Pancho Sullivan, winner of the 2008 Xcel Pro Presented by Honolua!

In an all-Hawaiian, high-scoring 30-minute final, ASP World Tour surfer Sullivan took home his fourth Xcel Pro title, having previously won the event in 1998, 2000, and 2003.

Sullivan dominated from the start, hitting a contest-high 9.77 that put him firmly in the driver's seat over fellow finalists Kamalei Alexander (2nd), Danny Fuller (3rd), and Makua Rothman (4th).

"Epic," "pristine," and "all-time" were just a few ways used to describe the glassy morning conditions, as a new northwest swell came in overnight and brought clean, corduroy lines to Sunset Beach. Sets were firing from the very first scored wave by Marco Giorgi (Uraguay), who lined up a barrel less than 3 minutes into his heat.

The long period swell stayed clean through the finals, challenging riders to stay in position off Sunset Point for optimal set wave selection.

"I held back and paddled a little deeper," Sullivan said after the winner's ceremony on the beach, on his strategy to move outside of Sunset's west peak. "The third [9.77] wave of the set really helped me build momentum," as he soon built upon his lead with another crowd-pleasing 8.67.

Runner-up Kamalei Alexander of Kauai, needing a 9.45 to overtake Sullivan in first, wasn't able to catch the four-time Xcel Pro champion, taking off on an 8.70 in the final seconds of the heat.

"It was a fun, amazing final," Sullivan noted. "The best final ever here, and such an honor to win the 25th anniversary Xcel Pro."

The win surely vindicated Sullivan's decision to bypass the World Tour's Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro in Brazil, and instead focus on competing at his local break. Raised (in his words) "surfing the reform" at Sunset Beach, Sullivan prepared for his Xcel Pro win with smart training on his home turf.

Sullivan has announced his plans to retire from the prestigious World Tour at the end of this 2008 season.

2007 Xcel Pro defending champion Joel Centeio's quest for a repeat title ended in the quarterfinals, falling to Makua Rothman, who made his third Xcel Pro finals appearance in as many years.

With the 2008 Xcel Pro a wrap, the North Shore now heads into the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

2008 Xcel Pro Presented by Honolua Final Results
1. Pancho Sullivan $10,000 (1,500 pts)
2. Kamalei Alexander $5,000 (1,313 pts)
3. Danny Fuller $3,000 (1,125 pts)
4. Makua Rothman $2,400 (1,069 pts)