Billabong XXL

The Thanksgiving weekend at Maverick's produced an epic feast for many of the world's top big wave riders during two of the most perfect days ever seen at the legendary Northern California surf break.

The all-time action at Mavs provided a monumental kick-start to the Northern Hemisphere winter season and adds to the record number of entries in the ninth annual Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards presented by Monster Energy.

While the swell did offer a number of waves big enough for tow-in surfing, it proved to be more of a classic exhibition of paddle-in surfing at the upper limit of what is possible in that highly respected discipline of the sport.

Photographs of the amazing action have nearly overloaded the website with dozens and dozens of remarkable images of man-against-the-sea achievement. 

The product of an intense mid-pacific storm on Thanksgiving Day, the extremely long-period swell hit the Maverick's reef at an ideal angle, magnifying the face heights of the bigger sets to the 30- to 45-foot range.

While delighting a group of elite local and international big wave surfers, rogue sets broke unexpectedly along reefs and breakwaters throughout the region, capsizing a 26-foot power boat less than a mile from Maverick's, which sits just outside Princeton Harbor in Half Moon Bay, a half-hour south of San Francisco.  Two fishermen died in the accident.

The surf sessions were not without their own degree of peril.  California big wave star Greg Long caught one of the biggest waves to roll in on Saturday, November 29, but straightened out as he was overrun by a mass of whitewater.

Long was thrust so deep underwater he suffered a broken eardrum, eventually surfacing with a total loss of equilibrium.  Thanks to a strong leash and a quick rescue by Maverick's pioneer Jeff Clark on a personal water craft, Long was brought to safety before being swept through the notorious rocks which threaten surfers carried inside the main break. 

A group of globetrotting big wave chasers jetted into Half Moon Bay ahead of the swell based on forecasts by  South African Grant "Twiggy" Baker proved that his victory at the Maverick's Surf Contest two years ago was no fluke, consistently taking off the deepest and making it again and again.

Mark Healey and Dave Wassel flew in from Hawaii and made the most of the two days of intense surfing.  Rusty Long and Nathan Fletcher stood out as two of the most passionate big wave hunters from Southern California and made a big mark on the massive right-handers.

But the local crew was not to be outdone by the visiting contingent.  Grant Washburn, Skindog Collins, Nic Lamb, Shawn Rhodes and Lance Harriman all took off on bombs worthy of Monster Paddle entries.  Among the largest bombs of the swell was the vast green wall caught by San Francisco's Alex Martins along with Nathan Fletcher.

Photographers Robert Brown, Frank Quirarte, Jack English, Seth Migdail and Fred Pompermeyer have swiftly submitted official entries now posted on the event website. The new Maverick's images join earlier submissions from South Africa, Australia, Tasmania, Chile, Spain, Puerto Rico and other far-flung corners of the big wave surfing world, representing the biggest waves challenged this year.

The Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards runs on an annual cycle through the last day of winter in March, with the gala awards ceremony is held in Southern California each April.  The event features over $130,000 in cash and prizes including $15,000 for the winner of the Monster Paddle division.

Other categories include the Billabong XXL Ride of the Year, the XXL Biggest Wave powered by Honda, the Monster Tube, the Surfline Best Performance and Billabong Girl's Performance.

Triple Crown of Surfing 2008

The dream run of big winter surf continued at Sunset Beach today as the top seeds hit the water in the round of 64 of the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing.

Wave face heights were in the 20- to 30-foot range and dwarfed competitors and water safety officials. It was an amazing day of courage and big wave riding at the second stop of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

The swell peaked around 1 p.m. and the biggest sets of the day closed out the channel, but conditions remained immaculate with light offshore winds.

Californian Patrick Gudauskas took credit for the highest scoring ride of the day - a 9.66 out of 10, and his twin Dane took credit for the perhaps the biggest wave of the day. Both advanced, Pat eliminating his younger brother Tanner in their heat.

Pat is ranked 16th on the Qualifying Series and needs to make it to the semi finals of this event for a berth on the 2009 ASP World Tour. He was thoroughly barreled on the triple overhead wave and claims this to be the biggest surf he’s competed in. Neither of his brothers can qualify.

“This is the biggest surf we’ve ever seen in a contest other than maybe the Waimea event and some of those big wave events,” Gudauskas said.

“I was just looking [for a tube] because that wind was holding it open and I wanted to get barreled. It got really chunky and I just snapped under it, I almost got clipped when I came out of it I was all smiles after that.

“For me personally, I like these conditions because you don’t see anyone else and it’s like you against the ocean. It be a dream come true to qualify, but anything can happen.”

Like Gudauaskas, Australia’s Yadin Nicol, 23, also needs a great result at the O’Neill World for World Tour qualification. Nicol made it out of his heat behind his fellow countrymen and World Tour surfer Taj Burrow. Both Burrow and Nicol are from Westen Australia and have experience in big surf, but Sunset is a different kind of beast when it’s this big.

“It’s so good to watch and it’s just so crazy,” Nicol said. “If you get a wave that lets you do turns you’re going to get the score. I was lucky enough to get a wave to get a couple of turns on.

“You’ve just got to pick your window when to paddle in and get your waves. You just sit wide, sit wide and when you see a window you just get in that’s kind of what I was trying to do.”

Defending Vans Triple Crown of Surfing champ Bede Durbidge echoed Nicols’ sentiments about the surf today. Durbidge advanced out of his heat with Dion Atkinson (Aus). Durbidge looks like a favorite to repeat as Triple Crown champ.

“It’s really solid and there’s so much water moving, it’s just pulling you right out towards Backyards,” Durbidge said.

“It’s really tricky out there and it’s so hard to get in position. You can’t really catch those big sets and you want to get in and out when the medium ones come. It’s pretty difficult.

“Every time they have the contest at Sunset you always get one day that is really big and tricky and today is the day. I had a pretty good start out at Haleiwa and it’s a good to get through another heat out at Sunset and hopefully have a good final day.”

Big Island’s Torrey Meister, 20, was one of the contestants today that benefited from water patrol assistance after caddies were no longer allowed in the channel due to safety issues. Meister broke two boards during his heat and rode the jet ski in to get a third backup board: an old, yellowed 7′6″ Arakawa circa late 1980’s. His father ran home in the middle of the heat and retrieved the board with mud on the bottom and no wax.

“This is the second time that I didn’t have a third board,” Meister said. “That’s what dads are for, he does great every time. It’s a 7′6″ Old School, I guess he used to charge on it. The next time I’ll bring eight boards, maybe nine to the beach.

“It’s pretty much like a treadmill the whole time: constantly paddling, constantly getting pounded the whole time and trying to get out of the way. It’s really challenging and if you get one you’re stoked. But, you’re definitely getting pounded.”

With the swell forecast to slowly decline, the contestants can expect gorgeous, contestable 16- to 20-foot wave face heights. This will be the perfect size surf to decide the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing champion for 2008.

The $815,000 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing consists of the Reef Hawaiian Pro, Haleiwa, Nov. 12-23 (6* WQS, men and women), the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing, Sunset Beach, Nov.24-Dec.6 (6*WQS men), The Roxy Pro, Sunset Beach, Nov.24-Dec.6 (WCT women), the Billabong Pipeline Masters (men), Pipeline, Dec. 8-20 (WCT); and the Billabong Pro Maui (women), Honolua Bay, Maui, Dec. 8-20 (WCT).

In addition to $815,000 in prize money, which includes a $10,000 bonus for both the men’s and women’s Vans Triple Crown champions, the men’s champion will also receive a custom, one-of-a-kind Nixon tide watch featuring over two-carats of diamonds and valued at over $10,000.

Nelscott Reef

Adam Replogle and Alistair Craft won the 2008 Nelscott Reef Tow In Classic for the second year in a row. The event was held on a beautiful day in perfect surf conditions. Keallii Mamala goes home with the win for the first ever paddle in contest at Nelscott Reef.

After a day of thick fog on Saturday, the field of 16 teams woke up to sunny skies and big surf for the contest on Sunday. Waves were in the 20-30’ range, wind was calm, skies were clear, and the temperature hit 64 degrees. This made for a perfect day of tow in surfing.

Although there were a few delays due to fog in the early morning hours, the contest got off to a smooth start. After two rounds of heats, 4 teams advanced to the finals.

Almost all the teams in the finals, including the winners Adam Replogle and Alistair Craft, were from Santa Cruz, but the surprise of the event, was the team for Australia.

Jeff and Josiah Schmucker are a father and son team from Australia who had never competed in a big wave competition before. Their 2nd place finish to some of the best teams in the world was impressive. Russell and Tyler Smith took 3rd place and the Wormhoudt brothers, Jake and Zach took 4th.

“We could not be more excited about the outcome of the event”, said John Forse, event organizer. “We like to think of Nelscott as a family event, and this year, the finals had a father/son team and two brother teams.”

After the qualifying heats were completed, they ran the first ever paddle in contest at Nelscott Reef. A field of nine vied for a winner takes all 45-minute heat.

Twelve waves were caught during the heat, but in the end, Keallii Mamala took the prize, as well as an auto seed with his partner into the 2009 tow in event. Jamie Mitchell took 2nd place, Shane Desmond grabbed 3rd, Mike Parsons 4th, and Gary Linden came in 5th.

“The paddle in was amazing and we were surprised how many waves were actually caught. Almost everyone got a wave in what turned out to be an optimal paddle in day at the reef”, said Forse.

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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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