Darren the Intern Goes to the BILLABONG XXL AWARDS – The Grove, Anaheim, CA
Not enough can be said about the extraordinary people that charge monster waves. The big wave surfing community is definitely getting more mainstream recognition, as indeed they should: these people are freaking nuts. I’m keeping it gender ambiguous because the girls have been killing it just as hard- from Keala’s face long gash to Savannah’s 2 back to back wipeouts at Mavericks (first paddled out to Mavs when she was 16, what were you doing?) to Maya’s “Code Red” encounter, these big wave vixens make you wanna shake them and ask, “ARE YOU MENTAL!?” Thankfully, we have the Billabong XXL Awards, and on May 20th, 2012, these death defying individuals were honored and rewarded for flippin the bird to the reaper.
Billabong XXL – Global Big Wave Awards 2012. Photo: Surf Channel/Vince Marin
You can see stars in Southern California actually, and everyone from the Bird Man himself (Hawkman) to Tito Ortiz showed up to pay their respects. Hosted by ASP legend Mark Occy and South Bay native and big wave charger Alex Gray, the night was filled with laughs as Alex pestered Occ to bust a Dancing with the Stars: Australia move. What’s even funnier is that I’m sure more people were stoked to see big wave pioneer Greg Noll’s ass rather than Audrina Patridge attempt to look interested as she presented an award, even if she’s hot. I tried to grab a picture with her but was declined-life’s tough when you’re not from the Hills.
Maya won yet another Billabong XXL Women’s Performance award, and she’s well deserving of them all. Continuing to push the limits of what these athletes can handle and what someone can pull into, she’s completely fearless and looks damn good doing it too. It was good to see Nathan Fletcher was still in one piece after his episode at Teahupoo during the megaswell. That single ride should have gotten him three awards, but instead took Ride of the Year and Monster Tube. Garrett McNamara took two also: The Verizon Wireless Wipeout (Peahi) and the Biggest Wave, which was ridden in Portugal and now stands as a new world record clocking in at 90 ft. Dave Wassel paddled into a straight freight train at Peahi and took home the Monster Paddle award.
Honorable mention goes out to Jeff Rowley. Showing up at the Cloudbreak megaswell and the Peahi megaswell, unsponsored and unknown, got the biggest bombs those days on a magic carpet Al Merrick 10’2. He also gets the “Most stylish person who dressed least like a surfer” award for rolling up in a clean black suit. He’s humble, professional, and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He was nominated for Ride of the Year, so this big wave charger has definitely marked his territory all over the big wave community.
The night capped off with a 70’s cover band named Chevy Metal, fronted by Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl. The showman that he is had the crowd fist pumping to classics by Queen, Black Sabbath, and even the Rolling Stones. He put on an amazing performance, and admitted during his award presentation that these big wave chargers are F***in crazy…
New Smyrna’s wonder kid, Evan Geiselman. Photo: Surf Channel/Vince Marin
This intern got to live out his dream at the end of the night, conducting interviews with Maya Gabeira, Evan Geisleman, and even Jack Freestone. I’ll even go on record and brag that Keala said she liked my style, and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Not bad for a guy doing pro bono work who didn’t have to sneak past security to get in.
Mr. Freestone, enjoying himself. Photo: Surf Channel/Vince Marin