Written by: Shannon Marie
The world’s most daring big wave surfers train year round for that shiny green light, surf filmers and photographers living by the same weather-depended schedule, chasing forecasts and storm surfing. With countless waves ridden in any given season, the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards presented by Pacifico had the troubling task of narrowing down the field to grant prize money and highly pretigious acclaim to the most couragous riders of the year. The nominees, selected from all corners of the world, gathered on the red carpet in Anaheim on Friday night to celebrate a successful year of broken World Records and some of the most iconic barrel riding the world has ever seen.
Big wave surfing elite taking home Billabong XXL awards this year, included: Shane Dorian (Ride of the Year & Pacifico Tube) and Shawn Dollar (Biggest Wave & Pacifico Paddle), Greg Long (Surfline’s Men’s Performance), Keala Kennelly (Girl’s Best Performance) and Chris Shanahan (Worst Wipeout).
Hawaiian surfer Shane Dorian (Kona, Hawai’i) walked away with one of the sport’s most-prized accolades, the 40-year-old winning the Ride of the Year award at The Grove theatre in Anaheim, California. Dorian received USD$50,000 for the monumental wave he successfully paddled into and surfed at Jaws, Maui, last October. Dorian’s wave also included a gigantic tube ride, which earned him an additional $5,000 and the award for Pacifico Tube.
Dorian’s feat edged out other Billabong XXL Ride of the Year nominees; rides by Californian surfers Shawn Dollar at huge Cortes Bank, CA., Greg Long at Jaws, Maui, and fellow Hawaiians Dave Wassel and Reef McIntosh who both surfed memorable waves during an historic swell at Cloudbreak in Fiji, June 2012.
It was a special night that highlighted a breakthrough year for Dorian. He made XXL history by becoming the first surfer in a single year to be nominated in five categories: Ride of the Year, Pacifico Paddle, Pacifico Tube, XXL Biggest Wave and Surfline Men’s Performance.
Dorian, who is already a multiple XXL Award winner (previous two-time winner of the Surfline Men’s Performance award 2011 & 2004, Ride of the Year winner 2008, Tube 2006) accepted his awards on stage in front of nearly 2,000 industry VIPs, invited guests and peers at the gala show considered the Oscars of surfing.
“I had such anxiety heading up onto the stage. All the boys were up there and all the rides were so incredible; it must have been so difficult to choose between them. It was an amazing year, and to win Ride of the Year is huge for me,” said Dorian.
“For Shawn Dollar to paddle into the biggest wave, tow or paddle, all year is absolutely incredible. We’re seeing a change; we’re seeing the best big wave surfing we’ve ever seen. I’m pretty psyched still; I feel like a grom at heart,” he added.
Dorian had trouble explaining what it was like to be inside such a huge tube “like time is standing still,” but believed big wave surfing was witnessing the dawn of a new era.
“In terms of performance, I think we’re going to see a lot more tube rides… guys really attacking the waves… There’s some new spots that are going to be thrown into the mix; things are happening in Europe, Ireland, Portugal… Those places catch a lot of swell.”
Shane Dorian and his lovely wife, Lisa, on the red carpet. Photo: Surf Channel/ Shannon Quirk
Reflecting on his career, which included a career high 4th on the ASP Men’s World Tour in 2000: “I had no idea I was going to be having this much fun. I spent a lot of years on tour competing, I loved it, it was great times, but I could have never foreseen having this much fun surfing, this long, great waves – I feel like I am doing the best surfing I have ever done at this point and if someone had told me that was going to happen, I never would have believed them,” said Dorian.
NEW WORLD RECORD
While Dorian’s ride was exceptional, it was not considered the Biggest. Ride of the Year runner-up, Shawn Dollar (Santa Cruz, CA, USA), scooped that honor to win the XXL Biggest Wave Award as well as the Pacifico Paddle Award for a Cortes Bank behemoth.
Dollar’s history-making wave was estimated by experts to be 61ft in height, a new paddle world record. Cortes Bank is the legendary seamount and mega-wave magnet located 100 miles southwest of Los Angeles.
Dollar previously set the world paddle-in record of 57 feet at Maverick’s in Northern California in 2010, only to have Dorian snatch the spot in the record books in 2011 with a 58 footer at Jaws.
This is the first time in the event’s 13-year history that any waves caught by paddle power have been nominated in the XXL Biggest Wave division, until now that division had been only accessed by surfers using tow-in assists by personal watercraft.
“Is this really happening? Are we really paddling into waves bigger than what we used to tow?” exclaimed Dollar. “It’s surreal, it’s such an honor. This is what I’m passionate about, I’m as big a fan as anyone – to be the guy that set the record? Phenomenal. Stoked. Over the moon. 61ft? It’s hard to put numbers on those things, but it was the biggest wave I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Dollar.
“It’s seriously so heavy to go and do something that you might not come back from, but there’s a compulsion for me to go do it. I’m so glad I made that wave.”
“When I first saw it, I was absolutely scared to death. I thought I was toasted, I thought it was going to break on my head… 100 miles out to sea… It was worst case scenario type stuff, but the thing backed off and I turned my board around and whipped it, and I went from a situation where I thought I wasn’t going to make it, to a situation where I went ‘Fu#k! I just rode the wave of my life!’” explained Dollar.
Dollar dedicated his wave to fallen big wave surfer and friend, Sion Milosky, who drowned at Mavericks in March 2011.
“Death and drowning are absolutely prevalent. I’ve seen people die out there with me. It’s the real deal out there. I’ve kissed the ground when I’ve come in,” said Dollar.
San Clemente surfer, Greg Long, 29, cemented his reputation as a bona fide living legend when he was awarded the Surfline Men’s Performance Award.
Long’s season has included standout performances right round the globe. He distinguished himself during landmark sessions at Jaws, Mavericks, Pico Alto, Mexico, Fiji and Cortes Bank, where nearly lost his life.
After a three-wave hold down, Long was resuscitated at sea before being airlifted to the mainland by US Coast Guard helicopter.
“Simply put, at Cortes, I drowned. Had I not had a water safety team near right there in that very moment I wouldn’t be here today. That’s just a reality of what we do out there. We’re dealing with forces of nature that are far greater than you. You can train and prepare and I do, intensively. But I found myself in a situation that I personally couldn’t get myself out of,” said Long.
“I’m so glad it happened. It forced me to open my eyes, to not just the surfing world, but the safety aspect and it has helped others too. We’re here to learn and grow and share that information with others. I took life lessons from that moment.”
While Long lost consciousness, his heart did not actually stop.
“There was a very surreal, spiritual moment where I wasn’t present in the physical body that I know and I was actually looking alongside it. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. It was intense while it was happening, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time mentally I was always okay with what was happening, as strange as that sounds,” Long said.
Long is one of the most regular nominees in the XXL’s 13 year history, having won numerous Awards including Ride of the Year 2009, Monster Paddle and Best Overall performer 2008 and Biggest Wave 2007.
Keala Kennelly (Kauai, Hawaii) claimed her second Billabong Girls Performance award. The unmistakable, hard charging goofy-foot has come close on numerous occasions, putting in do-or-die performances at venues she has become synonymous such as Teahupo’o in Tahiti and of course her native Hawaii.
“Big wave surfing is something I’m passionate about and I’d do it if there were no awards. But it was an incredible year and some crazy big wave surfing went down so it’s nice to be recognized,” said Kennelly.
“I think people have a preconception about what women can do in the water so I like to shatter the s#!t out of that and always try and do better and inspire. I’d also like to dedicate this award to my son,” added Kennelly.
Australian Chris Shanahan (Denmark, WA, AUS) accepted his award for XXL Wipeout of the Year over the phone, all the way from the Land Down Under. Watch it here:
Shanahan’s attempt to abort one of the ugliest, meanest below-sea-level slabs very nearly brought the house down. The Aussie natural footer mistimed his entry into the wave, tried to pull out and was forced to hit the eject button and ended up freefalling into the abyss without his board, making for a truly memorable and gut-wrenching XXL moment.
The wipeout eclipsed other horrifying entries from Jaws, Nazare-Portugal, Mavericks-California and The Right-West Australia.
In all, over $120,000 in cash and prizes was awarded to the world’s greatest big wave surfers in this the 13th edition of the Billabong XXL Awards presented by Pacifico.
The competition window closed on March 20, the start of spring, with every wave ridden at every big wave break around the world in the previous 12 months in contention.
The show was webcast live via BillabongXXL.com, and will be broadcast as a one-hour program onESPN2 on Sunday, June 9 at Noon PT.
Lights, camera, action! Check out who graced the red carpet at the 2013 Billabong XXL Awards:
2013 BILLABONG XXL GLOBAL BIG WAVE AWARDS Presented by Pacifico
RIDE OF THE YEAR AWARD
Shane Dorian (Kona, Hawaii, USA) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii Oct 9, 2012 ($50,000)
Video by Elliot Leboe ($5,000)
Second place: Shawn Dollar (Santa Cruz, CA, USA) at Cortes Bank, Dec 21st, 2012 ($5,000)
Third place: Greg Long (San Clemente, California, USA) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii Oct 10, 2012 ($1,500)
Fourth place: Dave Wassel (Kaneohe, Hawaii, USA) at Cloudbreak, Fiji june 8, 2012 ($1,500)
Fifth place: Reef McIntosh (Kauai, Hawaii, USA) at Cloudbreak, Fiji june 8, 2012 ($1,500)
PACIFICO PADDLE AWARD
Shawn Dollar (Santa Cruz, CA, USA) at Cortes Bank, Dec 21st, 2012 (Wave was 61ft, new paddle world record) ($20,000)
Photographed by Frank Quirarte ($4,000)
XXL BIGGEST WAVE AWARD
WINNER: Shawn Dollar (Santa Cruz, CA, USA) at Cortes Bank, Dec 21st, 2012 (First time a paddle surfer has won this category) ($10,000)
Photographed by Rob Keith ($4,000)
PACIFICO TUBE AWARD
Shane Dorian (Kona, Hawaii, USA) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii Oct 9, 2012 ($5,000)
Photographed by Fred Pompermayer ($2,000)
SURFLINE MEN’S PERFORMANCE AWARD
Greg Long (San Clemente, California, USA) ($5,000)
BILLABONG GIRLS BEST PERFORMANCE
Keala Kennelly (Kauai, Hawaii, USA) ($5,000)
XXL WIPEOUT AWARD
Chris Shanahan (Denmark, WA, Australia) at The Right, West Australia ($2,000)
Video by Darren McCagh ($1,000)