Hawai’ian surfer Makua Rothman beat an international field of much older big wave riders to capture the top spot in the 2003 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards presented by Surfline. Rothman, from Sunset Beach, Hawaii, rode the winning wave at the break known as Jaws on the North coast of Maui on November 26, 2002. A panel of surfing experts measured the face of the wave at 66 feet, earning Makua $66,000 — or $1000 per foot.
The award was announced this evening at an invitation-only show at the Grove of Anaheim Theater attended by big wave surfing’s biggest stars and carried live on a global webcast. Rothman, 18, barely edged out a diverse roster of contenders which included two other rides at Jaws by Hawaiian Noah Johnson and Australia’s Cheyne Horan, and two other waves challenged in France by local residents Fred Basse and Sebastian St. Jean. The average age of the other four finalists was over twice that of Rothman.
Maui-based photographer Ron Dahlquist received $5000 for capturing the image which was deemed to portray the tallest moment of the XXL-winning ride.
It was by far the most difficult judging in the history of measured big wave events. “There were cases to be made for every ride,” said contest director Bill Sharp, “and all the judges knew that whatever their determination, the outcome would be discussed for years to come.
“Once they were measured, the rideable faces of all five of the nominated rides were within a foot or two of each other, in the 64- to 66-foot range,” said Sharp. “It’s been determined the margin of error of these measurement techniques is about 3 to 4 percent, and all five fell within that range. The rules define that if one wave is not distinctly larger, the nod goes to the heavier wave, and in that case there was no debate. In the first ballot it was an unanimous decision…all eight judges had selected Rothman.”
The judging panel for the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards included: surf forecasting pioneer Sean Collins; Surfer Magazine Editor Sam George; Surfing Magazine Editor Evan Slater; big wave surfing pioneer Flippy Hoffman; Surfing Magazine Director of Photography Larry “Flame” Moore; Surfer Magazine Photo Editor Jason Murray; 2001 XXL Biggest Wave winner Mike Parsons; and Transworld Surf Magazine Photo Editor Pete Taras.
The award for biggest wave of the year caught without the aid of a jet-powered watercraft went to Toby Cunningham of Coronado, California. Cunningham paddled into his wave at Todos Santos Island off Ensenada, Mexico on December 16, 2002. Scott Winer, of Laguna Niguel, CA, received a custom SPL Waterhousing for his camera as a reward for photographing the ride.
The Jay Moriarity Memorial Award for best overall performance was handed to Hawaii’s Garrett McNamara. “Big Mac” was acknowledged for the two best tuberides of the year — at Tahiti’s Teahupo’o in May and at Jaws in November — and for capturing the Expression Session at the Tow-In World Cup. McNamara received a check for $5000 .
For full details of the Billabong XXL Awards and photos of all the rides, visit the event website at www.BillabongXXL.com
The Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards are presented by Surfline, the world’s premier surf report and forecasting service.
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