NEWPORT BEACH, CA — (January 3, 2006) — The onset of winter has turned up the oceanic heat for the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards presented by Monster Energy. After below-average swells gently bathed much of the world in November and through most of December, it all changed drastically on December 21, the first official day of winter. The first of an almost endless stream of deep low pressure systems working across the North Pacific unleashed a powerful west swell, producing one of the best days of big wave surfing ever seen in much of California and beyond.
On that particular swell, the focal point for big wave aficionados was Todos Santos Island off of Ensenada, Mexico, an hour south of the American border. The day produced some definite contenders for the Monster Paddle Award early on, then as the swell grew larger and beyond the limits of traditional paddle surfing, a group of world-class surfers changed equipment and began using jet powered watercraft to tow into the biggest sets, producing the first legitimate XXL entries of the year.
Several Todos stalwarts proved their skill and versatility by successfully riding huge waves in both paddle and tow disciplines. Greg Long, Rusty Long and Mike Parsons were each captured in photos riding some of the biggest waves seen anywhere in the world in either category since the current Big Wave Awards cycle began last April. Also among the unofficial leaders for the Billabong XXL Award for the biggest wave caught using any means are Brad Gerlach, Scott Chandler of California and Ross Clarke-Jones of Australia.
The Billabong XXL Award is an invitation-only competition limited to big wave riders with established reputations for surfing skills and ocean safety. For the latest entries and all rules, see www.BillabongXXL.com.
Longtime observers were impressed by the massive swell, unusual for its extreme westerly direction. And while more northern breaks on the West Coast such as Maverick’s near San Francisco or Ghost Tree off Pebble Beach often produce larger waves from Pacific storms, this time they were lashed by winds as the storm pushed onshore, while areas south of Point Conception enjoyed pristine conditions all day.
“It may have been the biggest, best Todos I’ve seen in over 20 years of shooting the break,” said Robert Brown, a leading surf photographer who won last year’s XXL photo award. Also capturing images worthy of XXL consideration were Tom Cozad and Jason Andrew.
The Pacific swell machine has continued in high gear, although the storm track has meant weather has bedeviled many breaks, north and south, but conditions are ripe for more windows of XXL-sized action.
According to Sean Collins, president of Surfline, the official forecast service of the XXL Awards, the Pacific remains in an excellent pattern for the production of swells for both Hawaii and the West Coast.
“There has been a consistent, broad low pressure system camped out in the Pacific for weeks now,” said Collins. “Storms moving across from Siberia have been pushing across the bottom, creating what is known as a ‘complex low’ which helps to supercharge the intensity of the individual systems as they feed off the added energy of tropical moisture. Quite a few have actually produced hurricane force winds (in excess of 64 knots) as they push east. This has lead to the continuing large waves and the almost nonstop High Surf Advisories.
“The conditions are favorable for more unusually big waves in the coming days and weeks,” said Collins.
The Sixth Annual Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards runs through the end of March and acknowledges those surfers with extraordinary achievements over the prior 12 months. Categories for the 2005/2006 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards include:
Billabong XXL Award (biggest wave of year) Surfer Prize: $1000 per foot of face height (minimum $60,000) Photo Award: $5000
Monster Paddle Award (biiggest wave caught using arm power alone) Surfer Prize: $10,000 Photo Award: $2000
Monster Tube Award (best big wave barrel ride) Surfer Prize: $5000 Photo Award: $2000
Surfline Best Performance Award (Best overall by a male surfer) Prize: $5000
Billabong Girls Best Performance Award (Best overall by a female surfer) Prize $5000
The competition runs through March 31, 2006, with the awards ceremony scheduled for April 14, 2006 at The Grove Theater in Anaheim, California. For rules, judging criteria and all event details and particulars, see www.BillabongXXL.com.
Surfline.com is the official surf forecast of the Billabong XXL Awards. The event is presented by Monster Energy and is sponsored by Honda Watercraft and Surfing Magazine.