Out of Office Reply is Associate Editor Taylor Paul’s column on surf travel, big waves, and other manly bits
It's good that this season wasn't as big and consistent as last. It forced big-wave dudes to get creative, like prisoners using a toothbrush and a single match to make a muscle-piercing shank. Instead of sticking to Maverick's and Waimea, guys paddled Jaws and Cortes. They went to Europe. Some got serious about safety, and used those down days to prepare themselves for the few days the buoys were maxing. And from those few days, Billabong compiled a list of the best of the best and gave us the 2010/2011 XXL nominees.
What follows are my choices for winners. Take them as fact.
Ride of the Year:A few weeks ago I thought I had my mind made up. I thought Danilo Couto's backside slip-and-slide down Jaws's snaggletooth was the one. Yes, David Scard's Cloudbreak tube was big and seemingly endless, but it looked effortless. He should have flailed an arm or dug a rail to add some drama (consult Mikey Brennan's entry for this approach). So I was in Danilo's corner. Shoo-in. Cut the check. Tudo bem.
Then I saw Healey's wave. Where did that thing come from? Yes, it's fuzzy, but maybe that's to his advantage because it lets our imaginations run wild. Look closely (like the shaky Big Foot video), the wave's already breaking when Mark spins and goes on that thing. What was he thinking? Maybe that he was going to get barreled, which he did. Heavy shit. But even with all of Mark's heroics, I'm sticking with Danilo. It's essentially a tie, and tie goes to the underground, under-sponsored Brazilian. That's the rule, right? Right?
Billabong made a great call a few years back when they started weaning us off of tow-surfing by having the grand prize go to the Ride of the Year instead of Biggest Wave. Now it's time to take it a step further. Can we just have a Tow-In of the Year category? That way, we can transfer entries like that of Mikey Brennan from Ride of the Year to Tow-In of the Year (where it would win). Ride of the Year would be strictly paddling. Judging tow-ins next to paddle-ins is like comparing BMX to Motocross — it confuses the general public into thinking they're the same thing. They're not.
But that's so future. Presently we're dealing with the tallest of waves. Benjamin Sanchis's Belharra bomb looks to be of the atomic variety, mostly because the wave has no bottom. Not a compliment. The wave has no bottom because it's so flat, and fades into the trough slower than a setting sun. Same as it always has. Francis (Ford) Porcella at Jaws will win it. Jaws will win it. Same as it always has. Zzzzzzz…
Monster PaddleNotice how you recognize the names of the paddle nominees and none of the tow nominees? The best are paddling. Well, you don't know Mark Yazbeck, but what a legend Mark Yazbeck must be. That wave looks like it was taken directly from the 1990 Eddie. Good for you Mark. Find me at the show, I'll buy you a beer. But you won't win. Dudes were paddling Jaws, so Waimea is pretty low on the "proving ground" totem pole right now. A Jaws wave should win. Shane Dorian's Jaws wave. The one he pulled into. Talk about pushing envelopes and limits and boundaries and what's possible — pushing all kinds of stuff. What he did at Jaws cannot be celebrated enough. It will be fun to watch Laird and the boys start paddling out there now. That's gonna be rad.
Shane again. Remember in In God's Hands when Shane's buddy wanted to paddle Jaws and all of the tow dorks were like, "It can't be done.” And Shane said (whispered), "Line up with the fifth palm tree on the hill. The wind will feel like it does on a really windy day. And the wave will be moving fast, like a really fast-moving wave." Well, he ended up doing that in real life, and then he overcame the aforementioned elements and pulled in. Packed it with the confidence of someone wearing a life vest that has a ripcord that when you pull it the vest inflates and immediately propels you to the surface; a life vest so spectacular that it awaits patents 'cause it's another game-changing invention. That much confidence, even though a vest like that does not yet exist. Crazy confident, that Shane Dorian.
Wipeout of the YearWho did the worst job this year? Let's give 'em two grand and an almost iPad. A silly award. All of them are gnarly, but give it to Ben Wilkinson. He paddled into that grumpy Mav's wave, true to the maxim he shared with me earlier that day: "Don't worry about the crowd, Tayla, just worry about the wave." He took a seat at the bottom and wore the lip on his face. His leash broke, he went to his car to replace it and returned to the lineup for more. I'd hate for him to become known as a wipeout guy — because he's really good and one of the most passionate big-wave dudes out there — but any publicity is good publicity.
Female Performer of the Year
Can we just name this award after Maya Gabeira? While a few girls like Keala Kennelly and Savannah Shaughnessy (who should be nominated) are nipping at Maya's heals in terms of ability, nobody else has the passion and dedication that Maya has. What other girl surfed Mav's, Waimea, Oahu’s outer reefs and Jaws this year?
Male Performer of the Year
It would be a nice gesture to posthumously give this award to Sion Milosky. Last year he got one of the biggest waves ever paddled into but wasn't nominated because he didn't quite make it. I asked him if he was bummed. He wasn't. He just wanted to go bigger this year. Well, he did. He had a stellar season — on the North Shore and at Jaws and Maverick's — leading up to his death last month. But looking at everything, Mark Healey had a better year. He owned the early November Mav's/Cortes swell. Got that Ride of the Year wave on an outer reef and even swung both ways at Jaws. Healey is the best big-wave surfer in the world right now, approaching waves with the courage of a gladiator. Markus O'Healyous. Okay, sorry. I'll stop.
FIVE BILLABONG XXL RIDE OF THE YEAR AWARD NOMINEES
(Surfer prize $50,000 plus a year lease on a 2012 Toyota Tacoma truck, Video prize $5,000)
Michael Brennan (Hobart, Tasmania, Australia) at Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania on April 10, 2010. (Video by Tim Bonython.)
Danilo Couto (Bahia, Brazil) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on February 8, 2011. (Video by Elliot Leboe.)
Mark Healey (Sunset Beach, Hawaii, USA) at Outer Reef, Oahu, Hawaii on January 20, 2011. (Video by Ariel Willeford.)
Benjamin Sanchis (Hossegor, France) at Mullaghmore Head, Ireland on February 13, 2011. (Video by Yannock Lousouarn.)
David Scard (Caloundra, Queensland, Australia) at Cloudbreak, Fiji on September 20, 2010. (Video by Talon Clemow.)
FIVE MONSTER PADDLE AWARD NOMINEES
(Surfer prize $15,000, Photo/video prize $4,000)
Danilo Couto (Bahia, Brazil) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on February 8, 2011. (Photos by Eric Aeder, Tracy Kraft and Batel Shimi. Video by Justin Clark, Giora Koren and Elliot Leboe.)
Shane Dorian (Kona, Hawaii, USA) at Jaws, Hawaii, on March 15, 2011. (Photos by Eric Aeder, Bob Bangerter, Tracy Kraft, Bruno Lemos, Mike Neal and Batel Shimi. Video by Frank Berthuot, Giora Koren and Bruno Lemos.)
Mark Healey (Sunset Beach, Hawaii, USA) at Maverick’s, California on November 2, 2010. (Photos by Mike Jones, Don Montgomery and Fred Pompermayer. Video by Chris Killen.)
Sion Milosky (Sunset Beach, Hawaii, USA) at Outer Reef, Oahu, Hawaii on February 8, 2011. (Photo by Daniel Russo. Video by Larry Haynes.)
Mark Yazbeck (Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia) at Waimea Bay, Hawaii on January 20, 2011. (Photos by Bruno Lemos, Al Mackinnon and Terry Reis. Video by Bruno Lemos.)
FIVE BILLABONG XXL BIGGEST WAVE AWARD NOMINEES
(Surfer prize $15,000, Photo/video prize $4,000)
Eric Akiskalian (Gig Harbor, Washington, USA) at South Reef, Lincoln City, Oregon on November 2, 2010. (Photos by Dave Colllyer and Richard Hallman.)
Dan Corbett (Dunsborough, Western Australia) at Outer Bombie, Margaret River, Western Australia on October 4, 2010. (Photo by Jamie Scott.)
Rodrigo “Koxa” Augusto Espirito de Santo (Guaruja, San Paulo, Brazil) at Punta Docas, Chile on August 18, 2010. (Photo by Alexandre Akiwas. Video by Rodrigo Pelado.)
Francisco Porcella (Sardnina, Italy) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on November 2, 2010. (Photos by Giora Koren, Mike Neal and Batel Shimi. Video by Tormod Martines.)
Benjamin Sanchis (Hossegor, France) at Belharra, France on February 16, 2011. (Photo by Bastien Bonnarme. Video by Julien Roulland.)
FIVE MONSTER TUBE AWARD NOMINEES
(Surfer prize $5,000, Still photography prize $2,000)
Shane Dorian (Kona, Hawaii, USA) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii, on March 15, 2011. (Photos by Bruno Lemos, Mike Neal and Batel Shimi.)
Tom Dosland (Haiku, Hawaii, USA) at The Right, Western Australia on October 6, 2010. (Photo by Calum Macaulay.)
James Hollmer-Cross (Hobart, Tasmania, Australia) at Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania on April 10, 2010. (Photo by Andrew Chisholm.)
Mark Mathews (Maroubra, New South Wales, Australia) at The Right, Western Australia on October 6, 2010. (Photo by Calum Macaulay.)
Eric Rebiere (Hossegor, France) at Mullaghmore Head, Ireland on February 13, 2011. (Photo by Bastien Bonnarme.)
FIVE SURFLINE BEST PERFORMANCE AWARD NOMINEES
(Surfer prize $5,000)
Kohl Christensen (Kailua, Hawaii, USA)
Danilo Couto (Bahia, Brazil)
Mark Healey (Sunset Beach, Hawaii, USA)
Sion Milosky (Sunset Beach, Hawaii, USA)
Benjamin Sanchis (Hossegor, France)
FIVE BILLABONG GIRLS BEST PERFORMANCE AWARD NOMINEES
(Surfer prize $5,000)
Easkey Britton (Rossnowlagh, Ireland)
Maya Gabeira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Keala Kennelly (Honolulu, Hawaii, USA)
Mercedes Maidana (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Jamilah Star (Santa Cruz, California, USA)
FIVE VERIZON WIPEOUT OF THE YEAR AWARD NOMINEES
(Surfer prize $2,000 and a Samsung Tab by Verizon Video prize $1,000)
Tiago Candelot (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on January 20, 2011. (Video by Tony Adams.)
Mark Mathews (Maroubra, New South Wales, Australia) at Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania on April 6, 2010. (Video by Andrew Chisholm.)
Everaldo “Pato” Teixeira (Florianopolis, Brazil) at Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania on April 6, 2010. (Video by Andrew Chisholm.)
Laurie Towner (Angourie, New South Wales, Australia) at Cloudbreak, Fiji on September 20, 2010. (Video by Elliot Leboe.)
Ben Wilkinson (North Narrabeen, New South Wales, Australia) at Maverick’s, California on November 2, 2010. (Video by Greg Browning.)