Holiday Memories: Cortes Bank, 2009

Kelly Slater, Ramon Navarro, and Co.'s famous Cortes paddle session

Is there anything better than a holiday swell? We can all recall a few. The local beachie glistening with shiny Christmas toys. Frothing groms on fresh sticks, waxed perfectly, stickers and traction pads expertly placed just hours after removing the ribbons. Perhaps even a little selflessness and generosity in the water, goodwill towards men and all.

But perhaps there's no Christmas Miracle more memorable in the surf world than December 27th, 2009's paddle day at Cortes Bank.

Fresh off two days of festive floggings at Jaws, Grant Baker and Greg Long, along with Nathan Fletcher and others, flew in to LAX and piled in — guns and all — into Long's Econoline and bee-lined it for Newport Harbor, where, according to SURFER writer Chris Dixon, a boat, along with Mark Healy, Pete Mel, Ramon Navarro, and others, was waiting.

Loaded down, the group began the heavy, hundred-mile motor out to Cortes, only to have Kelly Slater call begging them to turn around and grab him. He'd been surfing somewhere in Santa Barbara, got wind of the mission and got there as fast as he could. It being the Holidays and all, the crew steered her on back for the Champ.

The session that followed will be remembered as one of the greatest in big-wave surfing history.

"In fact, I suppose I was granted my own Christmas miracle," Dixon wrote of the experience. "Having the opportunity to watch the best surfers in the world paddling into shifty, spooky peaks 100 miles out in the middle of the ocean above the bones of a giant WWII era freighter that was blasted apart by these very waves a generation ago, was something I'll tell my grandkids about."

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