BILLABONG XXL AWARDS – We Pick the Winners (and therefore, the losers)

The Billabong XXL awards don't take place for a few weeks (April 13 to be exact – live webcast at ), but I thought I'd offer up my Top 5 winners for the "Ride of the Year" category. You can agree or disagree, that's the beauty of this whole deal. Log on to the BillabongXXL site, check out the entries for “Ride of the Year” and let the polarizing discourse begin!

The Top 5 Billabong XXL Rides of the Year

Long paddles into a wave that is larger, a 22-foot face at take off by my estimates, than a few of the tow-in entries.

#5 Damon Eastaugh, West Oz Bombora, July 5, 2006, filmed by Rick Rifici
This mountainous deep water ride is steep and captivating because Eastaugh rides the beast with confidence. Do yourself a favor, pause the video about half way through and check out the gargantuan size of that monster. Possibly the biggest wave of the bunch (but that's another category) and surfers in Oz agree, awarding Eastaugh the Oakley/ASL Big Wave Award title this year for this exact wave. Eastaugh and Australian compatriot Alfy Cater look very confident in the big stuff and their style beams through because of it. If a surfer looks like they are holding on for dear life I write it off immediately as a "let go and Let God" entry—simply not worthy. Not the case with these two hell men. Eastaugh's is a short ride, but very, very sweet.

#4 Doug Young, Teahupoo, Tahiti, October 13, 2006, filmed by Christopher Kirkham
This is the chunkiest, meanest Teahupoo entry of the bunch and it comes from a very unsuspecting source in Kiwi Doug Young (who is he?). This makes for great message board web foddor. Young's ride needs no foddor however, as this beastly ride is not only life threatening but borderline ridiculous as well. It reminds me of the fan who, at halftime of the SuperBowl, kicks a 50-yard wind-assisted field goal and wins a new car. This wave rode Young, not vise-versa — he seems to have lucked into this deal. And it is the hairiest Teahupoo entry of the bunch due to the ominous onshore quality of the conditions. This was “rope and hope” at its finest. If that wave didn't let him go, Mr. Young would have been Mr. Old real quick. I wonder what his mum said?

#3 Andrew Marr, Dungeons, South Africa, July 30, 2006, filmed by Grant Washburn
Of all the deep water entries (Mav's, Dungeons, etc.) Marr's wave in South Africa at Dungeons is the lumpiest (be prepared for lots of words like this one in the coming month). But more importantly to the 'Ride of the Year' category watch Marr pick a rather sketchy high line and pull into the uncertain cavernous wagon section and breeze through, hands in the air. Fortunately for Marr, while in mid-claim, hands raised, he negotiates a 10-foot knee buckling chop hop. Otherwise he may have been Great White kibbles and bits.

#2 Rusty Long, Puerto Escondido, Mexico, June 2, 2006, filmed by Andrew Kopjak
Long paddles into a wave that is larger, a 22-foot face at take off by my estimates, than a few of the tow-in entries. That alone should win him the 'Ride of the Year' award. Like his family name this ride is long, he travels through two sections. Like his given name it is a bit rusty as well, notice he pearls a bit upon take off but pulls the nose out. But because this entire ride is unassisted save Long's own heart driven determination, this ladies and gentleman is your BILLABONGXXL RIDE OF THE YEAR

…as chosen by me……a relative nobody. BUT WAIT!

#1 Ken 'Skindog' Collins, Puerto Escondido, Mexico, June 17, 2006, filmed by Josh Pomer
This is the most entertaining ride, but is it the "Ride of the Year?" The answer is YES (with all due respect to Rusty Long's "green" paddle-in ride at the same break a few weeks earlier), yes it is. Notice the unbelievable graceful and casual ease with which Skinny puts himself in and out of that long, large tubular swell. Skinny lines it up deep and executes perfectly. This is no "rope and hope" hang on for dear life ride. No sir. This is no "let go and let God" Hail Mary ride. Ain't gonna happen. What we see here is mastery, pure and simple. As you know, I lean towards the paddle-in guys and wanted to give it to Rusty Long but Collins' execution is just plain brilliant. On this wave and during this ride Kenny Collins channels Gerry Lopez– switchfoot. Kenny Collins at Puerto Escondido: this ladies and gentleman is your BILLABONGXXL RIDE OF THE YEAR

On April 13th, 2007 be sure to check out the Live Webcast and watch the drama unfold before your very eyes.