After going to these big-wave hootenannies for the better part of 10 years now—remember, it was Taylor Knox winning the K2 Challenge in '98 that started this whole beyond-limits bonanza—I think I've finally figured out how to safely navigate the annual XXL Awards with a bit of dignity. First and foremost, understand that any wave you've ever ridden, ever, in the history of you riding waves, pales in comparison to what these guys are doing. So just go ahead and check your ego at the door. Second, and for reasons legal and otherwise, don't consume a pint of whiskey in the car on the way to the show. It makes for so much more of an enjoyable experience when you're actually cognizant of what's going on around you. And third, every show drags on and for entertainment's sake it is important to keep an eye out for the competition within the competition. These men who ride mountains are a competitive lot, and surely if they're going to go out and risk life and limb in the sea wrestling King Neptune they aren't going to want to be outdone at some bro-bra awards show in Anaheim. So rather than give you a simple recounting of the night's events, or get embroiled in all the issues surrounding the show—why Billabong changed it to "Ride of the Year" instead letting the biggest wave win, or what kind of "science" is used to measure wave heights, to name a couple—I figured lets just give credit where credit's due and leave it at that. So with that in mind, here's the best from a very big night:
Maybe it was the hometown crowd, maybe it was that he did it all sponsorless, or maybe it's due to the fact that he's a throwback to a bygone era in big-wave riding, but Greg Long definitely stood out as the hero of the night. Winning for both biggest paddle-in wave and overall performance, the first thing he did after getting on stage was gaze out over the audience, take a breath, and say thanks to mom and dad for "putting up with my obsessive compulsive behavior." No chest pounding. No ego. Just thanks. We should all exercise such humility.
Granted, nobody could understand anything Occy said, but nevertheless, he put on a performance beyond compare. The host of this year's awards, he alleviated some anxiety straight out of the gate by admitting he was coping with two of his biggest fears: "talking in front of people and big waves." But Occy took it like a true Aussie, went backstage, skulled a couple cold ones, came back out and stole the show.
Rookie of the Year
Michael Brennan—the guy that was nominated for ollying a huge stair-step in the barrel at Shipsterns—was plucked straight out of the Tazzy bush and thrown square in the middle of all the trumped up bizarreness that is Orange County. Between the cosmetically enhanced superwomen and the energy-drink infused party, the bloke reckons, "I gotta go to more of these things."
Best No-Claim Claim
Ian Walsh describing his Ride of the Year contending wave in the lobby before show time: "Yeah, it was just a little micro insider."
Most Prophetic Remark
"I knew there was something to those jet skis, man."—Pioneer and madman in his own right, Herbie Fletcher.
Most Fabulous Hair
This award goes to Brad Gerlach. Who else would you expect? He was wearing a nice layered look, parted on the side with spectacular bangs. And whoever's doing his color work these days, well, lets just say the highlights looked remarkable.
Most Celebrity Struck
While up on stage to receive his third place award for Ride of the Year from guest presenter Shaun Tomson, Carlos Burle kept couldn't stop taking pictures of Shaun standing at the podium waiting for him.
For taking Best Wipeout honors Mark Healey won a new cell phone, complete with a year's service, which is a good thing because as he explained to the audience, he'd just thrown his last phone away and canceled his service because "it sucked." Gracious in victory, and following Greg Long's lead, who offered to buy everyone in the crowd a beer after winning Performance of the Year, Healey offered to let everybody make a phone call.
Worst Name Mispronunciation
The house emcee called Manoa Drollet to the stage for his Monster Tube Award but mistakenly kept calling him "Mona," as in Mona Lisa.
Best Missing Footage Story
Reportedly, for months after that epic day at Teahupoo nobody knew that footage of Shane Dorian's Ride of the Year wave existed. Then, shot by a Brazilian in a small tin can of a boat that had accidentally drifted much too close to the reef, a tape emerged, and with it documentation (as if we needed any) that Shane Dorian is certifiably out of his mind.
And the real winners are….
2008 Billabong XXL Awards:
Billabong XXL Ride of the Year: Shane Dorian at Teahupoo
Billabong XXL Biggest Wave Award: Mike Parsons at Cortes Bank
Monster Tube Award: Manoa Drollet at Teahupoo
Monster Paddle Award: Greg Long at Todos Santos
Surfline Best Overall Performance: Greg Long
Billabong Girl's Best Overall Performance: Maya Gabeira