Dave Wassel
Dave Wassel is nominated in the Monster Paddle category.

The nominees have just been announced for the 2012 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards fueled by Monster Energy, and the surfing community is bracing for another epic showdown of the biggest waves and greatest rides witnessed worldwide over the last year.

The 12 months leading up to the end of the annual XXL cycle at the end of the Northern Hemisphere spring on March 19 have been widely regarded as the most spectacular ever seen in the sport of big wave riding. "Biggest-ever" swells were conquered at surf breaks in locations ranging from Tahiti to Ireland and from Tasmania to Portugal along with "just plain huge" days in Mexico, Fiji, California and Hawaii. When whittled down to the top five nominees in each of the XXL's seven divisions, every category is filled with breathtaking moments, all worthy of being named an XXL champion and each with a shot at a share of the $120,000 in prize money at stake. To view all the nominated rides, please see the event website at www.BillabongXXL.com.

The winners will be announced at the invitation-only Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards party at the Grove Theater in Anaheim, California on May 4, 2012. The show will be webcast that night on YouTube's Newtork A, and will be broadcast as a one-hour program on FUEL TV on Sunday, May 20 at 3 P.M. PT. This year's event marks the 12th-annual edition of the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards, an event open to every qualified surfer at every break on every day of the year, so long as the action is captured by a video or still camera and submitted for judging by the XXL's voting academy of expert surfers and lensmen. Over 1,000 images were entered into the event before being filtered down to the best five stills and single definitive video clip of each nominated ride.

In the all-important Billabong XXL Ride of the Year category, there are five very different waves in contention, all ridden in very different regions around the planet. In consideration for the $50,000 winner's prize are a pair of Southern Californians: Nathan Fletcher for his earth-shattering barrel at Teahupoo, Tahiti and Greg Long for his paddle-in tube at Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Two Australians are also represented, including Ryan Hipwood for his long, spitting pipe of a wave at Cloudbreak,Fiji and upstart Jeff Rowley for a hair-raising late paddle drop and pocketride at Jaws on Maui (a spot generally believed to be a tow-surfing-only location prior to the last two winters). Rounding out the five is the lone Hawaiian, Garrett McNamara, for his plunge into a massive face off the coast of Portugal, a feat that earned the big wave veteran global headlines in November.

The ride of the year nominees

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The theme of recent years to push the envelope of what is possible in the realm of arm-powered surfing has continued unabated with another slate of stunning nominees in the highly-regarded Monster Paddle division. Earning spots as finalists for 2012 are: Santa Cruz's Ken "Skindog" Collins at Maverick's near San Francisco, California; Australian Jamie Mitchell at Todos Santos Island off Ensenada, Mexico; and Brazil's Danilo Couto, Oahu's Dave Wassel and Big Islander Shane Dorian all being recognized for man-handling huge, windy walls at Jaws, on the north shore of Maui.

The five Monster Paddle rides

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In the XXL Biggest Wave category (open to waves caught with jet skis or any other means), another five rides are being honored for maximum height — pure andsimple. McNamara is nominated once more for his Portugal ride, which will be compared to two dark and frigid late-season Irish giants ridden at Mullaghmore Head by local Ollie O'Flaherty and the UK's Andrew Cotton. Adding to the European domination of the Biggest Wave division this year is a clean, green ride by Basque surfer Axi Muniain at Agiti, on the northern coast of Spain. Joining the four Euro Zone rides is a beautiful big blue bomb of a wave at Cow Bombie in Western Australia, precisely ridden from start to finish by W.A.'s own Damien "Taco" Warr.

The XXL finalists

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Nominees have also been announced for the Monster Tube Award. All the surfers, photographers and videographers are listed below and all the nominated still and video images can be viewed at the event website at www.BillabongXXL.com. The nominees in the remaining categories will be announced on April 9, including Surfline Best Overall Performance Award (male), the Billabong Girls Best Performance Award (female) and the ever-popular Verizon Wipeout Award.

The nominees for 2012, in alphabetical order:

(Surfer prize $50,000 – Video prize $5,000)
Nathan Fletcher (San Juan Capistrano, California, USA) at Teahupoo, Tahiti on August 27, 2011.
(Video by Simon Saffigna.)
Ryan Hipwood (Gold Coast, Australia) at Cloudbreak, Fiji on July 12, 2011.
(Video by Nimai Strickland.)
Greg Long (San Clemente, California, USA) at Puerto Escondido, Mexico on May 19, 2011.
(Video by Alejandro Berger.)
Garrett McNamara (Haleiwa, Hawaii, USA) at Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal on November 1, 2011.
(Video by Jorge Leal.)
Jeff Rowley (Torquay, Victoria, Australia) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on January 30, 2012.
(Video by Wangdu Hovey.)

(Surfer prize $15,000 – Photo/video prize $4,000)
Ken "Skindog" Collins (Santa Cruz, California, USA) at Maverick's, California on February 8, 2012.
(Photos by Robert Brown and Frank Quirarte. Video by The Go Big Project.)
Danilo Couto (Bahia, Brazil) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on January 4, 2012.
(Photo by Fred Pompermayer. Video by Greg Browning.)
Shane Dorian (Kona, Hawaii, USA) at Jaws, Hawaii, on January 4, 2012.
(Photos by Bidu, Tracy Kraft, Bruno Lemos, Jason Murray and Fred Pompermayer. Video by Elliot Leboe.)
Jamie Mitchell (Gold Coast, Australia) at Todos Santos, Mexico on January 6, 2012.
(Photo by Jason Murray. Video by Graham Nash.)
Dave Wassel (Haleiwa, Hawaii, USA) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on January 4, 2012.
(Photos by Eric Aeder, Frank Berthuot, Bruno Lemos, Mike Neal and Fred Pompermayer. Video by Bruno Lemos.)

(Surfer prize $15,000 – Photo/video prize $4,000)
Andrew Cotton (Croyde,Devon, United Kingdom) at Mullaghmore Head, Ireland on March 8, 2012.
(Photos by Andrew Kilfeather, Conn Osbourne and David Olsthoorn. Video by Jamie Russell.)
Garrett McNamara (Haleiwa, Hawaii, USA) at Priaia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal on November 1, 2011.
(Photo by Wilson Ribeiro. Video by Jorge Leal.)
Axi Muniain (Zarautz, Basque Country) at Agiti, Spain on December 15, 2011.
(Photo by Eric Chauche. Video by Walter Lang.)
Ollie O'Flaherty (Lahinch, County Clare, Ireland) at Mullaghmore Head, Ireland on March 8, 2012.
(Photos by Christian McLeod and Matt Strathern. Video by Mark Waters.)
Damien "Taco" Warr (Yallingup, Western Australia) at Cow Bombie, Western Australia on October 16, 2011.
(Photo by Jamie Scott. Video by Rick Jakovich.)

(Surfer prize $5,000 – Still photography prize $2,000)
Kohl Christensen (Haleiwa, Hawaii, USA) at Cloudbreak, Fiji on July 12, 2011.
(Photos by Brian Bielmann and Bruno Lemos.)
Nathan Fletcher (San Juan Capistrano, California, USA) at Teahupoo, Tahiti on August 27, 2011.
(Photos by Brian Bielmann, Pete Frieden, Bruno Lemos, Tim McKenna and Benjamin Thouard.)
Tyler Hollmer-Cross (Hobart, Tasmania, Australia) at Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania on May 17, 2011.
(Photo by Andrew Chisholm.)
Bruce Irons (Hanalei,Hawaii, USA) at Teahupoo, Tahiti on August 27, 2011.
(Photos by Brian Bielmann, Tim McKenna, Fred Pompermayer, Pat Stacy and Benjamin Thouard.)
Everaldo "Pato" Teixeira (Florianopolis, Brazil) at Teahupoo, Tahiti on August 27, 2011.
(Photos by Tim McKenna, Fred Pompermayer and Benjamin Thouard.)

The Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards are fueled by MonsterEnergy. Verizon Wireless is the official communications provider and Surfline.com is the exclusive surf forecast of the XXL. Sony is the official electronics supporter and Contour the exclusive provider of point of view cameras. The event is sponsored by Surfing Magazine and Air Tahiti Nui airlines.