Chile. Peru. France. Spain. South Africa. Browse through the current menu of top contenders on the Billabong XXL website (billabongxxl.com), and you'll immediately come to a startling conclusion: the big-wave world has turned upside down - or at least sideways. Cape Town's Dungeons looks like a coldwater Jaws. Spain's Agiti looks like Outer Logs. And a massive day at Peru's Pico Alto bears a striking resemblance to a raw, chunky swell at Maverick's.
And the spots we've grown so used to seeing in the event that highlights the biggest and best heavy-wave feats of the year? Aside from a week of wildness at Maverick's in December, they've been virtually non-existent. A few 15-foot days in Hawaii, one quick late-afternoon blast at Maverick's last Sunday...and that's about it. No Makua 66-footers. No Peter Mel bombs from behind the bowl. Just a whole lot of chasing and hair-pulling.
Meanwhile, across the Pond, the Atlantic has seen one potent storm swell after another, lighting up the Basque Coast's sleeping giants in between fronts. Peru and Chile now have a small army of devoted big-wave riders charging its bombies during the May-September mean season and then you have this year's standout, Dungeons.
The creepy, two-headed reef off Hout Bay in Cape Town has always been the spot that's never quite lived up to its potential. They've only held the Red Bull big-wave event three of the seven years it's existed, and none - including the event this past year - have shown what the place can really do. But a few days after John Whittle took the title this year, it happened. Sure, it was rainy, cold and most of the crew had called it a day, but for die-hard Greg Long and a select few of South Africa's most dedicated big-wave riders, they tapped into what we're claiming are the largest waves ever surfed in the Southern Hemisphere. Check carpenter Andrew Marr's contender for "XXL Ride of the Year" to see why. Or, if you want real proof, just size up Greg Long's wooly mammoth in the "XXL Biggest Wave of the Year" category. "We've always said, 'What if?' about Dungeons," said Greg Long of that fateful July 30 afternoon. "What if the swell really lengthened in period and hit that outer peak? Well, the 'What if' came true on a day we least expected. And it was crazier than we even imagined."
Three weeks left in the contest, and as it stands, we're predicting a sweep for the Atlantic and Southern Hemisphere. If the North Pacific has something to say about it, it better speak up now.
[Stay tuned to surfingmagazine.com and billabongxxl.com for updates as they happen. The Billabong XXL awards banquet will be held on April 13, 2007.]