When it comes down to it, life's all about judging people.When it comes down to it, life's all about judging people.

Out of Office Reply is Associate Editor Taylor Paul’s column on surf travel, big waves, and other manly bits

Out of Office Reply

It's like Fight Club in that the first rule of the XXL Knights of the Roundtable (their name for it) is that you don't talk about it. Which is unfortunate since I had plans of bringing you all of the details about what goes into judging the Billabong XXL awards. Behind the scenes stuff. Whispered secrets I'd hear and then scream to you with capital letters. But within my first three minutes in the conference room at Billabong headquarters in Irvine, Bill Sharp says "Taylor, in case it wasn't made clear, whatever happens in this room, stays in this room." And I nodded and said "of course" but inside I was like, "C'mon, William. This isn't Vegas. The public has a right to know."

But I want to be invited back so I'll keep my mouth shut. About most of it at least. This much I can tell you (I know this because I sent this to Bill Sharp and he approved):

The following people were in the room:

  • Bill Sharp: XXL event director and meeting supervisor
  • Mike Parsons: Token big-wave legend and all around nice guy
  • Peter Taras: SURFING photo editor and the strong silent guy
  • Jeff Divine: The Surfer's Journal photo editor and the guy who takes lots of photos and videos of the meeting
  • Grant Ellis: Surfer photo editor and guy with the coolest accent
  • Sean Collins: Founder of Surfline and the alpha male in the room
  • Dave Gilovich: Executive vice-president of Surfline and first guy to introduce himself to me
  • Chris Dixon: Author of Ghost Wave (book about Cortes Bank) and guy wearing the "Billabong Guest" nametag
  • Sam George: Former editor and writer for most surf magazines and although he once claimed that Laird Hamilton was the best surfer ever, by any measure (um, how about anything under 30 feet?), a really nice guy
  • Me: Associate editor of SURFING and guy who is there because Travis Ferre is in Australia

The following items were in the room:

  • Blown up photos of the biggest waves ridden this year
  • Dry erase markers
  • Measuring tape
  • Drafting compass
  • Chipotle burritos (C for chicken, B for beef, V for veggie)
  • Bottled Tecate
  • Juice
  • Testosterone
  • Two Macs (computers, not Big) to show us a year-end synopsis video
  • Bill's iPhone calculator which we used to multiply numbers that had fractions in them

The following decisions were made in the room:

  • Biggest wave of the year
  • Biggest paddle of the year

It was fun to see how calculated everything is, what with the compass and the calculations, but I was hoping to choose Ride of the Year and Performer of the Year. I wanted to slam my fist down on the wooden table and launch a seamless argument for why Danilo should win Ride of the Year and why we should crown Dorian king of the big-wave universe. I'd startle the gray hairs in the room. They'd be like "who is this kid with such wisdom and confidence beyond his years?" And I'd play it off, suppressing a grin, because humility is a virtue best served feigned.

But I didn't get my chance to shine (I would have. I so would have) because the remaining categories, subjective as they are and thus best decided by a large pool of pundits, are determined by 400-plus past competitors, photogs and media guys. And, at the time of our meeting, Bill had yet to tally the votes and couldn't tell us who won. Or maybe he was lying. Maybe he knew. Maybe he knew all along and was just following the second rule of XXL Knights of the Roundtable…