This big-wave season had the highest disparity between swell-hype and actual swell that I've ever seen. I blame the Internet. I blame social media. I blame forecasting websites (visit ours). But it really doesn't matter, because at the end of the winter it's still the world's best big-wave surfers who consistently put themselves in the most calculated and precarious of places, because they do their own research and use hype only as a smoke shield to distract the masses. And now, thanks to Billabong, we have the fruits of their effort compiled in one place so that we may judge the unjudgeable. Jaws vs. Maverick's vs. tow surfing vs. a Portuguese wave that doesn't really break vs. cliff view vs. a helicopter shot. We're comparing apples and oatmeal, but no matter. We judge on. Because it gives us a great excuse to drink and give money away come May 3. With money and fame in mind, here are my picks for this year's XXL Winners.
Ride of the Year
I think it's safe to say that Shane Dorian can now be called the Kelly Slater of big-wave surfing. He's that much better than everyone, and he calls this the best wave he's ever ridden. The only issue with it is when they show the wave in its entirety, from him paddling to him getting spit out of the tube, he makes it look too easy. Too casual. Too smooth.But there were steps on that wave, and Shane had to first put himself in that position before he could so easily catch it. So yes, it's Dorian that will take home the $50,000 on this one, and probably go buy some new hunting equipment. Runner up: Shawn Dollar. Look how much deeper he is than everyone. Look at how small that chop was that he ramped in on. Look how bumpy it was. And was he trying to get barreled there? Wouldn't surprise me.
See all the Rides of the Year entries in Slow Motion
Pacifico Paddle (Biggest Paddle-in Wave)
See above for why Shawn's wave at Cortes Bank was well ridden. See Rob Keith's photo for why it was the tallest. We gotta bust out the protractor on this one, though. I'm just eye-balling it right now, but could very-well be the biggest wave ever paddled into. Runner up: Matt Meola. Good God, kid, relax. Maybe it's just the early-morning lighting, but this seems like the scariest of the batch. And boy did it ring his bell at the bottom.
Pacifico Tube Award
I know that Shane will probably win this but I would like to spread the love to Dave Wassel and Cloudbreak. The guy paddled out between shifts on the webcast and bagged himself this bomb, the cover of SURFING and Surfer. Well done, Dave.
Girls Performance Award
Has to be Paige Alms. The girl is consistently paddling into Jaws so...not much more needs to be said. Runner up: Keala.
Mens Performance Award
Greg Fucking Long. He's the big wave world champion, he got that long tube at Jaws and another biggie in Puerto. He pretty much died, came back and then went and surfed Nelscott, Maverick's and Jaws afterwards. What a hero. Runner up: Greg Long.
This one should be Greg Long, too, but he's not nominated. I'm going to go with Tom Dosland at Jaws. He caught the lip on his chest like he was greeting a long-lost lover. Ouch. Runner up: Joao de Macedo. I was out the back and heard the screams of spectators on the shoulder on this one, really terrifying. Plus, Maverick's has to be involved somewhere in this contest. Doesn't it?
I'm boycotting this category because we should stop recognizing tow-in surfing as something that deserves an award. Especially when there are two paddle-in entries in this category, which means there were only three waves ridden with PWC assistance that might be bigger than the waves guys paddled into. One might ask where Garrett McNamara is in all this. Apparently he's boycotting this year's XXL because it's sponsored by Pacifico and he doesn't want to associate with an alcohol brand. Another rumor, entirely more believable, is that he's not coming to the XXL awards because he heard that Garrett McNamara might be there.