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Greg Long leads the charge at the 2009 Billabong XXL Awards
Just outside the Grove's main theatre is a long, arching bar, where sweaty bartenders hustle pricey drinks and the people mingle with the surf-stars, doing their best to behave Hollywood. It's the pre-show watering hole and the after party's dance floor. But during the awards ceremony, it gets weird. The crowd at the bar thins to all but the heaviest drinkers and closet cig smokers. It's a XXL performance of the most unhealthy of vices.
On the TV screens just over the bar, the live show from behind the theatre doors plays quietly: Ross Clarke-Jones back-flopping under one of the heaviest Tasmanian lips ever endured. Derek Dunfee scratching over a Maverick's ledge that will go down in the history books. Queen of charging, Maya Gabeira being named Women's Performer of the Year...again. Twiggy swinging into a Tafleberg mountain. Mark Healey disappearing in a brown, Pacific Northwestern version of Teahupo'o. And Greg Long hooking into the biggest tube ever navigated at Dungeons -- or anywhere for that matter.
And there you are with your XXL drink order, head tilted up and eyes fixed on the show unfolding on the screen above the bar. Jealous. In awe. Pondering the punishment of such a wipeout or the glory of such a drop. Eww -- what is this out here? Best get back inside and make yourself feel better. You know, go stand somewhat near one of the many chargers in attendance and feel like a real go-getter.
On stage Greg Noll lumbers out from stage right. He's flanked by Occy and A.I. It's about time they got the Bull here. He's the godfather of this shit. His admiration is first directed towards the bombshell Monster girls milling about. "The three of us just decided she needs an award for having the best butt in the place." Good call. Then towards the young men and women that have since followed his fearless lead and have made it into their own and, ultimately, this -- the Oscars of big-wave surfing. "I wish I knew everyone of you. I'd like to shake each of your hands and talk about that feeling your get when you've got Mother Nature growling in your ear."
That's a growl the stars of the night have no doubt heard. From Ross Clarke-Jones and his terrifying back-flop under one of the heaviest Tasmanian lips ever endured. Derek Dunfee while scratching over a Maverick's ledge that will go down in the history books. The rush the Queen of charging -- and breathtakingly beautiful Maya Gabeira -- at Teahupo'o and Maverick's which earned her Women's Performer of the Year...again. Twiggy when swinging into Tafleberg mountains and Mark Healey when disappearing in a brown, Pacific Northwestern version of Teahupo'o. And Greg Long hooking into the biggest tube ever navigated at Dungeons.
And just when you've seen one too many cartoon-sized checks handed out and you're feeling really broke, they put the whammy on you. Mike Parsons steps up to the mic and calls all of the Ride of the Year finalists to the stage. Brian Conley (his brother accepted on Brian's behalf), Garret McNamara, James Holmer-Cross, Ryan Hipwood and Greg Long are all staring 50K in the face. But they've already enjoyed the glory. They look out across the crowd with "just another day" stares as their waves are reeled for our own big-wave lust and crushing envy. What's a replay to these guys? I mean, they lived through these rides.
The winner is Greg Long, hands down. No one's seen such a massive, perfect tube threaded like that before. His speech is eloquent and he's careful not to forget a single person in the process. He's been frequenting that evil bar outside too, but you'd never know it. Filthy do-gooder. He ends the evening raising the Big Check above his head and his 100 or so deep San Clemente fan club lets out a roar of celebration. Greg's done it again, that guy.
Suddenly, the theatre's empty and it's packed out at the bar. Derek Dunfee swigs a beer with one hand and coddles his 15K Monster Paddle check with the other. Greg Long clinks glasses with his brother Rusty and Twiggy. Greg Noll stands patiently with his lovely wife Laura and tells the Makaha story for the millionth time to a handful of admirers. Everyone is enjoying a spirit or two now. Things feel much better now.
AND THE WINNERS ARE...
XXL Ride of the Year: -- Dungeons, South Africa ($50,000). Filmed by Fixerfilm/RedBull BWA ($5,000)
XXL Biggest Wave: Grant "Twiggy" Baker -- Tafleberg Reef, South Africa ($15,000). Photographed by Brenton Geach ($4,000)
Monster Energy Monster Tube: Mark Healey -- Yeti, Oregon ($5,000). Photographed by Jason Murray ($2,000)
Monster Energy Monster Paddle: Derek Dunfee -- Maverick's, California. Photographed by Fred Pompermayer ($4,000)
Verizon Wireless Wipeout of the Year: Ross Clarke-Jones -- Pedra Branca, Tasmania. Filmed by Andrew Chisholm
Best Overall Performance Award: Grant "Twiggy" Baker ($5,000)
Billabong Girls Best Overall Performance Award: Maya Gabeira ($5,000)