Huge European Surf Takes Centerstage in 2009 Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards

Posted by: on February 6th, 2009

billabongxxleuropewave

Unusual weather patterns in the
North Pacific have produced the hottest January on record in much of
California, and have left West Coast big wave surfers largely starved for
waves for the last two months.  Likewise, the normally battered Hawaiian
coastlines have suffered through a similar drought of extreme high surf
warnings this winter season.  But at the same time, the Atlantic Ocean has
produced a bounty of massive storms and swells, becoming a key focus of
the 2009 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards as the event heads into the
final six weeks of its yearlong event period.

Among the most spectacular images to emerge from the barrage of high surf
is a shot of Benjamin Sanchis (Hossegor, France) at Belharra, an outer
reef located in the Basque Country near the French/Spanish border.  The
photograph by Stephane Salerno is reminiscent of several other massive
rides at the break which earned XXL Biggest Wave nominations in 2003 and
2008.

While some of the Atlantic storms lashing the European coastline have
arrived with unfavorable weather, there have been many days where the
conditions have come together for the surfers who have been on the prowl
for the right window of opportunity.  Isla Pancha, in the Cantabria region
of Spain, has produced some excellent entries for Basque surfers Asier
Muniain, Ibon Amatriain and Aritza Saratxaga along with Cantabrian Oscar
Gomez.  To view these images along with hundreds of additional entries
from around the world, visit the event website at BillabongXXL.com.

According to Surfline, the official surf forecast of the XXL, the trend
continues.

“The North Atlantic has been in a very active pattern over the past few
weeks producing a series of large swells,” said the Surfline forecast
team. “We continue to remain in a very active pattern with plenty of solid
swell due for the region over the coming days. The North Atlantic storm
track is expected to remain fairly active over the next couple of weeks
which means potential for even more XXL swell.”

A number of top International surfers have heeded the call and gone
“Across the Pond” to fill their need for winter power.  Perennial XXL
finalists Greg Long of San Clemente, California and Grant “Twiggy” Baker
of Durban, South Africa gave up their lengthy vigil at Northern
California’s Maverick’s and flew to Ireland some weeks ago.  The pair
connected with locals Fergal Smith and Tom Lowe and the group has been
treated to what Long described as, “Crazy barrels…kinda like cold water
Teahupoo,” in reference to the deadly Tahitian break.  Look for some
Monster Barrel entries from those sessions to appear on the XXL event site
in the coming days.

Additional new video clips and still photos continue to arrive from around
the world week after week in all key categories of the event including the
Billabong XXL Ride of the Year Award, Billabong XXL Biggest Wave Award
powered by Honda, Monster Tube Award and Monster Paddle Award.  Also
featured are the Surfline Best Overall Performance Award and the Billabong
Girl’s Performance Award.  In total, over $130,000 in prize money will be
awarded in the ninth annual edition of big wave surfing’s top event.  The
competition is open to all qualified, invited surfers at any surf break
around the world over the course of a full year and is based on the
photographic evidence.

Although there is still plenty of time for more shocking swell events to
occur before the event period concludes with the Vernal (Spring) Equinox
on March 20, 2009, the world’s big wave elite are already making plans to
attend the gala Billabong XXL Awards ceremony this April 17 at the Grove
Theater in Anaheim, California.  While the 2000 seats at the Grove are
invitation only, the entire evening’s activities from Red Carpet arrivals
to the final award will be broadcast during a live webcast at
www.BillabongXXL.com and televised as a one-hour special on ESPN2 on the
evening of May 28.

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