The Billabong XXL awards are this Friday in Anaheim, California. The blue carpet unfurls next to Disneyland and Angels Stadium and big wave greats walk upon it, often drunk. It is their night, after spending an entire year chasing monsters, and they can do as they wish. They can fire shotguns in the air and burn Anaheim to the ground. If they wish.
The main categories are girl’s and men’s performance awards, the wipeout award, the monster tube award, the paddle-in award, the biggest wave award and the ride of the year.
It is ride of the year that most interests me because of the nuances. The subtleties. The non-scientific nature of judging greatness. Ride of the year, you see, is not necessarily the biggest wave, or the heaviest, or the most heaving, or the weirdest. It is not the latest drop, or the most critical turn, or the deepest barrel. It is all of these things and none of them. A ride of the year is felt in the heart more than it is quantified. It earns $50,000 which, plus 200,000 more dollars, can be used to purchase a Chanel “Diamond Forever” classic handbag for the woman the winner loves.
And this year’s contestants are spectacular. Nathan Fletcher rides a very large and heavy wave at Teahupoo but he is towed in and he falls at the end. But it is the largest and heaviest. Greg Long weaves the longest pink board deeply into a Puerto Escondido pit and emerges. Jeff Rowley fights wind and God to paddle into a Jaws monster. Ryan Hipwood rides a perfect big wave perfectly at Cloudbreak. His wave could not have been ridden any better. Garrett McNamara gets towed in to a wave off of Portugal. It is big too. They are all spectacular. But which is better than which? Which outshines the field? I don’t know. I don’t ride big waves and, if I did, I wouldn’t ride them well.
And so, since they all appear similar, I would like to submit three more write-ins for ride of the year. Octomom rode fame and magazine coverage and talk show appearances for having eight babies into one million dollars of debt. Mitt Romney rode the smallest ever groundswell of support into the Republican presidential nomination. Kanye West rode Kim Kardashian.
I give the win to Greg Long. His board is just too chic. —Chas Smith