HOLY CABRINHA!

posted by / News / April 18, 2004

If Jaws were a sports team, we’d have the makings of a dynasty. For the second year in a row, the fabled tow-in spot on Maui’s North Shore produced the biggest wave of the winter for the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards. Unlike last year, when a mysto French reef almost upstaged tow surfing’s original superspot, it was all about Jaws in 2004. Not only did a seismic Jan. 10 swell produce the winter’s top three contenders, the winning wave — ridden by 42-year-old Jaws pioneer Pete Cabrinha — shattered the official record for the biggest wave ever ridden. “I hadn’t looked at the number,” Cabrinha told a crowd of 1500+ Friday night at the Grove in Anaheim. “That’ll buy a few bars of wax.”

Seventy-thousand of ‘em, to be exact. The estimated face height of his behemoth left — 70 feet — means he outsized the current record holder Carlos Burle for his 68-footer at Mav’s in 2001. The craziest thing about Pete’s cartoon-like ride? It was his first one of the morning, just after he told his partner, Rush Randle, to tow him into a “little warm-up wave.” “Most people go right at Jaws,” he added, “but on this day some of the lefts looked bigger and cleaner so that’s the way I went.”

While Maui up-and-comer Ian Walsh and Brazil’s Danilo Couto rounded out the top three with rights, one can’t help but ask: what if Laird had entered the XXL this year? Would his massive left on the same day have outdone Cabrinha’s? “We ask Laird to enter every year,” says Billabong XXL director Bill Sharp. “And we’ve never really gotten a straight answer on why he declines to participate.”With the other possible “biggest wave of the winter” out of the way, the judges’ colorful debate last Wednesday was more about methodology than the winner. The panel, including big-wave heroes Mike Parsons and Flippy Hoffman, SURFING’s Larry “Flame” Moore and Evan Slater, Surfer’s Sam George and Chris Mauro, Surfline’s Adam Wright and TW Surf’s Pete Taras, still can’t decide what measuring tool works best: the calipers or the gut. The calipers, of course, enabled the crew to estimate the height of the surfer in relation to the wave and come up with a number (although some judges suggested our estimates are as precise as the Hawaiian scale). The gut, on the other hand, tends to be accurate but vague (people want more explanation than grunts and hoots). In this case, though, both methods came to the same conclusion: Pete Cabrinha’s wave was at least eight feet bigger than the others.

The Monster Biggest Paddle-In Award wasn’t so obvious. With no substantial entries from the massive Jan. 10 swell in Hawaii, the judges dealt with a medium-big day at Maverick’s on Dec. 17 and Greg Long’s winning wave at Dungeons last June. Dungeons is like Todos. It’s a big wave that shoots big — every inch of the face height shows up in the photos. Maverick’s is the opposite: something about that lurching ledge and long, slopey bottom that makes a 20-foot macker look like 12-foot Sunset. Zach Wormhoudt was the surfer of the day on Dec. 17, and the video proves it with his free-fall stone-skip drop and perfect landing. The photo isn’t so obvious — until you measure Ken “Skindog” Collins’ 10-foot gun displayed perfectly upright in the face. Break out the calipers, come up with a measurement of 40-plus and see that it is a bigger wave than Long’s — even if it doesn’t look it. “The weird thing is,” says Zach, who’s now $5,000 richer thanks to the XXL Awards, “I’ve caught waves three times that size at Mav’s. I guess it was just a slow year.”

Greg Long may have just missed out in both the Paddle and Overall categories (his Cortes bomb came in fourth overall), but he was the clear candidate for the Surfline/Jay Moriarity Best Overall Performance Award. Greg is of the Jay mold: soft-spoken, eternally stoked and passionate about big-wave riding. He proved that this past year with a win at the Red Bull event at Dungeons (where he split the prizemoney with his fellow finalists) and for his heroic session at Cortes in mid December with brother Rusty, Mike Parsons and Brad Gerlach. “There’s no better guy to win this award,” said Parsons. “He’s what big-wave riding is all about.”The last award was also an easy one to call. When you think of monster tubes, you only think of one spot and, this year, one wave: Malik Joyeaux at Teahupo’o. Friend and sometimes-partner Raimana {{{Van}}} Bastolaer accepted Malik’s Monster Biggest Tube of the Year award at the Grove, then later told us we’re guaranteed to see his home spot bigger. “We’ve only been on those huge swells for the past couple of years,” he said. “Just wait until that really big one comes.”Which has always been the beauty of the Billabong XXL Awards. No matter where or when the next big one hits, someone will blow us away with another ride that defies the imagination. All we have to do is wait. — Team SURFING

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