XXL Trouble

posted by / News / April 25, 2010

Trouble on the party bus: Rusty Long and crew.

Trouble on the party bus.

By Taylor Paul

Photos by Jeff Flindt

It began in front of Rusty Long’s house, with a rented red double-decker bus at the curb and a green limo in the driveway. The limo wasn’t rented; Rusty and his roommates own it so they don’t have to search for taxis. Digression (you can expect a lot of that). It’s nine am after a night that didn’t end (for me at least — everyone else probably kept going) until about four. I am scrambled like the eggs I’m gonna eat once I finish this. I will douse them in Tabasco.

Control. Control. Rusty Long’s driveway. Pre-gaming for the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards. There are so many big-wave surfers here. I will name some of them: Rusty, Greg, Ramon, Sion, Healey, Twiggy, Kohl Christensen, Gary Linden, Ryan Seelbach, Colin Dwyer, Travis Payne. Understand, though, that these guys are very popular, so there were many more people. Girlfriends, friends, family, strangers. When we got on the bus, both of its decks were overflowing with beautiful bodies. Greg Long said to me, “I don’t know a lot of these people.” We almost couldn’t leave ‘cause there were too many people. Then we almost couldn’t leave cause the bus was a piece of trash. A charming piece of trash.

Due to overflow from the bus, the green limo had to be taken. And there was a black limo too. I remember that distinctly ‘cause it raced ahead of us, pulled over on the side of the freeway, and Healey and co. (I think) stood on the roof and mooned us.

On the bus, there wasn’t just people; there was excessive tequila and Tecate. I knew this going into it, so I slammed bladder-sized servings of water before the boozing started. I also knew going into it that there was no bathroom on the bus. And we were leaving at rush hour bound for Los Angeles. And there was an Angels/Yankees game. And our bus maxed at thirty-five. Thirty-five.

I eventually broke the seal by peeing in an empty tequila bottle. Some people were grossed out, and those same people were peeing in bottles later. By the time we got to Anaheim, guys were manually opening the electronic doors at stop-lights and peeing, then opting to walk the rest of the way.

Walking meant navigating hoards of Yankee fans and Angels fans and scalpers (“I need tickets!”). Then upon arriving at The Grove Theatre, the scene switched from baseball to big waves. XXL big waves, to be precise. The Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards presented by Monster Energy.

At the awards entrance, you have to get past the wristband police (blue means you’re in, white means you’re at a table. I started with a blue, then SURFING Editor Travis Ferre gave me a white, then Anthony Tashnick gave me a red rubber one with magnets on it), before reaching an outside lounge area. Couches. Red carpets. There are posters everywhere of people riding double ex el waves. Everyone lingers and socializes and looks all hot. There are heat lamps so they can feel how they look. I cannot stress enough how good everyone looks, and by everyone, I mean the girls. This is like the Oscars for the wives and girlfriends of the big-wave surfer dudes (my girlfriend called the awards show, “The Surfies”), so they get dolled. New dresses. Wavy hair. Shoes that could be used as stabbing devices. And the big-wave surfer girls themselves looked stunning. Maya, Bethany, Savanah, so hot right now.

After the outside lounge area you go into an inside lounge area. There are bars everywhere. There are famous people shaking hands and hugging. I give a big hug to Carlos Burle. He is the nicest person ever. Tonight he will be named the big-wave world champion. I double fist with a low-carb Monster and a beer. After shaking hands and kissing babies (Jamilah Starr brought hers) for 20 minutes or an hour, a voice (presumably God’s) comes over the loud speaker and says, “The awards are about to begin, please take your seat.” And most people don’t, ‘cause schmoozing is too much fun. Then they start the show. Many people remain and shmooze and watch it broadcast on TV.

The recap of the year is already playing when I go to the inside table area and try to find my seat. But it’s dark and I can’t see where the SURFING mag guys are, so I just sit in a random table in an empty seat so I’m not blocking people’s views. I am informed that I am sitting in Makua’s seat. He will be back soon. I take that to mean I can sit there until he returns or there is a brief intermission. But they remind me again that he is coming back so I just leave.

The recap was a collection of footage from the year, organized by the most memorable days. There were many memorable days this year, so it takes a while. When it’s over, Sal Masakela comes on stage to host the show. He is hilarious; self-deprecating and sarcastic.

The presentation of the awards is a mess, though. When Rory Russell announces the Monster Tube Award, the nominees for Best Performance by a Female come onscreen. Christian Fletcher introduces Sebastian Steudtner in the Biggest Wave category by saying, “And the winner is…the German who doesn’t paddle.” And when the German reaches the stage to accept the award, Fletcher mutters something about Hitler. They spend way too much time going through interviews about the biggest wave, when it’s clear that it is the dullest category (that a windsurfer won the award will reinforce to the surfing world that towing is not a game of skill). It takes a while for Occy to present his award because he is crooning, “We don’t neeeeeeeeeeeeeed…no more trouble.”

Besides the Fletcher incident, the slip-ups go unnoticed. Everyone is celebrating the end of a glorious winter. And celebrating their wins. Besides Steudtner, the awards are as follows: Shawn Dollar for Monster Paddle, Raimana van Bastolaer for Monster Tube, Brook Phillips for Wipeout of the Year, Twiggy for Ride of the Year, Shane Dorian for Overall Performance, Maya Gabeira for Women’s Overall Performance.

When the show lets out, everyone hangs. Greg Long lines 15 tequila shots, but hesitates when the bartender asks for payment. “What am I doing?” Greg asks himself. “Where’s Twiggy?”

Twiggy is across the room. He just won $50k. Greg finds him and returns with his credit card. This is what Greg and Twiggy and crew do when they win things: they spend a small fraction of their earnings buying other people booze.

The bus ride home takes forever (remember, thirty-five), but I don’t have to pee so much, and nap for a portion of it. The crew (a quarter of what we started the night with) return to Rusty’s for conversation and dancing. The 20 pizzas left over from the afternoon are devoured in a moment. I don’t get a slice and am sad about it. My girlfriend is also hungry, so we make for the exit. On our way out we see Greg and his lady Jessica. Greg won’t allow us to leave, and pulls us into a secret lair (someone’s room) where he has stashed one vegetarian and one Roman Orgy pizza. We sit and giggle at our good fortune, recap the night, and stuff our tummies with room-temperature slices.

Ken "Skindog" Collins and Keala Kennelly and a few pints of hair product.

Ken "Skindog" Collins and Keala Kennelly and a few pints of hair product.


This conversation was less important than Sean Moody getting a high-five.


Best Overall Male Performance winner Shane Dorian.


Grant "Twiggy" Baker (with scarf, right) makes the pre-show media rounds.


Hurley's Paul Gomez and Monster Energy's Eric Johnson: plaid brigade.


The inimitable Sherm shoots the intimidating Mark Healey.


Dimes on the floor, needing to be picked up.


SURFING's Jeff Flindt and Maui's Ian Walsh, not far from the bar.


"Ian, tell the people at home what it's like surfing Jaws."


Longtime XXL regular Makuakai Rothman did, in fact, return to his seat.


Occy and Paul Gomez.


Greg Long, Mark Healey and Shane Dorian. Steel nuggets.


Greg Long wins XXL awards more often than he doesn't.


Twiggy, two fists for Ride of the Year.


$50k buys a lot of scarves.


Kiss me, I'm South African! Twiggy wins again.


Party bus detritus post-XXL.


What now? Skindog greets the evening.


Two stories of trouble prepare to return to Orange County whence they came.


Twiggy exits The Grove with his hands full.


Until next year!

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  • BillabongXXLWasLame

    The Billabong XXL awards show was BORING. FUCKING BORING. The live webcast was a disaster with so many lags and errors. And the intro was way too long. Sorry but Sal Masawhatshisname as host? He’s not interesting or funny and isn’t as gifted with the candid improving as one would hope. I’m not a fan of what Fletcher did, but what the hell did they expect? And why were the Fletchers presenting anyways? CF is not a big wave surfer. Nathan has had his moments with big waves and Herbie was the first to tow-in people but really? The Fletcher family presenting an award? It was awkward to say the least but it’s funny how people are making such a big thing about what Fletcher said – when in reality, be honest everyone, you all were thinking what Fletcher said outloud. That German guy did NOT ride the biggest wave. He’s got balls for sure, but he didn’t deserve to win. And why was that weird random guy holding onto the kid and who ran up the stage, why is he not being mentioned anywhere and only Fletcher getting the negative feedback? Bunch of two faced hypocrites in this industry where everyone kisses each other’s ass at events and for the press but behind closed doors, all talk so much crap it’s disgusting.

  • says

    As I says earlier, after Shane’s year, where is the discussion? Dollar rocks, but the OC is the OC, as usual…You go “Surf City!”

  • brotherinlaw

    second this post.

  • Pingback: Stoked News - News, Videos, surf, skateboard, snowboard, motorsports, action sports » Blog Archive » Surfing - “Trouble” at the XXL


    every thinks , is a perfect. iam lovet.
    congratiolations to Taylor.

  • Dude

    Weslame are you still bitter they dumped your ass?

  • alk

    if you think xxl was boring, take a ride on the longs bus next year. thanks boys!

  • yupyup

    FACTS: Billabong invests in promoting Big Wave Surfing, and gives the top Awards to 4 of THEIR own riders/out of the 7 categories. 57% of the placings went to their own riders. Many call outs on Billabong. Feel bad for their riders. Even when they win by a long shot, it’s fixed. They are also investing in pay for play on ESPN, so you think it’s organically covered… Poor Safas… it must be sad to always have to pay to play

  • yupyup

    one more thing – the big wave surfers should not receive discrimination against their sponsors commercialized investment to buy into big wave surfing. the only thing that mainstream global media cares about. it’s time for a change. a media partner needs to pick this up with no conflicting rider sponsors, so it’s not fixed in the future. keep the paddle in big wave surfing movement going gents. you are all legends becoming icons!

  • john james

    @yupyup sorry were you out on any of the days twig and dorian got their waves? didnt fucking think so. the only guys who got awards they didnt deserve were the guys that DONT ride for billabong, i.e. the german fuckin guy and the wipeout guy(who the hells that anyway?) both of THOSE awards were a joke, carlos burle deserved worst wipeout and wasnt even a finalist and biggest wave? well the german guys wave was pretty big…. biggest? nope. as far as the chick thing with maya? well shes a fucking kook that cant even surf but has the nicest set of tits i’ve ever seen on a surfer and thats whats putting money in her pocket, and to be fair she deserved it the most…. which isnt saying much since females are lightyears behind in the big wave game. is it billabongs fault for being smart and sponsoring the best big wave surfers in the world right now; long, dorian, and twiggy are the worlds best. your an idiot yupyup.

  • john james


  • yupyup

    @liljames your statements lead one to believe you are too stupid to realize that you agreed with my position. But you knew that, didn’t you. You just had to throw in your POV, while packing up ‘ur’ boys from a cubicle.
    Actually, yes, we’re all out there together. So riddle yourself that, liljames. Grab some yo yos and back to work. Crank up the itunes, watch some Red Tube and find something to be angry about.

  • Dillon

    colin dwyer is gunna win next year

  • Sophie

    All of you sound like a bunch of idiots to me…..

  • eatadik

    Just so it’s clear Christian said, “Hitler’s bastard stepchild.” I was in attendance. It was the most interesting part of the night. But he also hugged ‘the german’ after he said it. And its Christian Fletcher, Billabong should have known he would cause a stir. In fact, they probably wanted it. Surfing is the only sport that can get away with this still. The most painful part was listening to the MC try to be funny. I’m sure he’s a good guy, but man he was trying hard..

  • Berri Torre

    Man, must Christian Flechter be scared by that German guy: “Uuuuh, now the Germans (so far not really known for their surfing) take over our waves? I will just insult him in front of everyone…”.

    Man, that is lame. I am not a fan at all of tow surfing. I am not even really a fan of big wave riding. I would shit my pants already on the the jetski. But hey, I think he should receive some respect. It is not up to me to judge whether he deserved it or not. But that wave looked fucking huge to me.

    I think when at an award that is given for the biggest wave it doesn’t matter, whether one is a windsurfer, a surfer, a kitesurfer or whatever.

    And surprise, surprise: the paddle in award is the one to go for? And they only notice that now? That is the sad part. It always was the most valuable award in big wave riding. Yes, you need to have balls and skills for tow surfing. I am sure. But you need even more balls and skills to actually paddle into big waves. But I am surprised that some only notice that now.

    And all this shit just reminds me that a lot of surfers have a fascist-like mindset. Sad but true. Surf-Nazis.

    Respect people that are different. And when next year a Chinese, Japanase, Arab, Swedish, Italian, Polish, or whatever rides the biggest wave, where is the f*cking problem, Mr. Fletcher?

    And when the next winner was actually born in the dessert, what is the problem? Respect to him/her to get out of his “natural habitat”.