Measuring Up

Grant "Twiggy" Baker, the man of the hour. JP Van Swae

XXL Awards Night

onClick="window.open('http://espn.go.com/action/surfing/gallery?id=5132233','Popup','width=990,height=720,scrollbars=no,noresize'); return false;"> WIDTH="203" HEIGHT="114" BORDER="0" ALT="">
Didn't get an invite to the Billabong XXL Awards show? We have your backstage pass right here. onClick="window.open('http://espn.go.com/action/surfing/gallery?id=5132233','Popup','width=990,height=720,scrollbars=no,noresize'); return false;">Gallery ยป

"I would like to thank ... " announced 2010 Billabong XXL "Ride of the Year" winner Grant "Twiggy" Baker as he began his acceptance, "EL Nino."

And although Twiggy had waited a long time to clutch that honor, he properly thanked the deity responsible for the most comprehensive big wave awards ceremonies in history. It was a raucous night of upsets and social upheavals, as multiples of over-sized egos wedged into the same old Grove Theater. There to congratulate one of the most vital sectors of the sport, surf celebrities like Dorian Paskowitz and Rory Russell mucked it up with ambitious greenhorns; and the group love was only matched by the chest-thumping. The video montage that opened the event however, a hyper-condensed year in review, showcased the real player -- a global weather pattern that absolutely pumped XXL swell into the traditional big-wave zones.

One day at Teahupoo, Tahiti, March 17th, was responsible for the overwhelming chunk of the horrific tube rides nominated for the "Monster Tube" award. When not only a local but a pioneer of Teahupoo, Raimana Van Bastolear, came away with the award, the night seemed to be lining up as a kind of comeuppance for our long neglected warriors.

Brazilian Maya Gabeira's predictability as winner of the women's "Biggest Wave" was briefly threatened by Jamilah Star's massive left at Puerto Escondido. But when the clips of the men's contenders for biggest wave began to play and it became apparent that a German, and novice surfer at that, just might sieze the check with a tow-in at Jaws, a collective murmur rippled through the audience.

This is when the Fletcher family stepped to the microphone -- Nate, Christian and Herbie -- for the announcement and prize-giving. Just after hacking winner Sebastian Steudtner's name however, Christian blurted over the P.A., "The German who can't even f --kin' paddle won the award!"

And with that untimely awkwardness, the entire theme of the night was laid bare. When an inexperienced surfer could claim the highest honor in the land with a jet-ski assist, it only high-lighted the fact that big-wave paddle-in surfing was now, as Peter Mel said, "the award you want."

The paddle-in world, on the comeback in recent years, got a critical assist from El Nino, and the field was stacked with a young, hungry, talented group of competitors. When a surfer with a day job, Von Zipper sales rep Shawn Dollar, earned the Monster Paddle Award for clawing into massive Mavericks, it only supported the over-all sense that big-wave surfing is at an exciting new threshold. And Twiggy's final accendence to the brotherhood of "Ride of the Year" winners by paddling into an even more massive Maverick's monster put an exclamation point on the new reality: paddle-in is king.

2010 Billabong XXL Results:

  • Billabong XXL Ride of the Year: Grant "Twiggy" Baker, Maverick's, Calif.

  • Billabong XXL Biggest Wave: Sebastian Steudtner, Jaws, Maui

  • Monster Tube Award: Raimana Van Bastolaer, Teahupoo, Tahiti

  • Monster Paddle Award: Shawn Dollar, Maverick's, Calif.

  • Verizon Wipeout Award: Brooke Phillips, Shipsterns Bluff, Tasmania

  • Billabong Women's Performance Award: Maya Gabeira

  • Surfline Men's Performance Award: Shane Dorian