Grant “Twiggy” Baker of South Africa thanked Mother Nature after winning the prestigious Ride of the Year Award last night at the 10th annual Billabong XXL Awards in Anaheim, Calif. The extraordinary El Nino fueled season was indeed the star of the ceremony, where some 2,000 surf industry VIPs traded in their trunks and bikinis for pressed shirts and heels to honor the best big wave riders in the world. Baker collected $50,000 for his perfect-10 ride at the Mavericks contest in Half Moon Bay last February.
Shawn Dollar of Santa Cruz won $15,000 for the Monster Paddle Award -- a wave he caught during the break between the semifinals and finals at the Mavericks contest, which saw the biggest swell in contest history this year. Three of the five nominated waves were from contest day. Dollar, who did not compete in the event, made it clear he hopes to ride his next Mavericks big wave with a jersey on. “I want to be in the Mavs contest next year,” Dollar told the crowd after humbly accepting his award.
Raimana Van Bastolaer of Tahiti nabbed the top prize for the Monster Tube Award and Brook Phillips won the Wipe Out of the Year for his mutant body slam at Shipstern’s Bluff in Tasmania. Germany’s Sebastian Steudtner won top prize for Biggest Wave, which he was towed into at Peahi, also known as Jaws, in Maui.
Despite riding the biggest wave, Steudtner was goaded by presenter Christian Fletcher, known as the Godfather of aerial surfing, who gave the award “to the guy who can’t paddle in.” All of the biggest wave nominees were ridden with the assistance of a personal watercraft, as the size and speed of the larger waves makes them difficult to paddle into.
The event, hosted by Sal Masekela, also recognized the charitable work of big wave riders Ramon Navarro of Chile, Greg Long of San Clemente and Kohl Christensen of Hawaii, who distributed water filters through the California based non-profit Save the Waves Coalition to Chileans immediately after the earthquake and tsunami.
The Best Overall Performance Award for women went to Brazilian Maya Gabiera for the fourth year in a row. Gabiera beat out Santa Cruz surfers Savannah Shaughnessey and Jamilah Star for the top prize. Star’s father, Reve Fuse, claimed the Kanye moment of the evening when he walked on stage and pointed out the disparity in money awarded to men and women. Of the $130,000 awarded, only $5,000 is allotted for wahines.
Hawaii’s Shane Dorian won Best Overall Performance for the men. Looking ahead to next year’s season, Dorian, 37, who focused on big wave surfing after 12 years on the ASP World Tour, said that he was inspired by the next generation of big wave surfers, including Nick Lamb, Shawn Dollar, Derek Dunfee, Alex Gray and Sion Milosky. “The only guys as amped as me are those guys, who are young, have nothing to lose and are in love with big wave surfing."
Based on the vibe at the Grove it looks like the love affair will continue for many years to come.
-- Sachi Cunningham
Photos: (Top) Grant Baker, right, is interviewed by Fuel TV with his girlfriend, Kate Lovemore, outside of the Billabong XXL Awards in Anaheim. (Middle) Hawaiians Mark Healey and Shane Dorian accept their runners-up award for Ride of the Year -- the two shared a ride together at Waimea Bay. (Bottom) Brazilian Maya Gabeira is interviewed by Hawaiian Kealia Kennelly outside the awards. Credit: Sachi Cunningham / Los Angeles Times