Billabong XXL Award Winners
Greg Long, Grant "Twiggy" Baker, and Koa Rothman win big at annual awards
As the world’s best big-wave surfers, along with Orange County’s skimpiest-dressed fans, piled out of party buses outside The Grove of Anaheim, there was an added air of intrigue. This was, after all, the first year big-wave surfing’s awards show fell under the umbrella of the new, revamped ASP. Although the majority of the show felt strikingly familiar, there were a couple changes to years prior, most importantly the inclusion of the Big Wave World Tour ceremony. To kick off the show, Gary Linden was presented with a lifetime achievement award. As the closest thing competitive big-wave surfing has to a father and the driving force of the deal between the BWWT and the new ASP, the award was very much deserved and well-received by the crowd. Long since detached from the center stage of surfing, there’s a distinct feeling that Linden’s life-long goal of bringing competitive big-wave surfing to the forefront is quickly coming to fruition.
There couldn’t have been a better way to start this new union than to present South African Grant “Twiggy” Baker as the 2013/14 BWWT World Champ. In a three-contest season, the ever-consistent Twiggy won two events and placed fourth at the other. Once on stage, Twiggy was quick to shift praise by dedicating his award to those who came before him calling them the true pioneers of the unknown. The praise strongly resonated with the crowd perhaps due to the larger-than-life big-wave legend Greg Noll sitting upfront. Noll’s presence was felt throughout the venue particularly when he made the most entertaining presentation of the night with such quips like “you big-wave surfers are much nicer than in my day. If I didn’t like a son-of-a-bitch, I’d pour baby oil on his board before the big day.”
Tube and Wipeout of the Year: Koa Rothman
Following the transition from the BWWT to the XXL Awards, the Tube of the Year award was presented to Koa Rothman for the wave that scored him last year’s Big Issue cover. “I was in the channel with Nathan Fletcher during that wave and couldn’t believe it. I looked at Nathan and he said, ‘that’s 20 feet bigger than my wave,’” said presenter Dave Wassel. In his acceptance speech, Rothman unknowingly foreshadowed the rest of the night by stating, “I’ve never won anything before.” Shortly thereafter, he was back on stage accepting the coveted yet somewhat dreaded Wipeout of the Year Award. Although this was his first time winning any XXL Awards, the eruption of the crowd for both his awards demonstrated that he was clearly a crowd favorite and that we’ll likely see more of him on stage in the years to come.
Ride of the Year Nominees
To close the night out, Dave Wassel and Martin Potter corralled the five Ride of the Year nominees on stage, a task that proved to be much more difficult than it sounds as an absent Twiggy left Wassel improvising a stand-up comedy set in front of a weary crowd. Eventually Twiggy appeared from the rear of stage left, allowing the show to wrap up. The five over-sized checks were quickly whittled down to two with Shaun Walsh and Greg Long left. You can’t call it unexpected given that Greg Long is a fixture of these awards, but no one would have been surprised if either of the surfers won. Always gracious on stage, Long gave a passionate thank you speech, opening with, “I voted for Shaun [Walsh],” a testament to just how close it came between first and second place.
Ride of the Year: Greg Long at Puerto Escondido
All the award winners:
2013/14 ASP Big Wave World Tour Champion: Grant “Twiggy” Baker
Tube of the Year: Koa Rothman
Billabong Women’s Best Overall Performance: Keala Kennelly
Billabong XXL Wipeout: Koa Rothman
Biggest Paddle: Mark Healey
Surfline Best Overall Performance: Grant “Twiggy” Baker
Billabong XXL Biggest Wave: Gautier Garanx
Billabong XXL Ride of the Year: Greg Long