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April 02, 2010 11:10 AM

The Biggest Waves and Best Rides from Around the World Vie for $130,000 as Surfing's Top Big Wave Event Prepares for Annual Awards Ceremony on April 23

NEWPORT BEACH, CA -- (APRIL 2, 2010) -- The finalists for the 2010 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards presented by Monster Energy were announced today in the wake of one of the greatest years in surfing history.

Following 12 months of enormous swell events from South Africa to Hawaii to Australia to California to Mexico to Tahiti and beyond, over 1000 entered images have been distilled down to this year's elite nominations. Video and still images of all the top rides are now available for viewing on the updated event website at BillabongXXL.com.

The winners will be announced on Friday, April 23, 2010 at the tenth-annual invitation-only awards gala at the Grove Theater in Anaheim, California in front of 2,250 surf world VIPs. The entire night's festivities will be webcast live on the event website and will also be the focus of a one-hour television special airing on the ESPN networks starting on the evening of May 18.

The top prize in this Oscars of surfing -- the Billabong XXL Ride of the Year Award -- carries a $50,000 prize for the surfer with the single most amazing performance on a big wave captured on video. This year features an array of epic rides and an overriding theme as four out of five nominations went to paddle-in waves, reflecting the top surfers’ insistence on returning to their roots and depending less on jet powered watercraft (tow-in) assists.

Two of the entries took place at Maverick’s in Northern California on a record-breaking swell in February with South African Grant Baker and Hawaiian Shane Dorian demonstrating two different ways to score “perfect” rides. Another pair of nominations came from the legendary Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii during an equally fabled swell last December.

Ramon Navarro of Chile deservedly received a nomination for his huge backside slide during the Quiksilver Eddie Aikau contest, a feat which earned a perfect score in that event. Also being recognized from that swell is the first dual surfer nomination for a single ride in XXL history -- the iconic Waimea closeout set caught and ridden by Hawaiian watermen Mark Healey and Shane Dorian. (Dorian is the first surfer to ever be credited with TWO waves as a finalist in the same category.)

The remaining Ride of the Year nomination was grabbed by Raimana Van Bastolaer, who precisely used a watercraft assist in the final days of the annual event period to penetrate deep inside the frothy interior of a turbulent tube at his local break of Teahupoo, Tahiti.

The 2010 Billabong XXL Biggest Wave Award category features the first entries in half a decade from one of the most famous big wave venues of all, Jaws (a.k.a. Pe’ahi) on the North Shore of Maui.

After many seasons of sub-par swell and weather, the El Nino winter of 09/10 saw the break come back to XXL prominence in a very big way -- all five rides nominated in the Biggest Wave division were ridden at that break over the course of three huge swells in December and January. A trio of the surfers are past XXL nominees (Ross Clarke-Jones of Australia, Danilo Couto of Brazil and Ian Walsh of Maui) and one is a past winner, 2003 XXL champion Makua Rothman of Sunset Beach, Hawaii. All were caught with the assistance of a watercraft.

One of the five XXL Biggest Wave nominees will receive $15,000, a Honda Aquatrax watercraft and a HSA rescue sled in honor of their accomplishment.

The wildcard in this year’s XXL Biggest Wave proceedings is a surfer named Sebastian Steudtner of Nuremburg, Germany who towed into a clear nomination by charging left on one of the biggest waves of the day on December 7, 2009. Despite four years of Jaws apprenticeship, Steudtner was a virtually unknown quantity in the big wave world until this life-changing ride pushed him to instant celebrity.

But this year, all eyes have been on the Monster Paddle division as a continuing obsession to push the limits of human powered surfing has gripped the athletes at the pinnacle of the sport, putting all past records at risk.

Indeed, three of the Monster Paddle nominees are also Ride of the Year finalists; those by Grant Baker at Maverick’s along with the Ramon Navarro and Healey/Dorian waves at Waimea. Also joining the fray are a pair of huge Maverick’s faces ridden by Californians Shawn Dollar and Alex Martins on February 13, 2010, the day of the Maverick’s Surf Contest. Some $15,000 is at stake for the largest wave caught by arm-power alone.

The Monster Tube Award features a number of amazing still images of the most stunning barrel moments photographed in the last year. In contention are a pair of giant caverns at Maverick’s (featuring California’s Rusty Long and yet another nomination for Grant “Twiggy” Baker). Australia’s Mark Mathews is in the mix for his casual glide through an unspeakably thick cave in Western Australia.

The final two nominees came from the last-minute Teahupoo swell which threw the entire short list of potential finalists into the trash bin once super locals Manoa Drollet and Raimana Van Bastolaer were photographed negotiating some truly monstrous Monster Tubes.

Next week nominations will be announced in additional Billabong XXL categories including the Surfline Best Overall performance, Billabong Girls Performance and the Verizon Wireless Wipeout of the Year.

In all, over $130,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to the world's greatest big wave surfers in this edition of the Billabong XXL Awards presented by Monster Energy. Verizon Wireless is the official communications provider and Honda is the official watercraft of the event. Surfline.com is the exclusive surf forecast of the XXL. The event is sponsored by Surfing Magazine, Air Tahiti Nui and High Surf Accessories.

For all details about the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards, please see the website at www.BillabongXXL.com.

The nominees for 2010, in alphabetical order:


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