Thanksgiving Mavericks Swell Supercharges Billabong XXL Awards

Photog Jack English’s entry after the Thanksgiving Weekend.

To see all of Jack English’s photos from the big weekend head to our gallery here: /2008/12/02/first-look-perfect-mavs/

December 4, 2008: – - Newport Beach, California — The Thanksgiving weekend at Maverick’s produced an epic feast for many of the world’s top big wave riders during two of the most perfect days ever seen at the legendary Northern California surf break.

The all-time action at Mavs provided a monumental kick-start to the Northern Hemisphere winter season and adds to the record number of entries in the ninth annual Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards presented by Monster Energy.  While the swell did offer a number of waves big enough for tow-in surfing, it proved to be more of a classic exhibition of paddle-in surfing at the upper limit of what is possible in that highly respected discipline of the sport.

Photographs of the amazing action have nearly overloaded the BillabongXXL.com website with dozens and dozens of remarkable images of man-against-the-sea achievement. The product of an intense mid-pacific storm on Thanksgiving Day, the extremely long-period swell hit the Maverick’s reef at an ideal angle, magnifying the face heights of the bigger sets to the 30- to 45-foot range.

While delighting a group of elite local and international big wave surfers, rogue sets broke unexpectedly along reefs and breakwaters throughout the region, capsizing a 26-foot power boat less than a mile from Maverick’s, which sits just outside Princeton Harbor in Half Moon Bay, a half-hour south of San Francisco.  Two fishermen died in the accident.

The surf sessions were not without their own degree of peril.  California big wave star Greg Long caught one of the biggest waves to roll in on Saturday, November 29, but straightened out as he was overrun by a mass of whitewater. Long was thrust so deep underwater he suffered a broken eardrum, eventually surfacing with a total loss of equilibrium.  Thanks to a strong leash and a quick rescue by Maverick’s pioneer Jeff Clark on a personal water craft, Long was brought to safety before being swept through the notorious rocks which threaten surfers carried inside the main break.

A group of globetrotting big wave chasers jetted into Half Moon Bay ahead of the swell based on forecasts by Surfline.com.  South African Grant “Twiggy” Baker proved that his victory at the Maverick’s Surf Contest two years ago was no fluke, consistently taking off the deepest and making it again and again.  Mark Healey and Dave Wassel flew in from Hawaii and made the most of the two days of intense surfing.  Rusty Long and Nathan Fletcher stood out as two of the most passionate big wave hunters from Southern California and made a big mark on the massive right-handers.

But the local crew was not to be outdone by the visiting contingent.  Grant Washburn, Skindog Collins, Nic Lamb, Shawn Rhodes and Lance Harriman all took off on bombs worthy of Monster Paddle entries.  Among the largest bombs of the swell was the vast green wall caught by San Francisco’s Alex Martins along with Nathan Fletcher.

Photographers Robert Brown, Frank Quirarte, Jack English, Seth Migdail and Fred Pompermeyer have swiftly submitted official entries now posted on the event website. The new Maverick’s images join earlier submissions from South Africa, Australia, Tasmania, Chile, Spain, Puerto Rico and other far-flung corners of the big wave surfing world, representing the biggest waves challenged this year.

The Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards runs on an annual cycle through the last day of winter in March, with the gala awards ceremony is held in Southern California each April.  The event features over $130,000 in cash and prizes including $15,000 for the winner of the Monster Paddle division.  Other categories include the Billabong XXL Ride of the Year, the XXL Biggest Wave powered by Honda, the Monster Tube, the Surfline Best Performance and Billabong Girl’s Performance.

The Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards are presented by Monster Energy.  Surfline is the official surf forecast, Verizon Wireless is the official communications provider and Honda Aquatrax the official watercraft.  The event is sponsored by Surfing Magazine and Hawaiian Airlines.

For full details on the Billabong XXL Awards, including format, rules and all the latest photos, visit the event website at www.BillabongXXL.com.

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