Huge Cortes Bank sets pace in the Billabong XXL Awards
Huge Cortes Bank Surf Sets Pace in Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards
Long Brothers, Parsons & Gerlach Score Far Offshore;
Mel & Replogle Nail New Oregon Reef, Maverick’s is Fully Armed
IRVINE, CA -- (December 23, 2003) -- Last week’s solid groundswell along the Pacific West Coast provided the long-awaited oceanic horsepower to shift the 2003/04 Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards into high gear.
Presented by Surfline, the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards acknowledge those surfers who successfully ride the largest surf of the year, all around the world. This year’s fourth annual competition runs through March, and gives awards for the Biggest Paddle-in Wave, the Best Tuberide, the best Overall Performance and the coveted XXL Award for the biggest wave caught by any means, including the use of jet skis. Last year’s event was won by Makua Rothman’s 66-foot monster at Jaws in Maui which earned the Hawaiian $66,000 -- or $1000 per foot.
Despite a relatively slow start to the Pacific high surf season, last week’s intense swell was challenged by groups of skilled surfers at an unprecedented number of big wave breaks spanning well over 1000 miles of coastline. Full coverage of all the action can be seen at the event website at www.BillabongXXL.com.
Not surprisingly, Maverick’s (off Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco) was the magnet for traditional "paddle surfing" aficionados who valiantly strove to catch the thick breakers using only their arms for power. It was the biggest day at Maverick’s in nearly a year and produced numerous spectacular wipeouts — along with a handful of successful rides which are currently likely contenders for the Biggest Paddle-In Wave of the Year.
Normally Maverick’s stalwarts, Santa Cruz’s Peter Mel and Adam Replogle opted to skip the crush of ten-foot boards and range north to sample a fabled reef along the often-stormy Oregon coast. The move paid off in spades as the pair rode massive, empty waves in flawless conditions with only a few local tow surfing pioneers including John Forse.
The combination of a long-period groundswell and calm winds turned out to be exactly the right combination for a last-minute strike, spearheaded by Rob Brown, on the legendary Cortes Bank, 100 miles off the Southern California coast. Only the third time the offshore seamount has been surfed, this trip produced waves that were not only amazingly large, but with enough hollow deep-blue perfection to make any surfer drool. Veterans Mike Parsons and Brad Gerlach were this time joined by young upstart brothers Rusty and Greg Long in a big wave odyssey that included spending the night at the forbidding open-ocean break.
The photos by Rob Brown would have to be the unofficial leaders in this year’s XXL derby for the biggest wave of the year. "The Long Brothers were on fire out there," said Mike Parsons, who won the 2001 XXL Awards with a 66-footer at Cortes. "It was their coming out party, that’s for sure."
The biggest wave face of the trip (and the winter so far) may well have been traversed by 20-year-old Greg Long, of San Clemente, CA. If the sheer size of the peak wasn’t enough, the wave produced an amazing tube for its rider as it continued on along the reef.
"That was probably the wave of my life, no questions asked," said the younger of the Long Brothers. "I did my bottom turn and pulled up into it…and then I was just standing in the biggest barrel of my life, guaranteed!"
Not to be left out, Rusty Long, 22, scored the longest, deepest barrel of the session which will likely join an array of Tahitian caverns as a contender for the Tuberide of the Year Award. Large scale coverage of all the Cortes action will be featured in the April issue of SURFER Magazine which will be out in February.
For photographs of Cortes, Oregon and Mavericks and interviews with all the key participants, please go to the Big Wave Awards website at www.BillabongXXL.com
Big Wave - Suurfersvillage