Long, Baker shine at XXL Big Wave Awards
Two names come to mind when you think of stand out big-wave surfers right now, Greg Long and Grant "Twiggy" Baker, so it was no surprise that both took key awards at the 2014 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards, held on Friday night in Anaheim, California.
Long, who nearly drowned while surfing Cortes Bank of the California coast in 2012, won ride of the year for paddling into a giant left at Mexico's Puerto Escondido and threading his way through a long, successful tube ride. "I paddle out there and I wait for one wave; doesn't matter how long it takes," said Long. "I won't go unless I know it's gonna be a good one." For Baker's part in the evening festivities, the South African was crowned the 2014 champion of the Big Wave World Tour and won the Surfline Overall Performance Award for his exploits at Dungeons, a scary wave off the Capetown coast. Also included in his effort for the 2013/14 season were missions to surf giant waves in Europe, South America, Hawaii, Mexico and California. "All I ever wanted to do is travel and surf and that's what this World Title means to me," said Baker.
Perennial hell man Mark Healey won the top paddle in award for catching a huge wave at Jaws in Maui. "Within all these people is a warrior," surmised Healey, who considers his wave at Jaws as the biggest he's ever paddled into. Hawaii's Koa Rothman won both the Tube of the Year and Wipeout of the Year for a death defying ride at Teahupoo in Tahiti, giving the Hawaiian contingent good reason to celebrate.
France's Galtier Galanx was a first time Biggest Wave winner for his super storm Hercules powered wave at Belharra Reef. Galanx's wave was measured at 62 feet. Initially the audience was stunned that Galanx had won over Andrew Cotton's monster peak at Nazare in Portugal, but by the time the humble Frenchman had finished his victory speech in exceptionally broken English he'd won over the crowd. For the females it was once again Keala Kennelly up at the podium. Winning her third Women's Performance Award for her pioneering big wave surfing around the world, the most notable session of her year came at Teahupoo.
Longtime friends, before the night began, Baker and Long commandeered an oversized bus to shuttle them up to the awards show from Long's home in San Clemente. Packed with over 100 of their closest friends, the ride came complete with disco lights and a neon sign up front that read, "Party train." Normally reserved and methodical, it was obvious this XXL award meant a lot to Long and he savored his well earned win as the party raged late into the wee morning hours.