Dollar, Dorian Dominate XXL Awards

Man against nature, the Billabong XXL Awards "Paddle-in Wave of the Year" is a bare-knuckle scrap with the ocean, and the nominees are emblematic of that.

Shawn Dollar's Dec. 21, 2012, wave at Cortes Bank officially has measured at 61 feet, breaking the world record for largest wave ever paddled into.

Standing in front of a packed house at the XXL Awards at The Grove Theater in Anaheim, Calif., on Friday night, Dollar dedicated the ride to fallen big-wave surfer Sion Miloksky, who drowned surfing Maverick's in March 2011.

"He was riding with me on that one," he said, gesturing to the sky, his hands clasped in prayer. Dollar won the award for "Biggest Wave" at the XXL Awards.

Explaining how he caught the wave, Dollar noted how far up the reef at Cortes Bank he paddled. "We had seven rescue skis, EMTs on the boats, nobody was going to be able to come get me if I went down out there," he said. "But I wasn't alone. I knew that."

Initially skeptical about even making the 100-mile voyage out to Cortes Bank, it was the Santa Cruz surfer's first time at the infamous California big-wave break. "When Peter Mel called and asked me if I wanted to go on the mission, I thought I was just going to be checking the place out," he said.

The other cataclysmic session of the year came from Jaws on Maui on Oct. 9, which produced Shane Dorian's $50,000 Ride of the Year winner.

"Tonight's a celebration of the year in big-wave surfing and everybody that's out there chasing these things," said the ever-humble Dorian. "The bar continues to be raised to new heights."

And because it wouldn't be a proper XXL Awards without a little spice, upon winning the Girl's Performance Award, Keala Kennelly railed against the surf industry for not supporting the women's side of the big-wave pursuit more thoroughly. "The men out there in the water, you guys are awesome and so incredible with everything you do, but the women need more support from sponsors. There's no money in our sport and that needs to change," she emphatically said.

Greg Long won the Surfline Men's Performance Award, remarking, "I guess that's what you get when you almost die."

On the same trip to Cortes Bank with Dollar, Long suffered a wipeout that almost took his life. After being revived by rescue personnel on his boat, he was flown by Coast Guard helicopter to a hospital in San Diego, where he eventually would make a full recovery. Long was named the 2012/13 Big Wave World Champion last month.

Absent from the proceedings was Garrett McNamara and the much talked about "100-foot wave" he caught at Nazare, Portugal, this past January. McNamara withdrew his entry to the awards for a variety of reasons, among them not wanting to show support for the event's alcohol sponsor.

"I feel very strongly that we, as athletes, should not endorse alcohol. We are sending the wrong message to the general public," said McNamara when he announced he was withdrawing.

One-hundred-foot wave or not, Dollar's 61-foot wave now sets the bar for what's humanly possible to paddle into.

"When people ask if we can go bigger, the answer has to be, 'Yes,' " said Dollar.

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