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San Clemente-based big wave surfer Greg Long wins Billabong XXL Ride of the Year Award
By Andrea Swayne
One of the winningest surfers in the sport, Greg Long, from San Clemente, added another top honor to his resume May 2 at the annual Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards.
The evening’s biggest prize, the $50,000 Ride of the Year award, is saved for last, excitement building with the showing of videos of the five nominated surfers’ rides interspersed between the other presentations.
Long, last year’s Big Wave World Tour champion who early in the evening handed over that title to friend and fellow big wave star Grant “Twiggy” Baker of South Africa, returned to the stage with the other four Ride of the Year nominees.
Long took the top prize for paddling into a massive wave at Puerto Escondido. Hawaiian Shawn Walsh, Baker, and Hawaiians Shane Dorian and Billy Kemper came in second through fifth, respectively.
“I am happier than ever just to be here. At the end of the year getting together with everyone, whether you win or you don’t, everyone is all smiles and enjoying it,” Long said. “That’s what it’s all about—celebrating our friendship, respect, camaraderie and being part of such a beautiful sport.”
The XXLs, often referred to as the Grammy Awards of surfing, draws hundreds of surf industry folks, surfing enthusiasts, as well as every level of athletes, from unsponsored groms to big name professional surfers. It has the reputation as one of the biggest and best parties of the year for the surf industry as it celebrates the men and women who dare to test their mettle against the world’s largest and most daunting waves.
Anastasia Ashley, a pro surfer from San Clemente who was nominated last year, was on hand to present the award for Wipeout of the Year. That award went to Hawaii’s Koa Rothman who also won Best Tube of the Year honors.
“I’m really excited to be presenting an award tonight. I’ll admit I’m a little bummed I didn’t get nominated, but I didn’t really get any good swells this year,” Ashley said. “It’s such an honor. This is the funnest night in surfing. Last year I was nominated and I hope to be back next year.”
Also nominated for an award this year was former Dana Point resident Bianca Valenti who was up for a Women’s Best Performance Award.
As usual, Long said he doesn’t plan to rest on his laurels and is ready to get the new season going as soon as Mother Nature cooperates.
“We’re now waiting for the southern hemisphere winter to get underway. We’ve got Chile, Peru and Dungeons, the South Africa contest all on hold. And obviously I’m looking forward to my other favorite waves—Fiji, Puerto Escondido. The more big waves we can get out there and surf, the more fun. I am really looking forward to it.”
XXL RIDE OF THE YEAR: Greg Long – Puerto Escondido
PADDLE IN AWARD: Mark Healey – Jaws
BIGGEST WAVE AWARD: Gautier Garanx – Belharra
TUBE AWARD WINNER: Koa Rothman – Teahupoo
WOMEN’S PERFORMANCE AWARD: Keala Kennelly
MEN’S PERFORMANCE AWARD: Grant “Twiggy” Baker
WIPEOUT OF THE YEAR: Koa Rothman