The Biggest Waves and Best Rides from Around the World Vie for $130,000 as Surfing's Top Big Wave Event Prepares for Annual Awards Ceremony on April 17

NEWPORT BEACH, CA -- (MARCH 25, 2009) -- The finalists for the 2009 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards presented by Monster Energy were announced today following yet another remarkable year of surf.  Following 12 months of enormous swell events from Europe to South Africa to Australia to California and beyond, over 550 entered images have been distilled down to this year's elite nominations.  Video and still images of all the top rides are now available for viewing on the updated event website at BillabongXXL.com.

The winners will be announced on Friday, April 17, 2009 at the ninth-annual invitation-only awards gala at the Grove Theater in Anaheim, California before 2,250 surf world VIPs.  The entire night's festivities will be webcast live on the event website and will also be the focus of a one-hour television special airing on the ESPN2 network on the evening of May 29.

The top prize in this Oscars of surfing -- the Billabong XXL Ride of the Year Award -- carries a $50,000 prize for the surfer with the single most amazing performance on a big wave captured on video.  This year features a diverse array of epic rides, including a pair at Tasmania's Shipstern Bluff -- local surfer James Hollmer-Cross qualified with a thick double-tube ride while Gold Coaster Ryan Hipwood made entry by surviving a massive airborne leap down a heaving stair-step face.  California's Greg Long became a finalist for one of the biggest paddle-in barrels ever seen during the Red Bull Big Wave Africa event at Dungeons, off Cape Town South Africa, while Hawaiian hellman Garrett McNamara is up for his backside vanishing act inside the spitting guts of Tahiti's famed Teahupoo break.  And in a new twist to the Ride of the Year category, California's Brian Conley is nominated both for escaping a deep tube in Mexico, and for filming it as well, using a hand-held Point-Of-View camera throughout the ride.

The Billabong XXL Biggest Wave Award will likely generate double extra large debate as to which was the tallest face of the year.  Two of the nominees come from Belharra, France and feature Benjamin Sanchis (France) and Axi Muniain (Basque Country, Spain) atop huge faces at the break which has been nominated numerous times before but has yet to win the XXL title.  Another pair of massive contenders come from Western Australia's Cow Bommie with local Damien "Taco" Warr and Sydney surfer Mark Mathews in the right spot at the right time.  The fifth nominee is Grant "Twiggy" Baker of Durban, South Africa for his wild ride down a bumpy, mountainous face at Tafelberg Reef off Cape Town -- a wave which has been widely acknowledged as the biggest ever faced on that continent.  One of the five nominees will receive $15,000, a Honda Aquatrax watercraft and a HSA rescue sled in honor of their accomplishment.

This year, the Monster Paddle division has raised the bar ever higher as top surfers refocus their energies on stroking into bigger and bigger waves without the use of a jet ski assist.  Three rides come from what may be the best day ever at Maverick's -- the legendary California big wave break just south of San Francisco -- with Grant Baker and Californians Nathan Fletcher and Derek Dunfee in contention.  Also in the running is Axi Muniain for one of the first paddle-in rides at big Belharra, and James Taylor of Cape Town for a late, great drop at Dungeons during the day of the Red Bull BWA.  Interestingly, three of the rides feature two surfers on the wave, but according to the XXL rule book, the surfer furthest back gets credit for the feat.  Also of note is the fact that for the first time, two athletes have been nominated in both the Monster Paddle and Billabong XXL Biggest Wave categories: South Africa's Grant Baker and Basque surfer Axi Muniain.  Some $15,000 is at stake for the largest wave caught by arm-power alone.

The Monster Tube Award features a number of amazing still images of the most stunning barrel moments photographed in the last year.  In contention are Australians Kerby Brown at the Southern Bommie, Dylan Longbottom at Teahupoo and Ryan Hipwood at Shipstern Bluff.  Also in the running are Hawaiians Garrett McNamara (for second wave at Teahupoo) and Mark Healey (for a mutant slab in the Pacific Northwest).

Next week nominations will be announced in additional Billabong XXL categories including the Surfline Best Overall performance, Billabong GIrls Performance and the Verizon Wireless Wipeout of the Year.  For the first time, the public will decide their favorite unsuccessful ride of the year by texting in their vote.

In all, over $130,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to the world's greatest big wave surfers in this edition of the Billabong XXL Awards presented by Monster Energy.  Verizon Wireless is the official communications provider and Honda is the official watercraft of the event.  Surfline.com is the exclusive surf forecast of the XXL. The event is sponsored by Surfing Magazine, Air Tahiti Nui and High Surf Accessories.

For all details about the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards, please see the website at www.BillabongXXL.com.

The nominees for 2009, in alphabetical order:

(Surfer prize $50,000  -  Video prize $5,000)
Brian Conley (San Diego, California) at Boca Grande, Mexico on October 22, 2008.