Often referred to as the 'Oscars‘ of big wave surfing, the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards are kind of a big thing in the surfing world, red carpet, black ties, and lots of glamour included. We've always wanted to have a little peek ourselves, but as riding anything higher than our heads is absolutely out of the question, we opted for sending nominee Easkey Britton as our spy. Here is here top secret report
Words & photos by Easkey Britton
Sipping the world’s finest margaritas at Las Brisas, Laguna Beach. The sunset painting the sea gold. A jet of spray shoots into the air in the bay below. From the lookout I spot two whales slowly cruising north behind a pod of dolphins less than 100m from the shore. As if they’ve come to say hello. We jump in Kevin’s truck whale-chasing from cove to cove along Laguna’s coastline. The whales respond to our excitement with tail slapping and long heads reaching high out of the water for a look around. I have just arrived in California in preparation for the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards. What a welcome party.
To be nominated for the one of the biggest and most presitigious awards in the surfing world, dubbed the “Oscars of Big Wave Surfing" was such an honour, especially representing the women of Europe in such a male-dominated arena. I’d never experienced anything like it in my life. I was a little nervous being the new kid on the block, the other girls having all been nominated in previous years, but meeting the them was so lovely, especially having surfed and trained with all guys back home I’d never been able to share my experiences with other like-minded women, until now! Despite it being a competition meeting Keala Kennelly, Mercedes Maidana and the other women felt like a real sisterhood. I finally felt part of the big wave tribe.
The event was all Hollywood style glitz and glamour at the Grove Theatre Anaheim. Photographers, video cameras, interviews, red and blue carpet poses, surf stars and chargers, warm evening sun, booze, big wave banners – a heady mix. My “porcelain" Irish skin stood out on the blue carpet contrasting to all the bronzed figures around me, uniquely me and not a fan of fake tan! It was so much fun to meet everyone out of our salty, smelly wetsuits – all high heels, revealing outfits, sweet smelling and glowing.
The theatre itself was packed to overflowing, everyone loosening up more and more as the night went on, cheering, wolf whistling and sharing the greatest moments in big wave surfing from the last year, as well as the saddest with an especially moving tribute to Sion Milosky and his beautiful family. An out-pouring of love and generosity from the surfing family.
For me the quote of the night came from Keala Kennelly when she went to claim her Award, “When you ride one of those big waves it doesn’t matter what you got between your legs!" It felt like a win not just for her but for women’s surfing. Always so outspoken and fearless in the face of any challenge or stigma. Although I didn’t win, it felt like an important stepping stone for me, like I’d finally arrived where I belong and it’s the start of something big and beautiful. I left feeling more excited than ever for the year ahead and the next big swell to arrive!