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Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Award 2011 in L.A.

"I'm not only happy for myself, but I'm stoked for Europe” - Sanchis

NEWPORT BEACH, CA - (April 30, 2011) - The eleventh annual Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards climaxed in Anaheim, California last night as Brazilian Danilo Couto scooped top honors for Ride of the Year. Couto earned $50,000 and the keys to a new Toyota Tacoma truck for a paddle-in wave conquered at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii during one of the biggest swells of the year.

Couto, who has been living in Hawaii for many years in his personal quest to ride bigger and bigger waves, was ecstatic as he accepted his award from skateboard legend Tony Hawk.

"I've been feeling really good for two months, ever since I caught that wave,” said Couto. “I couldn't sleep for days, knowing I had done something so special. To be a part of surf history, to have an impact ... it's special."

Prior to this winter’s paddle-in assault, the Jaws break had long been regarded as a spot so difficult to ride a jet-ski tow in assist was required. Regarded as the Oscars of big wave surfing, the Billabong XXL Awards recognize the biggest and heaviest waves ridden and documented over the past 12 months. More than 2200 big wave riders, industry VIPs, surf retailers and stoked fans packed the Grove Theater in Anaheim to witness astonishing rides from Fiji, Tasmania, France, Hawaii, Ireland, California and Australia. Over 1000 images and videos were submitted for judging, with winners decided by a panel of 400 surfers, photographers and surf media editors.

Hawaiian Shane Dorian officially surfed into the record books for paddling into his own outrageous wave at Jaws, Maui (judged to be 57 ft on the face), easily winning the
Monster Paddle Award. Dorian also captured the Monster Tube Award for his heroics later on the same wave, as he pulled into one of the greatest barrels of all time. "It was an epic swell, a real late season swell,” recalled Dorian. “I didn't really catch a lot of big waves throughout the whole year…I was just stoked the swell came my way, near my house in Maui, and we scored. The Monster Tube award is pretty special --I mean every surfer wants to get tubed, right?"

Hawaii’s, Keala Kennelly took the Girls Performance of the Year Award, breaking the four-in-a-row stranglehold Brazilian Maya Gabeira had held on that category. Benjamin Sanchis, flying all the way from France to attend the festivities, took top honors for the Billabong XXL Biggest Wave Award with a wave measured at 67 feet on the face.
"I'm not only happy for myself, but I'm stoked for Europe”, said a beaming Sanchis. “This is a big win and I'm really proud, I'm really happy. The wave, Belharra, is about 30 minutes from my house. It wasn't even a big day for that spot, it gets bigger for sure.” Rides at Belharra Reef (in the Basque Country near the French/Spanish border) have been nominated numerous times in XXL history, but this was the first victory for the famed European break.

Kauai surfer Sion Milosky -- who tragically drowned last month at Maverick’s in orthern California -- posthumously won the Surfline Best Men’s Performance Award for a string of outstanding high surf sessions. Milosky was the first top-level big wave surfer to die while surfing big waves since the XXL awards were established in 2000. Milosky’s wife, children and father accepted the award on Sion’s behalf following an emotional tribute by friend and previous Ride of the Year winner Ken “Skindog” Collinsof Santa Cruz. Several winners donated their prize money to the Milosky Family Fund, including Shane Dorian and Australian Mark Mathews, who captured the Verizon Wipeout Award. In all, over $130,000 in cash and prizes was awarded to the world's greatest big wave surfers in this edition of the Billabong XXL Awards. Verizon is the official communications provider and Toyota is the official vehicle of the event.

Jeff Johannson

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