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The promise of the El Nino winter appears to have delivered for big wave surfers, as many long-standing records are ready to fall in this year’s Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards presented by Monster Energy. And more than ever before, the Monster Paddle category (just for surfers who catch their waves without any jet ski assistance) has taken center stage as the elite of the sport refocus on this elemental man-against-the-sea tradition. Visual evidence of these landmark performances can be viewed at the event website at

While huge swells have blasted nearly every coastline of the planet in recent months, it has been the Hawaiian Islands which have had the most mind-bending proof of the power of the current El Nino weather phenomenon. December 7-8, 2009 saw one of the biggest swells in modern history batter the northern shores of the entire Hawaiian Chain, followed by another extraordinary day of outer reef waves on Christmas. From these historic moments of oceanic grandeur have come images which show several top big wave surfers paddling into what may well be the biggest waves ever caught by human power in the long history of the sport.

Among these superlative rides is a massive dark wall caught by Shane Dorian and Mark Healey which closed out the legendary Waimea Bay on Oahu on December 7. Also up for consideration is another mammoth peak at Waimea ridden by Chile’s Ramon Navarro which earned the South American hero a perfect score in the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau event on December 8. And more recently, grainy, documentary photos have arrived depicting Garrett McNamara paddling into a distant peak at Outer Log Cabins, a rarely-seen outer reef far off the North Shore shoreline, previously only the domain of tow-in surfers with jet-powered watercraft.

All are likely to figure prominently as finalists for the Monster Paddle Award to be given out at the tenth annual Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards to be held in California in late April. A panel of big wave surfing and photography experts will analyze the available images and by interpreting the known sizes of the surfers and their surfboards, calculate reliable height estimates for the face of each wave. One will emerge as the Monster Paddle winner and will receive $15,000 out of the total event purse of $130,000.

The current world record for a paddle-in wave belongs to Taylor Knox of San Diego, California who rode a wave measured at 52 feet at Todos Santos Island off of Ensenada, Mexico during the last major El Nino episode in 1998. Many experts are expecting an update to the Guinness Book of World Records once this winter’s measurements are complete.

Dorian and Healey are veterans of decades of big wave hunting and both concur that their shared ride at Waimea was easily the biggest either had ever caught. “I’d been waiting 15 years for that wave,” said Dorian, of Kona, on the Big Island. “That wave, we could see it from when it was like two or three minutes away from breaking, we could see the wave coming in, everybody’s screaming on the beach and yelling and stuff… When the wave finally came in, it was SO big. The thing was a MONSTER. We both put our heads down and started paddling and somehow we both caught it.

“I was going no matter what,” Dorian added. “And I know Mark felt the same way. It was just fun. A party wave — a wave of that size, and it was for sure the biggest wave I’ve ever paddled into, and to do it with my real good friend, it was very….memorable.”

Mark Healey has lived down the road from Waimea all his life and has been one of its most dedicated practitioners. But he’d never seen waves like this.

“That was the biggest day I’ve ever had at Waimea,” said Healey. “And that wave in particular was definitely by far bigger than anything I’ve ever caught out there, for sure.”

The wave was so large it closed out all the way across the Bay, not allowing the surfers the opportunity to kick out over the top of the wave as usual, and forcing them to straighten out and take the endless tons of whitewater on their heads. But for Healey, a renowned freediver with the ability to hold his breath for over five minutes, it was a fun experience. The longtime friends surfaced unharmed right next to each other, hooting with excitement.

“We were pretty stoked,” said Healey. “Big waves are different, there’s a lot of brotherhood involved, stuff like that. I’d rather have had Shane catch that wave than ride it alone. It was cool to share a wave like that with a friend, and someone I look up to.”

Reblogged 8 years ago from


Paul Tolliver (Highest Quality Painting) says:

December 13th, 1995:
Rincon, California
biggest day I've ever surfed.
200 guys on the beach
10 guys out.

Indicator to Highway … long monster!
Waves horseshoeing all the way to La Conchita Pier
12 wave sets

tre ert says:

Neither one the most Big waves in Waimea. 

Gerry Miller says:

Not even close.

MrWightHD says:

Nothing compared to Portugal……. 

Evansurfss says:

It was paddling in not biggest but definitely biggest paddling

dan greenfield says:

riding giants 

Samantha Davies says:

ur lucky i cant surf at all

Chris Giacobone says:

face or HAW?

A Pineapple says:

People tow in at Teahupoo, it isn't 50ft+. So by your logic, people should only paddle in at Teahupoo (The Heaviest and most dangerous wave known to man)

A Pineapple says:

You must be retarded, 'fer sure'

TheZacdes says:

Caught inside, big time:(

TheZacdes says:

Ahhhm, SOME waves must be paddled into. Its NOT just size involved. You dont surf, or not big anyway ay? The way it jacks fast here, because of the unique bottom structure, makes late takeoffs nescessary for paddling, but possible, but not for just anyone:/

TheZacdes says:

I just said that above this comment,.lol. YEh, fuckin EPIC:) Was not 100% on spelling if that was your point, which is a pretty pathetic point, no point at all really:/ I DONT live there:/ IF thats what you meant?? But your not THAT petty are you?

João Branco says:

I' ve seen much bigger. See the wave in Nazaré, Portugal.

TheZacdes says:

Check out Point Nazaire in portugal, 100 feet..paddled:) WEird wave, a freak:/

NOXkaz says:

paddled maybe def not towed though

TheZacdes says:

Not even close to the biggest, paddled, or towed:/

vulc sombrez says:

i think its possible, you just ride the wave to the top…

ditimely says:

I would say that is virtually impossible.

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