Billabong XXL Surf Competition

While surfers in the Northern Hemisphere await the arrival of El Niño-fueled big winter waves, surfers in the Southern Hemisphere are enjoying massive swells. Thanks to Billabong’s XXL Global Big Wave Awards — a contest where surfers attempt to surf, and document, the biggest waves in the world — Web surfers all over the globe have a front row seat.

With a first-prize purse of $50,000, the competition is fierce.

Last week, Shipstern Bluff — a notoriously shallow wave off the southern tip of Tasmania, Australia — produced a bunch of huge waves. A few were tamed by big wave surfers and doubled as entries into the contest.

Billabong Web Page

Last week’s swell was spawned by a massive storm in the Southern Ocean and attracted big wave chargers like Aussies Marti Paradisis and Karl Atkins, who used jet powered watercraft to tow into the towering walls of water.

The devilish Tasmanian surf session also featured its share of cringe-inducing wipeouts. Despite the bone-jarring impacts, there were no serious injuries. And many successful rides are now candidates for the Billabong XXL Ride of the Year Award, which will be awarded next April.

Surfers have until the end of winter — by March 19, 2010 — to qualify for the Billabong XXL Awards and its big prize money. To see the latest video and still photo entries in the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards, visit the event website at BillabongXXL.com. But you had better clear your schedule for a few minutes first. There’s lots of great footage there. www.billabongxxl.com

—Stephen Krcmar lives and works in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.

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