NEWPORT BEACH, CA (April 2, 2002) -- The five finalists for the annual Billabong XXL "Biggest Wave of the Year" award were announced today, with surfing's biggest prize taking on a new significance as a symbolic showdown between two countries at odds over global policy -- France and the United States of America.

Three of the top five waves were ridden by well-known big wave surfers at the break known as Jaws off the Peahi valley of Maui, Hawaii on November 26, 2002 -- a day widely regarded as a one of the greatest moments in surfing history. Most observers were confident that any challenge to the height of those swells would be very unlikely, especially from any area other than the North Pacific.

But the book and movie describing "The Perfect Storm" explained how the Atlantic Ocean is capable of producing outrageously high seas. And when an extremely intense low pressure system tracked east of Newfoundland in early March, a crew of virtually unknown Frenchmen were standing by deep within the Bay of Biscay to successfully ride what are clearly the biggest waves ever challenged outside of Hawaii or California.

But are the two French waves nominated for the Billabong XXL award even bigger than their Pacific counterparts? That crucial and controversial question will be answered by a panel of big wave experts who will pore over the photographic evidence in the coming weeks.

The 2003 winner of the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards presented by Surfline will revealed on April 18 at the awards gala at the Grove Theater in Anaheim, California. An invitation-only crowd of over 1000 surf-scene celebrities will be on hand to see the world's big-wave champ receive a record prize of $60,000 -- plus $1000 per foot of wave face height over 60 feet.

In alphabetical order, the 5 nominees for the Billabong XXL Award are:

  • Fred Basse (France) at Belharra Reef, France on March 10, 2003.
  • Cheyne Horan (Australia) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on November 26, 2002.
  • Noah Johnson (USA) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on November 26, 2002.
  • Sebastian St. Jean (France) at Belharra Reef, France on March 10, 2003.
  • Makua Rothman (USA) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on November 26, 2002.

Adding to the surprise of the new French entries in this year's high-surf derby is the fact that the West Coast of the US was this year completely out of contention after two years of XXL Award dominance. The 2001 event was won by Mike Parsons' 66-footer at the Cortes Bank off San Diego and last year it went to Carlos Burle for his 68-foot wave at Maverick's, south of San Francisco.

Additional big-wave prizes also being awarded on the evening of April 18 include the Jay Moriarity Best Overall Performance Award ($5000), the Biggest Paddle-In Wave ($5000) and the award for the Best Photograph of the XXL-winning wave ($5000). The Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards are presented by Surfline, the world's premier surf report and forecasting service.

For additional information, including photos and video of the nominated rides and precise rules and judging criteria, please see the INFO page on this website.

Members of the media seeking photographs or other information about the Billabong XXL event or the awards presentation, may contact Bill Sharp, Contest Director, Phone: 949-548-6740, E-mail:

(Notice: The images of the five nominated rides under consideration for the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards are displayed in alphabetical order, and the order of display does not infer any special merit relative to the other nominees.)

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