2010 Billabong XXL Nominees

"We've been at the house all day barbecuing," explained a marinated Rusty Long, half-drunk can of Tecate in hand. "All the boys were there, we had the taco line going, it was epic. Then we took a bus up here. We're firing it back up tonight, you should come."

Billabong XXL Raw Data

As tempting as the offer was, the night was still young, in fact I hadn't even gotten through the parking lot yet. Plus, after attending the Billabong XXL Awards for the past nine years, I've definitely learned not to commit to any concrete plans for after the show. As noble and heroic as all these big-wave aficionados are, in their own sadistic way they enjoy a good time almost as much as they enjoy copping a 60-foot set on the head. In the past, this has translated into some very belligerent moments at this awards show, and I wasn't sure whether I wanted to go down that path.

With the line at The Grove in Anaheim stretching halfway to Disneyland, I applied another lesson I've learned over the years. I walked straight to the front, waited for an opening and snuck right through the main gate. I immediately bumped into Rusty's brother Greg.

"I hear you guys had quite the barbecue today," I said.

"Yeah, it was a beautiful afternoon. With everybody going in so many different directions, it was great to catch up and relax a little," Greg answered.

It had been about a year since I'd seen either of the Long brothers, and although the red carpet isn't exactly the place to catch up, it was good to see them. Through the years, the XXL Awards has turned into not only a celebration of death-defying aquatic aptitude but also a chance for the heavy-water fraternity to bump chests, rub elbows and hang out on more neutral terra firma. Sure, there's thousands of dollars in prize money on the line, and sure, a win at the XXL can make a career, but by the time the awards show finally rolls around, the real competition is long since over. For every XXL nominee, past or present, it's all about the day, the swell and being in the water when the ocean is at its angriest.