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Bigger than big

The 2009-10 big wave season was the best anyone can remember. An El Nino event in the Pacific resulted in a storm cycle that lit up before Thanksgiving and really didn't fully let up until the first massive south swell hit Tahiti on March 18, signaling the beginning of South Pacific winter.

Overall Performance Gallery

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Meet the 2010 Overall Performance nominees. onClick="window.open('http://espn.go.com/action/surfing/gallery?id=5097127','Popup','width=990,height=720,scrollbars=no,noresize'); return false;">Gallery ยป

Epic days at Maverick's were nearly too many to count. Oahu's North Shore was practically unsurfable for days on end. The hallowed Eddie ran, the Maverick's Contest rewrote the rules of big wave competition, and the Todos Santos contest made a comeback. Maui's mighty Jaws awoke after several years of slumber. It was a season of hyperbole: the biggest barrels, the tallest waves ever paddled into, the worst wipeouts ever survived. And now it's time for the big wave community's annual awards bash, the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards.

While the event hands out awards in seven categories (see above video), for our preview we've chosen to focus on one category specifically: Men's Overall Performance Award.

It is no dis on the other category nominees to point out that there is luck and timing involved in catching the biggest wave or best barrel of the year -- it's the nature of big-wave surfing. One missed flight, a sputtering jetski, a broken board, and even the gnarliest big-wave charger can find himself looking on from afar as the perfect wave rolls through. But to be nominated in the Performance category requires a disciplined commitment to being in the right place at the right time -- all the time. This award isn't won taming the biggest, heaviest waves on the planet. It's won taming the biggest, heaviest waves on the planet all season long. But don't take our word for it -- check the award criteria:

"The Best Overall Performance Awards will be won by the surfer who puts on the greatest number of outstanding performances at the most diverse number of venues over the course of the entire year. Excellence in the water and leadership in safety in both paddle-in and tow-in surfing disciplines will be considered."

This year's nominees are South Africa's Grant Baker, Brazil's Carlos Burle, Hawaii's Shane Dorian and Mark Healey, and California's Greg Long. We're not saying we're not in awe of every nominee in every category -- we're just saying these guys are men among men. To learn more about them, click here.

Tune in Saturday for full results and the wrap-up. All indications point toward an XXL-sized hangover for everyone involved.