The Haleiwa surfer rode the wave at Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal on November 1, 2011, eclipsing the previous record held by Californian Mike Parsons who in 2008 rode a 77 foot wave at the Cortes Bank off the coast of California.
The height of McNamara's wave was decided by a panel of big wave surfing and photography experts who painstakingly analyzed and measured the photographs and video images of his ride. The measurements of the Billabong XXL judging panel are recognized by the Guinness World Records as the official determination of big wave surfing superlatives. The award winners in seven categories were announced last night at a gala ceremony at the Grove Theater in Anaheim, California that was attended by some 2,200 surf world VIPs.
"It's amazing we get to do what we do, I am so grateful. The world record doesn't mean as much to me, this is for the town of Nazaré and Portugal and for all my family and friends there. To be able to give them something to be proud of and inspire them, a world record for this town doing it tough in the middle of nowhere is great," said McNamara. "I didn't want to get caught up in it all, but I have to tell you the truth, when they announced my name I got a bigger rush than probably on all the waves I rode this year."
In addition to his Biggest Wave Award, McNamara also claimed the Verizon Wipeout of the Year Award for a disastrous looking attempt to ride a huge wave at Jaws on Maui, Hawaii in January of this year. With the wind blowing his surfboard off course and water obscuring his vision, McNamara found himself cart-wheeling head over heels into a watery abyss. The wipeout eclipsed other horrifying entries from Tahiti, Tasmania and West Australia.
"You gotta choose where you are comfortable and how you want to die."
"Jaws is actually really deep and pretty safe compared to the wipeouts Nathan (Fletcher), Bruce (Irons) and all the guys had in Tahiti. When you are scraped on the reef you are dead. At Jaws you have deep water and some guy is probably going to scoop in on the jet ski, pick you up and give you a little kiss. It all depends where you are comfortable," explained McNamara.
While McNamara's rides have earned him mainstream acclaim, Nathan Fletcher (San Juan Capistrano, California, USA) walked away with the surfing industry night's biggest prize, the 35 year-old goofy-foot winning the prestigious, blue ribbon Sony Xperia Ride of the Year Award and $50,000. Fletcher also became the first surfer in the 12-year history of Billabong XXL Global Big Awards to win three awards in the one night. The same massive wave Fletcher rode at Teahupoo in Tahiti on August 27, 2011 that earned him Xperia Ride of the Year, also won him the Monster Tube Award. In addition Fletcher was presented with the Surfline Best Performance Award that honors the male surfer showing the most consistency during the last 12 months. The humble Fletcher is a true "surfer's surfer" -- short on words, but held in high regard by his surfing peers and the global big wave fraternity for his relentless charging.
"I definitely didn't expect to be up for an award, let alone three. It's a huge honor. I didn't expect that out of myself," he said. "The wave at Teahupoo was pure fate. Somehow it just popped up and I was the one who got it. Somehow, I'm not sure, maybe Sion (former award winner, Sion Milosky who drowned in 2011), gave it to me. I can't believe it. I guess it is all the result of hard work and I am very appreciative of that," added Fletcher.
Hawaiian Dave Wassel secured the Monster Paddle Award honoring the surfer catching a single big wave without motorized, jet ski assistance.
"For me this is like a lifetime achievement award. I've been using my arms since the day I was born and I'm very, very proud. I'm extremely honored, especially considering the mountain of people who strive for this award. To me it makes this the most prestigious award. Jetskis have their place, but the bottom line is I'll grab a rope if I have to when I'm 40, but I'm not there yet. I'm just using what God gave me," said Wassel.
Female surfer Maya Gabeira from Brazil won her fifth overall Girls Best Performance Award in Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Award history. Gabeira won four consecutive awards between 2007 and 2010.
"It's special this year. This has been the best year ever in women's surfing. I am very honored to win this award because the sport has evolved so much. I have been coming here for six years now and usually there are one or two standouts. This time the level is so much higher with all five nominees being solid entries," said Gabeira.
In all, over $120,000 in cash and prizes was awarded to the world's greatest big wave surfers in this the 12th edition of the Billabong XXL Awardsfueled by Monster Energy. Sporting celebrities including the likes of skateboarding legend Tony Hawk and fighter Tito Ortiz, model Erin Wasson, and musicians Dave Grohl and Tayler Hawkins were among the long list of big-name presenters and entertainers. Other top surfers that were nominated for awards were Kohl Christensen (Haleiwa, Hawaii) who distinguished himself with numerous outstanding sessions from Fiji to Chile to Hawaii and Greg Long (San Clemente, California) who was a contender in the Ride of the Year category for a spectacular paddle-in barrel at Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Long was also in contention for the Surfline Best Overall Performance.
Verizon Wireless is the official communications provider and XPERIA Sony Smartphone is the official cell phone supporter. Surfline.com is the exclusive surf forecast of the XXL and Contour the exclusive provider of point of view cameras. The event is sponsored by Air Tahiti Nui airlines, Surfing Magazine and Pelican Products.
2012 BILLABONG XXL BIG WAVE AWARDS RESULTS
SONY XPERIA RIDE OF THE YEAR WINNER:
Nathan Fletcher (San Juan Capistrano, California, USA) at Teahupoo, Tahiti on August 27, 2011. ($50,000)
Video by Simon Saffigna ($5,000)
SECOND PLACE: Ryan Hipwood (Gold Coast, Australia) at Cloudbreak, Fiji on July 12, 2011. ($5,000)
THIRD PLACE: Greg Long (San Clemente, California, USA) at Puerto Escondido, Mexico on May 19, 2011. ($1,500)
FOURTH PLACE: Jeff Rowley (Torquay, Victoria, Australia) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on January 30, 2012. ($1,500)
FIFTH PLACE: Garrett McNamara (Haleiwa, Hawaii, USA) at Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal on November 1, 2011. ($1,500)
MONSTER PADDLE AWARD
Dave Wassel (Kaneohe, Hawaii, USA) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on January 4, 2012. ($15,000)
Photo by Mike Neal. ($4,000)
BILLABONG XXL BIGGEST WAVE AWARD
Garrett McNamara (Haleiwa, Hawaii, USA) at Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal on November 1, 2011. ($15,000)
Photo by Wilson Ribeiro. ($4,000)
MONSTER TUBE AWARD
Nathan Fletcher (San Juan Capistrano, California, USA) at Teahupoo, Tahiti on August 27, 2011. ($5,000)
Photo by Brian Bielmann. ($2,000)
SURFLINE BEST PERFORMANCE AWARD
Nathan Fletcher (San Juan Capistrano, California, USA) - $5,000
BILLABONG GIRLS BEST PERFORMANCE AWARD
Maya Gabeira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) - $5,000
VERIZON WIPEOUT OF THE YEAR AWARD
Garrett McNamara (Haleiwa, Hawaii, USA) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on January 4, 2012. ($2,000)
Video by Elliot Leboe. ($1,000)