What’s 105 miles off San Diego and 17 miles long, lurks just three feet below the surface at its highest point, earned San Clemente’s Mike Parsons a nifty $60,000 for about two minutes’ adrenalin-stoked work in January ’01, and generates waves so freakin’ huge they show up on radar?
It’s Cortes Bank, a submarine mountain range, where the right combination of light winds, low tides and big storm swells from the northwest—a Pacific surfer’s version of the perfect storm—can generate waves up to 85 feet and, reportedly, higher. A lot higher.
The ballsy gentlemen who do at Cortes Bank and elsewhere what you and I don’t have the cojones for—namely, rocket down the face of a fast-moving, lethal, six-story blue monster on a piece of polyurethane and fiberglass—will be at the Grove of Anaheim tomorrow night (April 11), for the eighth annual Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards.
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Parsons and fellow San Clemente ace Greg Long, who took last year’s XXL Biggest Wave honors, both rode bombs at Cortes Bank this past January. Video of these, and many other outings, can be found at www.BillabongXXL.com. Six categories include Ride of the Year, Biggest Wave and Girl’s Best Overall Performance.
There’s edge-of-your-seat footage of the finalists and others at, among other places, California’s Trestles (where veteran Mark Foo died in 1994) and Ghost Tree; legendary Jaws, off Maui; Belharra Reef, France; Mullaghmore Head and the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland; Spanish hotspots Playa Gris and Isla Ancha (didn’t they star in Maria Does Madrid?); Teahupoo, Tahiti; and notable big breaks off Tasmania, Chile and South Africa.
While the 200 seats at the event are invitation only, the entire evening’s activities can be viewed live through the website and will be televised on ESPN May 29.
The final word on Cortes Bank? Per Mike Parsons, whose ’01 Biggest Wave winner was a whopping 66 feet: “There will be a 100-foot wave ridden out there. It’s only a matter of time now.”