THE XXL DISTANCE
Greg Long is not the maniac you think he is. He is well spoken and intelligent. He is willing to sit back and recount, over and over — with media slug after media slug — his past year of terrifying plunges over the ledges of the globe’s biggest waves. He won’t even mutter some sort of negative afterthought when he hangs up the phone with you, either — because he’s probably busy helping an old lady cross the street in downtown San Clemente. But tonight there won’t be any answering of phone calls from surf journalists or respect for the elderly. No. Tonight — somewhere between boarding the party bus that he and his brother Rusty rented for the drive up to the Billabong XXL Awards and the announcement of his nominations for Ride of the Year and Wipeout of the Year — Greg Long will become a maniac. Because he can. And he deserves to.
But more on that later, when we have the photographic proof to show you. Right now, let’s take a look back at another monumental XXL year with one of big-wave surfing’s golden sons.
SURFING: What was your plan of attack coming into the 2008/09 season?
GREG LONG: Coming off such an incredible year in ’07/08, I was seriously thinking about how I would ever top that. (Greg won both the Monster Paddle and Overall Performance awards and was a part of one of the best sessions ever witnessed at Cortez Bank). But then I signed with Billabong and I knew my opportunities to travel had just gotten so much more broad.
Take us through the year, place by place.
I started off the season by spending three and a half months in South Africa with Twiggy [Grant Baker]. It was a slow start, but by August it started firing. Lots of epic tow and paddle sessions at Dungeons, Tafleberg and Sunset. Then it was back to the West Coast for a bunch of runs way up north and then that epic Thanksgiving swell at Maverick’s. That’s when I burst my eardrum. Luckily, everywhere went flat for a couple of months and I was all healed by the time Europe came around. So we scored over there in Ireland with Fergal Smith and Mickey Smith for three weeks straight. And as soon as I got back, it was off to Chile with Ramon Navarro; we’re working on big things down there right now. And that’s about it.
Considering all the time you spend in the air, chasing down swell, how are you able to get off the plane and paddle right out?
That’s definitely taken me some time to work on. When I’m home, I train extensively. I do a lot of yoga — five times a week, sometimes twice a day. In the last few years, that has helped as much physically as it has mentally to prepare for the abuse that I endure. In the past, I couldn’t sleep the night before a big swell, but now I can. I mean, experience has helped be more relaxed but the yoga and training have been great.
OK, well enough of this talk. Good luck tonight.
You going on the bus?
Hmm. Not sure.
You should. It’s gonna be ugly.
[Be sure to watch the live webcast of the Billabong XXL awards at www.Billabongxxl.com Friday night at 7:00 p.m. to see if Greg takes home top honors in the two categories he’s up for: The $50,000 Ride of the Year and the Performance of the Year award in honor of Jay Moriarty.]