2002/03 - XXL Champion Makua Rothman

This was the year the XXL became a truly global event, running 12 months long and in every ocean and the resulting action kicked the event into the international limelight like never before. Maui's Jaws produced an all-time swell for a growing group of watermen and the resulting photos seemed a shoe-in for Biggest Wave - until the images arrived of a band of little-known Frenchmen riding enormous crests at an unknown break named Belharra Reef in the Basque Country. The controversy was heated and worldwide: How did the gleaming European bubbly measure up against the Hawaiian heavy water?

In the end it was an eighteen-year-old Makua Rothman of Hawaii who took the top XXL honors and $66,000 for his 66-footer at Jaws, with the awards presented at the Grove of Anaheim Theater for the first time. California's Toby Cunningham won the Monster Paddle honors at Mexico's Todos Santos and Hawaiian Garrett McNamara did a little bit of everything all around the planet to take Best Overall Performance Award.

Winning photo - Ron Dalhquist