Wed, 21 December 2016
Charging! Twiggy Baker increased his lead on the BWT rankings after finishing 7th in the Nazare Challenge in ginormous 40 foot surf at Praia do Norte in Portugal yesterday.
The 3rd stop on the current Big Wave Tour (BWT) season was run in enormous 10-15 metre waves and icy cross-offshore winds, something BWT Commissioner Peter Mel and Co will be delighted with for the first paddle-in contest at this venue, notorious due to a deep underwater canyon that funnels and amplifies the gigantic swells as they approach the beach, producing surf which is more commonly towed into than paddled.
Baker started his campaign in the Heat 2 of Round 1 and confidently caught and rode a heat-high five waves to finish in second place behind Nic Lamb (USA) as the pair advanced to the semi-finals along with third placed Pedro Calado (BRA).
In his semi, the South African fell on his first ride and then suffered an horrendous wipe-out when he was bounced off his board at the top of a huge wave and, unable to penetrate the water, skipped 13 metres down the face of the wave on his back before the lip landed on him. Recovering from the impact, Baker then spent more than 20 minutes clinging with all his strength onto a rescue sled behind a jetski as the pilot tried to get out to the lineup through countless massive waves.
In a credit to his courage, fitness and tenacity, Baker was back in position with just five minutes remaining. In a late flurry, he caught and rode two more waves to move into fourth place in the heat. Although he did not advance to the final, the extra rides ensured he finished seventh instead of 11th overall in the event, earning an extra 2000 rankings points.
With just one more event on the 2015/16 BWT schedule, at Todos Santos in Mexico, Baker is now 3,000 points ahead of his nearest rivals, Calado and reigning BWT champion Greg Long (USA), and the Durbanite is in line to add a second BWT title to the one he clinched in the 2012/13 season.
“Yesterday was pretty unique in my surfing life. Riding a giant double-up shore break where you have to catch 2 waves in 45 minutes for a WSL BWT event was insane,” Baker said on his Facebook page. “Nazare as a wave is a phenom, as challenging and beautiful as any big wave I've surfed and the respect I have for Garrett McNamara (the pioneer of Nazare) and the rest of the locals is unparalleled. But do the dangers involved outweigh the rewards?”
“Those 20-30 minutes during each heat on the back of a ski, holding on with all your strength while jumping 10ft (3 metre) foamies, were some of the most terrifying experiences of my life, and something I can't see myself repeating. Deservingly Jamie Mitchell, the maddest dog, won and hoping all the guys with injuries recover soon.”
Jamie Mitchell (AUS) dominated the event, catching several of the biggest waves that came through and winning his Round 1 and Semi-final heats before coming from behind to overtake tour veteran Carlos Burle (BRA, 49) to clinch his first BWT event title. The 12,500 points he earned rocketed the former lifeguard and world renowned prone and SUP paddle racer from 13th to fifth on the latest BWT rankings.
"I instantly fell in love with this place and the people the first time I came." said an elated Mitchell. "Today was next level, it was survival, it was heavy. I want to dedicate this to my wife and little daughter, and to my Mum and Dad, I think today is a family theme. All the big wave family behind me, around the world, it was just an incredible day."
The final opened with an exciting first exchange between Burle and newcomer Calado (BRA), Burle taking the nod and an early lead with a clean lefthander on his backhand that earned a 6.50. Lamb followed in dramatic fashion with two of the most horrific wipe-outs seen all season and local wildcard Joao De Macedo (PRT) struggled as well, air-dropping unsuccessfully into a monstrous set wave before falling at the bottom and being engulfed in a waterfall of churning white water.
Halfway through the final, Mitchell committed to an incredibly late drop on a lefthander, grabbing the rail of his board to engage into a bottom turn before being eaten by a mountain of foam. Mitchell surfaced with his equipment and was rewarded with an excellent 8.67 for his effort, stealing the lead from Burle. The Australian quickly put a second score on the board to cement a lead that he held throughout the remainder of the heat.
De Macedo was the giant killer of this event, eliminating reigning Big Wave Tour Champion Greg Long (USA) in the first round, as well as current BWT leader Baker and Aaron Gold (HAW) in the semis. De Macedo’s amazing run culminated with a third place in the final.
A capacity crowd of big-wave enthusiasts gathered around the landmark lighthouse on the cliffs overlooking the break to watch the event unfold in the biggest waves ever paddled into in Portugal.
Highlights available at WorldSurfLeague.com and on the WSL App.
Nazaré Challenge Final Results:
1- Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 23.94 (points out of 30)
2- Carlos Burle (BRA) 13.00
3- Joao De Macedo (PRT) 10.84
4- Pedro Calado (BRA) 9.34
5- Nic Lamb (USA) 3.00
6- Antonio Silva (PRT) 0.20
Nazaré Challenge Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Pedro Calado (BRA) 21.27, Nic Lamb (USA) 17.34, Joao De Macedo (PRT) 14.83, Grant Baker (ZAF) 10.30, Aaron Gold (HAW) 9.67, Damien Hobgood (USA) 0.20
SF 2: Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 22.16, Carlos Burle (BRA) 15.33, Antonio Silva (PRT) 10.44, Trevor Carlson (HAW) 6.20, Christian Merello (CHL) 0.20, Hugo Vau (PRT) 0.20
Nazaré Challenge Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Joao De Macedo (PRT) 22.13, Damien Hobgood (USA) 19.00, Aaron Gold (HAW) 11.66, Greg Long (USA) 11.29, Kealii Mamala (HAW) 11.26, Gabriel Villaran (PER) 10.67
Heat 2: Nic Lamb (USA) 14.27, Grant Baker (ZAF) 13.67, Pedro Calado (BRA) 10.49, Alex Botelho (PRT) 9.00, Andrew Cotton (GBR) 6.40, Koa Rothman (HAW) 0.00
Heat 3: Cristian Merello (CHL) 20.83, Trevor Carlson (HAW) 14.36, Antonio Silva (PRT) 12.14, Kai Lenny (HAW) 11.67, Billy Kemper (HAW) 11.39, Nic Von Rupp (PRT) 8.37
Heat 4: Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 25.24, Hugo Vau (PRT) 24.93, Carlos Burle (BRA) 19.81, Will Skudin (USA) 11.73, Ramon Navarro (CHL), 11.66, Tom Butler (GBR) 3.54
WSL BWT Rankings Top Five (following Nazare Challenge):
1 - Grant Baker (ZAF) - 25,018 points
2 - Pedro Calado (BRA) - 21,943 points
3 - Greg Long (USA) - 21,921 points
4 - Carlos Burle (BRA) - 18,175 points
5 - Jamie Mitchell (AUS) - 15,690 points