Jamie Mitchell (AUS) has claimed the World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour (BWT) Nazaré Challenge today in historic fashion with the iconic Portuguese underwater canyon delivering massive 35-foot-plus waves for the world’s best big wave surfers.
“I have never made a final before today so to win is unreal, I knew I was close to doing well in a whole event,” Mitchell stated. “To put together a whole contest from start to finish is actually more exciting than just the win today. I felt comfortable out there, my board felt amazing and that gave me a bunch of confidence.”
A capacity crowd of big-wave enthusiasts gathered by the landmark lighthouse on the point looking down at the biggest waves ever paddled in Portugal.
The 2016-2017 Big Wave season continues to deliver exciting action for the third event in Nazaré following the Puerto Escondido Challenge (won by Grant Baker) and the Pe’ahi Challenge (won by Billy Kemper) earlier this year. Big Wave Tour commissioner Peter Mel, alongside the judging panel, allocated today’s conditions a “Silver Rating” with wave faces in the 35-to-45-foot category.
Today’s Final opened with an exciting first exchange between tour veteran Carlos Burle (BRA) and newcomer Pedro Calado (BRA), Burle taking the nod and an early lead with a clean lefthander on his backhand and a 6.50.
Nic Lamb (USA) followed in dramatic fashion with two of the most horrific wipeouts seen all all season. Local wildcard Joao De Macedo (PRT) struggled as well, air-dropping unsuccessfully into a monstrous set wave.
Halfway through the Final, Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 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 the mountain of white water behind him. Mitchell later surfaced with his equipment and was rewarded an excellent 8.67 for his effort, stealing the lead from Burle. The Australian quickly put a second score on the board to cement his lead and hold throughout the remainder of the Final.
The Australian walked away with his maiden Big Wave Tour victory at the Nazaré Challenge, a result earning 12,500 ranking points and rocketing him from 13th to 5th on the tour rankings.
“I got into a good rhythm at other events but lost it at some point, but this one I managed to keep it and it feels amazing,” he continued. “I’m going to be here until Friday and it looks like there will be more giant waves coming, so I might just take a day to recover from today and try my luck again out there.”
Long-time competitor and 2009 Big Wave Tour Champion Carlos Burle (BRA) placed Runner-Up in this inaugural Nazare Challenge, courtesy of his early efforts in the final this afternoon. Burle managed to fence off numerous assaults from the new guard on his way to the final and will flew the Brazilian flag high in Portugal.
“I’m super proud of my body, it was a tough event all-around in this cold weather, dropping huge waves and getting pounded all-day long,” an emotional Burle said. “I made the final and came close to winning, against the best guys in the world. This is my last season as a competitor but I will keep this great memory and hopefully leave a legacy for the next generation, and I hope they will do their best like I did every day of my life. Nazare is an amazing wave and it was just a matter of time before people recognized that. I’m super happy to have been part of this event as I feel there will be much more to come.”
Making waves among the big wave community were local wildcards today, with Portugal’s Joao De Macedo and Antonio Silva reaching the final in Nazare. 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 Grant Baker (ZAF) and Aaron Gold (HAW) in the semis. De Macedo’s amazing run culminated with a third place in the final.
“It feels amazing, just the camaraderie in the water and the way all of us were really pushing our limits today,” De Macedo explained. “The amount of preparation that goes into paddling and surfing this size out there is huge, I’ve been training for months and it feels great. I hope everyone’s really stoked about this event and that we keep coming back, the performance levels were really inspiring. Those were some of the biggest waves that have been paddled into here I think, and to do a contest in those conditions is great. The water patrol guys are so great, they make us feel so confident and allow us push ourselves further.”
Recent winner of the Pe’ahi Challenge, Billy Kemper (HAW) suffered a shock elimination in the opening round of competition, narrowly defeated by local wildcard Silva in a tight battle for third place alongside Kai Lenny (HAW).