Stab Magazine | Grant Baker And Keala Kennelly Are Your 2018/19 Big Wave World Champions
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Grant Baker And Keala Kennelly Are Your 2018/19 Big Wave World Champions

It’s Twiggy’s third, Keala’s first.

news // Apr 2, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The WSL Big Wave Tour is a strange beast. 

There are only three events throughout the “season”, and none of them is guaranteed to run. Also, the Nazaré event doesn’t include women, meaning there are only two possible comps for the fairer sex. And sometimes, as we saw on multiple occasions this season, the waves are “too big” for the world’s best big wave surfers. 

The first event of the 2018/19 season was held at Portugal’s Praia do Norte, also known as Nazaré. After Natxo Gonzalez nabbed the best Nazaré tube in recorded history in the semis, it was South Africa’s Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker who walked away with the final. 

Next came Jaws, which thanks to a historically massive swell event this November, ended up being one of the most talked about surfing competitions of all time. 

The women were sent out first, leaving them to contend with an eerie fog and rapidly increasing swell. Multiple women were injured by the apexing surf, but after a couple completed rides the finals were decided.

Several women, including Bianca Valenti, Paige Alms, and Keala Kennelly, took off deep but were bucked from their boards before reaching the bottom. Emi Erickson completed a smaller ride on the shoulder, but it would be her only wave of the final. This resulted in Keala Kennelly’s event win on the back of two heroic tumbles.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/DRmVqRvXLfw

While seemingly strange, this achievement is not unprecedented. 

In Round 1 of the 2014 Billabong Pro Tahiti, Owen Wright squeaked past Bede Durbidge and Trav Logie on the back of two stand-tall no-makes, despite Bede completing a decent barrel ride. 

It also happened on the Men’s side of the Pe’ahi draw.

The guys ran only one heat on that opening day, and it provided two of the most memorable rides in the history of big wave surfing. 

First was Billy Kemper’s herculean tube attempt, which was cut short by a clamping lip; then came Twiggy’s double-up mutant, which many have called the greatest wave ever ridden, despite the fact Twiggy left his board in the tube. 

https://www.youtube.com/embed/KR1TsbgHlIk

Due to fear of someone dying, the WSL postponed the comp until the following morning when the waves were roughly half the size. Billy Kemper won, Kai Lenny got second, and Twig got fifth. 

Interestingly enough, both the male and female winners at Jaws achieved victory on two non-completed rides. 

Maverick’s was the only event left on the schedule, and after a “too big” swell struck the Californian coast in January, the Pacific took a spiteful slumber, refusing to provide another comp-worthy system for the remainder of the waiting period.  

And just like that, the season was over. Totals were tallied and champions were chosen. 

Grant Baker took the Men’s top spot with a first and fifth, while Keala Kennelly secured the Women’s side with her solitary win, thus making them the 2018/19 WSL BWT World Champs. 

This is Grant’s third Title and Keala’s first. Keala is also the first World Champion of surfing not to complete a single ride throughout her Title campaign (unless you count that little shoulder-slide in the semi) – though not for lack of trying. 

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For the glory! Photo: WSL

“Nobody gets to be a champion without the love and support of so many people so I want to thank everybody that helped me get here,” said Kennelly in her acceptance speech. “Now I am part of an elite group of athletes that are literally pushing the limits of what humans are capable of and we are inspiring so many men and women with what we do.”

As we said, the BWT is a strange beast, but it’s also our strange beast so we cherish it dearly. Congrats to Twig and Keala, see ya next year!

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