Natxo does the big cheese and finds a tube in the rolling water mountain. Photo by WSL
The Nazaré Challenge Thrills And Natxo Gonzalez Wins*
*But Twiggy Baker actually won...
The 2018 Nazaré Challenge In Loving Memory of the In Loving Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational could have gone poorly.
With a bigger swell forecasted — and very much hyped – for Sunday, it wouldn’t have been the best look if today wasn’t large. In case you don’t recall, last year’s Nazarré event was very Medium Wave World Tour. So MWWT, in fact, that Lucas Chianca was doing floaters and turns when he won.
Well, today, Lucas Chianca was still doing turns but that’s only because he’s a sick fuck. It was solid out there. And barreling. And had everything you’d want to see in a big wave contest.
The day kicked off with some big drops, a few sets exploding on everyone’s heads and an elite step-off bodysurf by New York’s own Whitewater Will Skudin.
A fine way to start.
Throughout the morning, the Facebook Live broadcast numbers ticked higher than some of the CT events — potentially a case for a mainstream audience being more turned on by 20-foot waves than 6.71s for three turns. (See Eddie Rothman’s Wing Ding On A Dang Dang thesis for further reading.)
Part of that was probably due to the fact that there weren’t too many long lulls. It was somewhat rare for a competitor to catch less than three waves in a heat, which is impressive for typical molasses pace of big wave events.
The bigger part of that was due to the surfing.
Boundaries were pushed today — but not the typical Nazare boundaries. Not the type of boundaries that anybody at Guinness would care about. Actual wave riding boundaries were pushed. It was less about being in the right place at the right time and more about surfing a wave well.
Well-surfed waves peaked with Natxo Gonzalez’s barrel.
To put it into perspective, the judges gave Lucas Chianca a 9.60 for a tube in the heat before this. (Watch Semifinal 1 on Heat Analyzer) That score was warranted. Or at least it seemed that way at the time.
Then Natxo’s went and fucked their entire scale.
It earned the young Basque fella a ticket to the final, where he eventually lost to Grant Baker and his beautiful surfing on two big waves.
It was deserved win for Twiggy but, let’s be honest, Natxo’s wave is what will be remembered from this event. A big congrats to both of them, and to everyone who surfed or had a set explode on them or step-off bodysurfed a wave.
Meanwhile, the weekend’s swell still looks menacing. There will be Jet Skis and ropes and hypothetical measuring sticks and Guinness fame. Being good at surfing will no longer matter and all will be back to normal at Nazaré.
2018/2019 Nazaré Challenge Final Results:
1 - Grant Baker (ZAF) 25.04
2 - Lucas Chianca (BRA) 23.31
3 - Natxo Gonzalez (EUK) 22.71
4 - Alex Botelho (PRT) 22.06
5 - Joao De Macedo (PRT) 20.87
6 - Russell Bierke (AUS) 18.89
2018/2019 Nazaré Challenge Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Lucas Chianca (BRA) 25.63, João De Macedo (PRT) 25.40, Russell Bierke (AUS) 21.47, Nathan Florence (HAW) 20.76, Billy Kemper (HAW) 18.23, Ian Walsh (HAW) 18.00
SF 2: Alex Botelho (PRT) 26.33, Natxo Gonzalez (EUK) 26.03, Grant Baker (ZAF) 21.60, Kai Lenny (HAW) 20.33, Nick Lamb (USA) 14.00, Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 2.50
2018/2019 Nazaré Challenge Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Lucas Chianca (BRA) 22.31, Billy Kemper (HAW) 17.23, Nathan Florence (HAW) 16.91, Francisco Porcella (ITA) 14.63, Greg Long (USA) 13.77, Antonia Silva (PRT) 8.36
Heat 2: Ian Walsh (HAW) 24.34, Russell Bierke (AUS) 14.86, João De Macedo (PRT) 13.84, Tom Lowe (GBR) 12.16, Rodrigo Koxa (BRA) 9.36, Will Skudin (USA) 3.80
Heat 3: Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 19.57, Kai Lenny (HAW) 16.83, Natxo Gonzalez (EUK) 16.26, Jojo Roper (USA) 14.71, Pedro Calado (BRA) 14.20, Andrew Cotton (GBR) 13.73
Heat 4: Alex Botelho (PRT) 20.37, Nic Lamb (USA) 19.43, Grant Baker (ZAF) 18.13, Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 15.33, João Guedes (PRT) 10.16, Nic von Rupp (PRT) 9.70