12 February 2018

South Africa: Reigning Champ Baker Ends Fifth in Nazare Challenge

South Africa's reigning World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour (BWT) champion Grant 'Twiggy' Baker has ended fifth in the Nazare Challenge at Praia de Norte in Portugal.

That after battling through three rounds of daunting six-to-nine metre waves.

The third stop on the 2017/2018 BWT was won by rising big wave star Lucas Chianca, 22, from Brazil who won all three heats he contested with an amazing repertoire of manoeuvres more commonly seen performed on waves a quarter the size of those on offer at this event.

The second-ever BWT event at Nazaré ran over two days after dangerous conditions threatened the competitors following the opening heats on Saturday. Big Wave Tour Commissioner Mike Parsons, alongside the judging panel, rated conditions a Bronze coefficient, awarding the winner 10,000 points.

Baker, 43, a two-time BWT champion (2013 and 2017) was the oldest competitor in the six-man final which represented a 'changing of the guard' in big wave competition by also featuring 2017/2018 Puerto Escondido Challenge winner Kai Lenny (HAW), two-time Pe'ahi Challenge winner Billy Kemper (HAW), and up-and-comers Natxo Gonzalez (EUK), Nathan Florence (HAW), and Chianca, all of whom are in the their early twenties.

Competing in just his second BWT event, Chianca earned his first finals appearance and event win after dominating the competitive 24-man field, made up of the world's best male big wave surfers. The young Brazilian demonstrated command over Nazaré's powerful waves and challenging white-water speeds to climb up to No5 on the Big Wave Tour rankings.

'I'm stoked to win this event,' Chianca said. 'Thank you to everyone for all of their support. All these guys competing are so crazy and inspiring. It was hard because when you get the call for BWT events, it's at the last minute. We flew here as soon as we got the call, were a bit tired, and then just went straight into the competition the next day. The waves yesterday were so gnarly and scary. And then today, we were on again. I am super stoked. Thank you.'

The Mavericks Challenge still has the potential to run before the Big Wave Tour season closes on February 28, 2018. BWT officials will continue to monitor swell systems and weather patterns and will only call the event on when surf reaches the 30-foot-plus mark, mobilizing on 72 hours' notice.

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