Jamie Mitchell Wins First-Ever WSL BWT Nazaré Challenge

December 20, 2016 • WSL

NAZARÉ, Portugal (Tuesday, December 20, 2016) – 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.

Jamie Mitchell wins the first-ever WSL BWT Nazaré Challenge. Photo: WSL

Jamie Mitchell wins the first-ever WSL BWT Nazaré Challenge. Photo: WSL

“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.

Jamie Mitchell (AUS) drops into a bomb at Nazaré en route to his historic victory. Photo: © WSL/Laurent Masurel

Jamie Mitchell (AUS) drops into a bomb at Nazaré en route to his historic victory. Photo: © WSL/Laurent Masurel

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.”

Damien Hobgood made it through Round 1 and into the Semifinal, where he bagged a huge one at Nazaré. Photo: WSL/Laurent Marusel

Damien Hobgood made it through Round 1 and into the Semifinal of the Nazaré Challenge, successfully bagging a huge one on a day when many competitors couldn’t. Photo: WSL/Laurent Marusel

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.”

Will Skudin looks down a massive one at the first-ever WSL BWT Nazaré Challenge. Photo: WSL/Laurent Marusel

Will Skudin looks down a monster at the first-ever WSL BWT Nazaré Challenge. Will described the wave he caught in Round 1 as “the biggest wave I have ever attempted to surf and definitely on the top three wipeouts of my life.” Photo: WSL/Laurent Marusel

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.

Lots of looking on this "silver status" (AKA 35- to 45-foot) day at Nazaré. Photo: WSL/Laurent Marusel

Lots of looking on this “silver status” (AKA 35- to 45-foot) day at Nazaré. Photo: WSL/Laurent Marusel

“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.”

Puts your last wipeout to shame, eh? Damien Hobgood with a legit trip over the falls at Nazaré. Photo: WSL/Laurent Marusel

Puts your last wipeout to shame, eh? Damien Hobgood with a legit trip over the falls at Nazaré. Photo: WSL/Laurent Marusel

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).

Highlights available at WorldSurfLeague.com and on the WSL app.

Nazaré Challenge Final Results:
1- Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 23.94
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

One event in the Northern hemisphere remains scheduled for the season, the Todos Santos Challenge in Mexico, and could potentially run before the season ends on February 28, 2017.

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