Grant 'Twiggy' Baker Wins Big Wave Tour Nazare Challenge

Form Guide

NAZARÉ, Portugal (Friday, November 16, 2018) - Two-time Big Wave Tour Champion Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker (ZAF) won the World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour (BWT) Nazaré Challenge today in incredible 25-to-40-foot surf at the infamous Portuguese big-wave venue of Praia do Norte, Nazaré.

The six finalists of the 2018 Nazaré Challenge, with Grant Baker (in green) lifting his trophy. Photo: Poullenot

The event launched early this morning in glassy conditions with 25-foot-plus wave-faces around the high tide mark and as the tide dropped conditions got heavier and heavier to culminate with large surf in the 35-to-40-foot range, with occasional larger sets. Mike Parsons, Big Wave Tour commissioner has granted this event a Silver coefficient, meaning results in Nazaré will carry a 10% increase in points (e.g. 11,000 points for the winner).

A relatively discrete surfer in the opening round and the Semifinal, advancing in third place in both heats, the South African from Durban peaked at the exact right time to pull off some of the most incredible drops and rides seen all day in Nazaré during the Final. The tall and powerful regular foot went both to his forehand and backhand in the Final to score an incredible 8.67 and 7.70 on his way to a first victory in Portugal.

Grant Baker navigates a treacherous vertical drop into a Nazaré bomb. Photo: Poullenot

“I don’t believe it, this is insane,” Baker stated. “These kids were going so hard today and I can’t believe I’ve still got that in me. That 8.67 was the wave I’d been waiting for, it came right to me and I ended up being super late, it was a crazy big section. What a day, just perfect, perfect Nazaré, it’s a dream. Lucas (Chianca) was the man to beat and Natxo (Gonzalez) got that crazy barrel in the semis, somehow I got lucky and I got out on top!”

The 2013 and 2016 Big Wave Tour Champion, Baker has time and time again proven to be a threat in all conditions when the waves hit maximum heights. Today he came out on top of one of the best days of big wave professional surfing ever seen.

The Final got underway quickly with good rides from most surfers, but undoubtedly Lucas Chianca (BRA), the defending event champion in Nazaré, got the better of the early exchanges. The young Brasilian posted a 7.17 and 6.23 to take a strong lead early on and continued to play with the massive lefts he’d been dominating since early this morning. His ability to drop late into the steep walls impressed as he navigated some of the best waves of the day.

Baker answered with good lefts at first, going back up into the wall to score turns on the shoulders for his first two scores. He then switched to the rights, to pull two huge drops into shorter rides to continue to build momentum.

Natxo Gonzalez (EUK) waited 30 minutes to start on his first wave, but his patience paid off as he launched into one of the most critical rides of the Final to post an 8.17 and position himself in second position. João De Macedo (PRT), Russell Bierke (AUS) and Alex Botelho (PRT) had a slower start to their heat and kept chasing waves.

Gonzalez moved into the lead with a second left quickly after, but Baker replied with a huge wave on his backhand, threading the face in a perfect line to post an excellent 8.67 and move ahead of the Basque surfer, relegating Chianca to third. The Brasilian found an excellent wave of his own to move into second with an 8.07.

The last three surfers started getting better waves in the 6s and 7s to stay in fighting distance of the lead while Baker, Chianca and Gonzalez continued to surf their own heat. But as time ran out, the situation remained unchanged and Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker walked away with the win, closely followed by Chianca and Gonzalez. Botelho claimed fourth place, De Macedo fourth and Bierke fifth in his first-ever Big Wave Tour event.

In his second year on the Big Wave Tour, Lucas ‘Chumbo’ Chianca (BRA) dominated his first two heats to qualify for the Final, and score the second-best single score of the day, a near-perfect 9.60 for a backhand barrel in Semifinal 1. Unfortunately the Brasilian couldn’t quite find the same opportunities for massive scores in the Final heat and placed runner-up behind Baker.

Lucas Chianca is no stranger to late airdrops into a Nazaré monster. Photo: Poullenot

“I’m super stoked but I didn’t fully accomplished what I came here to do,” Chianca said. “It was a perfect day and everyone was stoked to see these waves break. It’s a great way to start the season and I’m incredibly excited about the rest of the season. Twiggy is such a legend and a real idol I’ve looked up to when I was younger so to compete with these guys now I’m stoked.”

Third place finisher Natxo Gonzalez (EUK) had previously ridden the wave of his life in Semifinal 2, locking in a deep barrel with a high line on an impressive lefthander that came up abruptly next to the cliffs. The Basque surfer is building himself a solid profile on the big wave scene and will be one to watch as he takes on his first full season on the tour.

“After getting that 10 my day was pretty much over, I didn’t really care about anything else to be honest,” Gonzalez said. “I got one of the best waves of my life, in front of thousands of people including my friends and family so things don’t get much better than that.”

Competition reached a climactic high in the Semifinals as waves started opening up, giving surfers a rare opportunity to get barreled at Nazaré when the waves are that big. Portuguese surfer João De Macedo was the first to capitalize with an impressive 9.20, Chianca followed with a 9.60 and Gonzalez pulled off the impossible with his perfect 10 point ride in the following heat.

Last year’s Big Wave Tour Champion Billy Kemper (HAW) bowed out in Semifinal 1 alongside compatriots Nathan Florence (HAW) and Ian Walsh (HAW).

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

Comments

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Saturday, 17 Nov 2018 at 6:41am

One of the best WSL webcasts I've watched in ages. Congrats to everyone involved.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Sunday, 18 Nov 2018 at 5:03am

Agreed.

redmondo's picture
redmondo's picture
redmondo commented Saturday, 17 Nov 2018 at 7:29am

The little tubes I got yesterday seem meaningless and the surf looks insignificant today. Amazing display of wave riding.

Victory!

mrkook's picture
mrkook's picture
mrkook commented Saturday, 17 Nov 2018 at 7:40am

That was incredible, again paddling rules the big wave world. They end up in infinitely more critical positions, the level of surfing is just incomprehensible.

MK

wbat's picture
wbat's picture
wbat commented Saturday, 17 Nov 2018 at 8:14am

Yes that really was special. I love the big wave tour.

I missed Jamie Mitchell's second heat. What happened?

timcosh's picture
timcosh's picture
timcosh commented Saturday, 17 Nov 2018 at 8:18am

Twiggy. Shine on you crazy diamond.

Beagle's picture
Beagle's picture
Beagle commented Saturday, 17 Nov 2018 at 8:33am

So good to watch Russ have a dig, flying under the radar of his more hyped international peers. Won’t be long until he wins one of these things!

Terminal's picture
Terminal's picture
Terminal commented Saturday, 17 Nov 2018 at 5:01pm

Agreed Beagle, it's only a matter of time...

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Saturday, 17 Nov 2018 at 12:15pm

Just caught up with the finals, Twiggy shows how to take the biggest, latest most critical drops!

I also liked how after surfing the final, he picked up his car keys from beside the path in the dunes, just like quite a few of us still do! Very down to earth...

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Sunday, 18 Nov 2018 at 4:23pm

Twiggy is great! So is jordy. they are both pretty humble when you meet them.

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Saturday, 17 Nov 2018 at 4:00pm

Thanks Mr Form Guide another top shelf wrap & Thanks Swellnet.
& What everyone else said!

wbat I watched his semi live..something not right!

Jamie looked injured as he sat wide on right shoulder. In a world of his own.
He got foxed a few times and backed outta clear waves as others cut across his line.

He took one wave...He dropped in & spun out into the sky somewhere! Last we saw of him.
Check out comments link for semi final 2 vid @ [2:08:45] for JM only semi final wave.
After wipeout- sit back & let it run for few minutes until [2:11:00]...Back door barrel (5 x 10's)

Deserved winner...had best board & best positioning. I think caught biggest wave as well.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Saturday, 17 Nov 2018 at 4:03pm

I know right VJ! Just shows how funny this surfing thing is. A pro event and he gets dropped off at the track up to the dunes and runs up it to fetch his keys. All time and so relatable! Also no huge crowd to congratulate him either. What other sport’s like this? So amateur in that respect haha

Fleazool's picture
Fleazool's picture
Fleazool commented Saturday, 17 Nov 2018 at 6:53pm

Really enjoyed watching this comp.
It's more enjoyable knowing a champ is gonna be declared on the day. Same conditions throughout for all. No excuses. Russ, if they aren't already, Australians should be proud young man.

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake commented Saturday, 17 Nov 2018 at 9:12pm

I got to watch all of the final and it was huge seeing 30 (plus) odd foot of grunt (sounds like a dodgy band name).

Insanely good surfing though, and the paddle in format really gave it an edge.

Nazare sure is one mighty edgy ledgy freakin' huge wedgy.

Is tomorrow still shaping up to be bigger than this?
Will it be tow-in time only?

Average's picture
Average's picture
Average commented Saturday, 17 Nov 2018 at 8:41pm

The beatings dished out were brutal. Whether you got a good one or got smoked, most of the time they still got washed in to the beach. 10+ waves on the head.

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake commented Sunday, 18 Nov 2018 at 4:40pm

Some really good footage here of Nazare 2018
https://youtu.be/OrHBNOPcbJY

Bnkref's picture
Bnkref's picture
Bnkref commented Sunday, 18 Nov 2018 at 5:31pm

So today’s the day for the monster swell. Any updates or word of a live feed?