Surf Scene: No fear for big wave gurus
SURF SCENE: Mexican Pipe kicks off Big Wave World Tour
THEY'RE in a league of their own. The World Surf League Big Wave World Tour represents a special breed of fearless and seriously fit surfers. They are prepared to take on the world's biggest and best waves for the ultimate thrill and challenge, paddling in and not towing and using big wave guns.
Puerto Escondido, or better known as the "Mexican Pipeline", kicked off the opening event on the WSL Big Wave World Tour. The Mexican Pipe is an intense open beach break that resembles South Straddie's TOS but quadruple that, and you have one of the heaviest and biggest beach break waves in the world.
Eventual winner, South Africa's Grant Baker dominated the Puerto Escondido challenge culminating in a perfect 10 ride during the final. The 43-year-old former Big Wave world champion woke up smiling on finals day when greeted with the 10 metre-plus swell.
"When I woke up and saw it was my favourite size for Puerto, I was so happy," said the former Big Wave world champion of 2013/14.
The top big wave chargers were faced with enormous and difficult beach break conditions. A solid 10 metre-plus swell from the South Pacific delivered massive surf over two days for the inaugural BWT event at the exceptionally powerful beach break.
The humble South African from Cape Town showcased technical and precise surfing throughout the final. Baker captured early control over the field and continued to solidify his lead with incredible rides. Locking in multiple excellent-range scores, it was the perfect 10, awarded for escaping a massive tube, that solidified his victory. Baker's final combined score was an impressive 27.50 out of a possible 30.
"I've been coming here for 20 years and I love it," said the proud father who dedicated his win to his wife and new-born baby. Baker came into the event as an injury wildcard and his winning performance has set him up as the number one seed for 2016/2017 BWT.
Baker's fellow finalists represent the elite competitors of the big wave community, including last year's WSL Big Wave world champion Greg Long (USA) who was runner-up.
Brazilian teenager Pedro Calado enhanced his reputation as the best teenage big wave surfer in the world with a third place, demonstrating commitment and fearlessness beyond his years when charging heavy barrels. Another former Big Wave world champion, Brazil's Carlos Burle, now 48 placed fourth in the final. Last year's BWT runner-up and 2014/15 BWT champion, Makuakai Rothman (HAW), suffered an injury 20 minutes into the final and was unable to resume competing. Rothman charged through a deep, heavy barrel, but was wiped out by a powerful wall of water.
"I just went up and over the falls, and my 10-foot-board hit me in the ribs," he said.
"Thank you to all the fans out there who make this possible for us and make it possible for us to live our dreams."
Currumbin's Jamie Mitchell dominated in the opening round with the highest heat score, a near-perfect 29.03 out of 30 points. The former 10-time Molokai to Oahu paddling champion scored a 10-point ride with a brilliant backhand tube on a monster lefthander splashed all over mainstream TV media. Mitchell was unlucky not to qualify for the final, narrowly eliminated in the semis but has well and truly established himself as one of the new big wave champions with a serious crack at a Big Wave world yitle.
The Quiksilver Punta de Lobos Challenge in Chile and the Billabong Pico Alto Challenge Peru remain in the Southern Hemisphere window with potential to run, conditions permitting, before August 31.