Nazaré was doing its beast mode thing last Friday. Seb Steudtner, Mick Corbett, Ross Clark Jones and friends went to pull the dragon’s tail.
Nazaré was doing its beast mode thing last Friday. Seb Steudtner, Mick Corbett, Ross Clark Jones and friends went to pull the dragon’s tail.
Photos courtesy Rip Curl
After a whirlwind 2016 in which Mick had a close encounter with a shark at Jeffrey’s Bay, separated from his wife and lost a brother, he decided it was time to take a sabbatical from the world tour. It was time to reset, get back to the basics and get to know himself again. He spent the year travelling the globe, venturing to places he’d only dreamed of in the past… During that time, it only made sense that he returned to his roots – the land of the Irish. Because as you’re reading this, he’s facing one of the hardest choices of his life – will he return to tour in 2017, or will he hang up his jersey forever?
Remember the Comfortably Numb trip? Where we went to a frozen northern land androde glacier waves and real waves, too? That happened right after Mick walked off thebeach at Bells Beach. He was missing Margarets, starting his sabbatical because, as Iwrote in that story, “After a rollercoaster 2015 that included contest wins, a shark attack,a marital separation and the death of his brother amidst a world title race, he figured hehad met his drama limit for the decade.”
The year off was supposed to be an exploration, of himself and life outside a jersey, tosee if competition was still quenching his surfing thirst. Or, if it was maybe time to retireand do something new — video trips, make beer, save the elephants
After Comfortably Numb, I would have bet big money that he wouldn’t retire. He’d betoo bored, I thought. And the structure that contests provide cannot be overstated — theonly thing worse than having to be somewhere is having nowhere to be at all. How manyfreesurf trips could he go on? Mick is a competitor. Didn’t he have more to accomplishon tour? Another world title, perhaps?
But today, here in Ireland, I’m not so sure. After seven days, 950 miles, 10 surfs, 43drinks, eight Irish sing-alongs, and a few heart-to-hearts, I must say, he seems genuinelycontent. So, what is next for Mick Fanning? What direction will he travel in 2017?Forward — and that’s about all we can say for sure.
People probably look at it and think it was last year that prompted this [year off] when it actually wasn’t. It was something that had been building for two or three years, and I think that the events from last year were the final nail in the coffin. Like, “Just take a break, go do you for a minute. Fill up your fun tank.” Because I got to the end of and, once I finally got home from Pipe, I just had nothing. I was totally empty.
I often try and help other people because I always feel like I’m in a place where I can do that, but this time, I couldn’t even pick myself up. Something had to change. Just to be out of the spotlight and outside of my comfort zone, be in places where I wasn’t getting looked at. Because it felt like people were looking at me going, “Is he OK?” They don’t always have to say something, you can just tell by how people are looking at you. And I don’t need to be reminded of it everyday, because I am thinking of it anyway. But when you walk down the street in Dublin and not a soul knows who you are, you’re just a passing person. And that’s really refreshing.
It’s our first morning in Ireland and Mick’s doing 75 mph along a narrow, windy, stone-walled road. It’s 5am. Still dark. We’re driving three hours to a wave-rich region in the north, trying to get there at first light. Mick handles the oversized van with a confidence he brings to most things he does in life. I feel safe. I doze for a bit. I awake to Mick’s voice.
“How’d you guys sleep?” He asks us (photographer Corey Wilson, filmer Nick Pollet and me). We’re on a wider road now, and the first light of day is forming a dim dome to our east.
We all slept fine.“I had the weirdest dream,” he says.“What was it?” I ask.“I was at a comp, I don’t know where the event was, it felt like a city, New York or something,” he takes a sip from his water bottle. “I don’t know if I lost the heat or what, all I knew was that I had to get out of there. Just grab all my stuff and leave. But every time I went back to my locker there was something more to clear out. Obviously there were boards and wetsuits, but then there were like, [dress] suits and other luggage, just weird stuff that I would never take to the beach. I just wanted to sneak out and disappear, but cameras kept following me and I was like, ‘Just go away…’”
A clear message from his subconscious? Entertaining nonsense that I’ll interpret for this story’s benefit? Regardless, the relative anonymity that Mick’s experienced has certainly been a perk of his year off. More space to live and think and grow, uninterrupted.
As we analyze Mick’s dream, the sun creeps skyward and the Irish pastures turn from black to a vibrant green. In the grass: cows lie down, horses graze, sheeps are spray painted with double digits, a crude form of livestock ID. Going ‘round a round about, Mick sees a white horse. We stop to pet it. Do we still have that apple in the van? We do.Mick feeds the white horse the green apple and we get back in the car. We drive.
Gearoid Mcdaid, local ripper and Mick’s newly minted Rip Curl teammate, meets us at aleft slab. There are a few guys out, a few guys checking it, and the waves are absolutely pumping. Four-to-six-feet and perfectly groomed tubes. We watch two sets, suit up and paddle out.
Mick chats with the ever-expanding local pack and only goes for one out of every 30waves or so. When he commits, nobody else paddles, and he gets deep backside barrels across a shallow reef. On land, a trickle of humans has turned into a flood, and dozens of people line the cliff, watching. Gearoid will later say he’s never seen so many people there.
I am the first one out of the water, and as I change from my suit, I see a car racing down the residential street. The driver slams his breaks and reverses, parallel parking like avalet on New Year’s Eve. He jumps out, slams his door and runs — literally runs —toward the cliffs. When he passes me, as if to justify his haste, he says, “Heard Mick Fanning’s out there.”
That time and appreciation doesn’t stop with family. He Face times with friends from the road. He takes selfies with randoms on the street. He promotes other people’s agendas on his social accounts. Friends, acquaintances, strangers — they are all approached with respect, patience and intrigue. As 12-year-old Sabre Norris said on her Instagram,“Sometimes, when I ask adults questions they talk to me like I’m a baby. Mick never does. He talks to me like I’m an adult and gives me proper answers.” His ability to make someone’s day is as honed as his frontside carve and, dozens of times everyday, Mick has the opportunity to exclude or include, and he almost always includes. That’s rare for anyone, and nearly unheard of for someone with any inkling of fame.
It is this ability to effortlessly connect with people that makes me question his return to tour. Because sure, he has a family of a couple hundred people that he sees on the CT, but there are 7.4 billion people on earth. That’s a lot of selfies to take. A lot days to make.
Jamie Mitchell. Photo: © WSL / Laurent Masurel
Jamie Mitchell (AUS) has claimed the World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour (BWT) Nazaré Challenge in historic fashion with the iconic Portuguese underwater canyon delivering massive 35-foot-plus waves for the world’s best big wave surfers.
“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.
Nic Lamb Photo: © WSL/Arrieta
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
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
Tom Butler. Photo: Masurel/WSL
Tom Butler, one of UK’s most talented big wave surfers gave it an amazing go... but was taken out by a monster of a wave and ended up in hospital, reportedly with water in his lungs… we wish you all the best and a speedy recovery Tom.
MAD DOGS is a 75 min documentary about 3 pioneer surfers (Danilo Couto, Marcio Freire and Yuri Soledade) who have risked their lives for years, to prove to the world that it was possible to paddle surf in JAWS and we think this doc is a key moment in Big Wave history. The film is now available on itunes.
Billy Kemper (HAW) and Paige Alms (HAW) have claimed victory at the World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour (BWT) Pe’ahi Challenge after a thrilling day of competition in 30-foot-plus surf that saw Kemper take back-to-back event wins and Alms become the first ever WSL Women’s BWT Champion.
Kemper and ratings leader Grant Baker (ZAF) shared a wave to open up the Final, with Baker getting the best of the exchange. Reigning BWT Champion Greg Long (USA) followed quickly on the second wave of the set and took the advantage with an excellent 8.83. Long backed up his first score on one of the bigger waves of the day with another excellent ride for 8.93. Kemper pulled into a barrel at the halfway mark to earn a perfect 10 and take the lead from Long and push Baker into third place, despite an excellent 8-point ride from the South African for a late drop. A final attempt from Nic Lamb (USA) moved him up into fourth place over Pedro Calado (BRA) and Will Skudin (USA) who finished in fifth and sixth place respectively. Kemper held the lead through the remainder of the heat and closed the Final with a 9.07 for pulling into a deep pit and sealing his second consecutive win at Pe’ahi. The result sees Kemper move up nine places to No. 4 on the BWT rankings while Baker retains the ratings lead with only two possible events remaining on the 2016/17 season.
“I’ve trained so hard for the last eight weeks,” Kemper said. “I feel 100% this year and I didn’t last year. I’m over the moon and I just surfed with a few of my heroes and pioneers of this sport – Greg (Long) and Twiggy (Grant Baker). I didn’t know I was winning so I just went for it on that last wave. This is what I live for right right here. I’ve put a lot of work and effort into this and thank you to everyone that’s ever supported me. Thanks again for putting on such a wonderful event.”
“This year has been totally different for me,” continued Kemper. “I’ve never felt this good in my life and I came here to win again and I did. I feels good to win here. I grew up here – this is my back yard and my blood, sweat and tears. It’s a blessing to have a Big Wave event here at home. My hard work and dedication has paid off!”
Paige Alms (HAW) has become the first ever Women’s Big Wave Tour Champion after taking a commanding victory in the Final of the Pe’ahi Challenge.
The world’s best female big wave surfers made history today as 12 individuals took to the water to compete in a WSL Big Wave Tour event for the first time ever and contest for the maiden women’s title in heavy conditions at Pe’ahi.
The Final saw Alms, Justine Dupont (FRA) and Felicity Palmateer (AUS) take to the water for a 60 minute match-up. Finalists Keala Kennelly (HAW), Emily Erickson (HAW) and Laura Enever (AUS) were unable to compete after sustaining injuries in Round 1. Dupont led the charge, opening her account with a 3.17. Alms was close behind in second place for the opening half of the heat until she found an incredible wave and took off with perfect positioning and was rewarded with 6.00 and the lead. The Hawaiian continued to dominate the heat, putting it all on the line with another impressive ride for a 7.83, one of the day’s top scores. Dupont tried to fight back but it wasn’t enough, and she finished the event as runner-up with Palmateer taking third place.
“I still feel like that was a dream, I can’t quite believe it,” said Alms. “What a blessing to be out there with just a couple of girls, that was very special. The support feels so good and it’s so cool to have all my friends here and do this at home. This has been a dream to have an event for the women here. To have an empty lineup is a real blessing, win or lose. A few of the girls got hurt and I’m bummed that they weren’t out there with us but they’ll be back for more. I hope we get more opportunities so thank you WSL, this was really big.”
Before the Women’s Final got underway Baker opened Men’s Semifinal 1 with a 4.67. He backed this up with a 4.17 in the closing minutes to move up into third place and earn his place in the Final. Reigning WSL Champion Long took an early lead in the bout with a 5.83 and found his second wave and his first left of the day to advance to the Final. Kemper pulled into huge barrel that shut down on him but he was rewarded for his commitment and finished the heat in second place. CT charger Josh Kerr (AUS) finished in sixth place after opening with a smooth ride for 4.07. On the hunt for a place in the Final Kerr went after another score and was rewarded with an intense wipeout and a broken board. Kai Lenny (HAW) and Cristian Merello (CHL) were also eliminated after finishing in fourth and fifth place respectively.
“I’m notorious for only catching one wave so I figured I’d break the curse and ride two,” said Long. “It’s fun and when the sets come they’re plenty big. It’s big and it’s dangerous out here and can give you the worst wipeouts of your life. There’s no safe, easy way of surfing out here!”
Lamb opened Semifinal 2 with a bang and a 7.17 for a critical drop and took a healthy lead over his competitors. Lamb maintained control of the heat from start to finish to earn his place in the Final. Callado, held second place with a 12.67 heat total for two solid waves while Skudin took third place to edge through to the Final ahead of Hawaiians Yuri Soledade (HAW), Aaron Gold (HAW) and Shaun Walsh (HAW).
“I was actually considering not surfing but when Jaws runs it will take more than an injury to keep me away,” said Lamb. “This place is incredible and I’m stoked to be here. It’s all reaction at this point. The preparation and training have been done so I’m just here to have fun. I didn’t surf yesterday because I thought I’d save it all for today and go all out.”
Following the conclusion of Men’s Round 1 Kennelly was first to put a score on the board in the opening heat of Women’s Round 1, with a 6.83 and the lead. Kennelly left the lineup for medical attention following after suffering a knee injury. Despite this, Kennelly held on to her first place position. Dupont took second place thanks to a 2.83. With ten minutes remaining Dupont found a backup score on a smaller wave to secure her place in the Final. Erickson also suffered a heavy wipeout early on in the heat and was also forced to withdraw. Silvia Nabuco (BRA) remained scoreless and was eliminated alongside Polly Ralda (GTM) and Andrea Moller (BRA).
Round 1 Heat 2 saw current No. 10 on the WSL Women’s Championship Tour, Enever, dominate the lineup from the start of the heat and was first to attempt a ride. Despite an unsuccessful takeoff she was rewarded with a 0.74 that gave her an early advantage. Enever and Felicity Palmateer (AUS) both committed to the next wave but it was Palmateer who made the drop and earned a 5.50 for second place. Maui local Alms looked in control and at ease and posted a solid 6.17 with her first ride to claim the lead. Bianca Valenti (USA) continued to charge, despite two heavy wipeouts, but wasn’t able to find a score of significance and she finished in fourth place. A late drop from Jamilah Star (USA) moved her up into fifth place but it wasn’t enough to advance to the Final and she was eliminated from the competition alongside Tammy-Lee Smith (ZAF). Alms, Palmateer and Enever moved forward into the Final.
“That was definitely extremely challenging with so much wind,” said Alms. “I surf here all the time and the wind today is very difficult. It throws huge chops at you and puts so much air under your nose so you really have to push. I’m stoked to moved on and make it through. When the WSL announced that they were going run this event we were all ecstatic. To be able to surf my home break with just five other girls is amazing and a monumental moment.”
The opening round of the men’s competition saw it’s share of upsets with 2014/15 BWT Champion Makuakai Rothman (HAW) being eliminated after a heated battle in Round 1 Heat 3 which saw him finish in fifth place with an 11.53 heat total. Damien Hobgood (USA) and Shane Dorian (HAW) also failed to advance on in the competition after finishing in 4th and 5th place respectively in Round 1 Heat 4.
Highlights at WorldSurfLeague.com and on the WSL app.
Pe’ahi Challenge Men’s Final Results:
1 – Billy Kemper (HAW) 29.07
2 – Greg Long (USA) 26.69
3 – Grant Baker (ZAF) 22.47
4 – Nic Lamb (USA) 18.89
5 – Pedro Calado (BRA) 18.04
6 – Will Skudin (USA) 14.41
Pe’ahi Challenge Women’s Final Results:
1 – Paige Alms (HAW) 21.66
2 – Justine Dupont (FRA) 10.77
3 – Felicity Palmateer (AUS) 1.63