Nazare has lost some weight.
“It’s my first BWT event and, I’ll be honest, the one I was least looking forwards too,” Russell Bierke told Tracks. Since Nazare was 40-foot today and detonating pyramid shaped asteroids up and down its flatpacked sand, that was no surprise.
Bierke had arrived last week to surf the Portuguese behemoth for the first time and was promptly annihilated after fading into a 60-footer. Last night his old man Russell rocked up. It was not only his first time to Nazare, it was his first ever trip to Europe. I asked him what he thought of the lineup. He just looked at me confused.
Today however his 21-year-old son proved that even with little experience of the world’s most rookie-devouring wave he is already one of surfing’s best big wave riders. His Finals finish came despite a broken pinkie finger sustained in Round 1and a series of beatings that should have wrenched that mullet and blonde mustache clear off his face.
“I am just so stoked I came here last a week and got to feel the place out. Heats are different though. On my first wave I was so late and I would have probably never taken that in a free surf. However with each heat I gained more experience. I surfed three (heats) today and I’m hoping I can get through a few more next time.
It was of course Twiggy Baker, at 45 and a ten-year veteran of the BWT, who showed what Nazare experience gets you. Having done a few winters here he also arrived in Nazare with his wife and child six weeks ago and has surfed every day since. As the youngsters like Bierke, Gonzalez and Chianca pushed deeper and deeper, Twiggy held his ground and eventually rode one of the biggest waves of the day in the Final.
“That wave that came to me in the Final I had been waiting for, for a long time,” said Baker. “It came straight to me and capped a perfect day.” In many ways perhaps the biggest winner was Nazare itself. So long derided as a fat burger that doesn’t match anything like Jaws and Mavericks as a big wave destination, today it showed its true potential. It wasn’t fat. It was lean and mean.
Natxo Gonzalez, Lucas Chianca and Joao De Macedo all claimed legitimate 30-foot-face barrels as the optimum size, the perfect wind and 24 of the hardest chargers on the planet combined to make it compelling. Every heat was stacked with waves and the live experience even managed to get this jaded, cynical hack hooting with the pure drama of it all.
“When I drove over the hill and saw the waves I was like aagggghhhh, this is it, this is perfect,” Santa Cruz charger Nic Lamb said. “I was so grateful to surf these waves. I fucking love this place.”
After today I’m inclined to agree. It would be interesting to hear what you thought.