Brazilian Lucas "Chumbo" Chianca has claimed the Nazaré Challenge, the third event on the Big Wave Tour (BWT).
The 21-year-old was awarded one of the Performer of the Year invitations for the event by the WSL, following a scorching winter season which has seen him traverse the globe, chasing huge swells at Nazaré, Pe’ahi and Mavericks.
Perhaps the formost big-wave surfer of the world right now, he made his invite count, dominating the final to claim his first ever BWT event and become the youngest surfer to ever do so.
"I feel so good right now and I'd like to thank all the other finalists," Chianca said immediately after his win. "I was in Hawaii when I received the last minute call on Wednesday and it was such a mission to get here. However I can't believe how it has all gone down. I really don't know what to say."
Chianca was one of only 12 surfers who surfed a heat yesterday, before strong winds and a massive swell forced the organizers to postpone the event due to almost impossible conditions. When the fog lifted this morning around 8 am local time the waves had almost halved in size, yet with light winds the call was made to finish the event.
Chianca attacked the still powerful and chunky waves that often stood 20-feet high with reckless abandon, at one stage being caught underwater for two waves in a row before going on to perform radical shortboard-style maneuvers on his 10'6" big-wave gun.
Despite there not being quite the death-defying conditions that the surfers and surf fans had hoped for, Chianca's heroics and the race for the World Title still provided plenty of drama in the shifting, grey, beachbreak peaks of Nazaré.
Chianca defeated finalists Billy Kemper, Naxto Gonzalez, Kai Lenny, former BWT World Champion Grant Baker and Nathan Florence, brother of current World Champion John John Florence. The best local efforts were provided by Alex Botelho and Nic Von Rupp, who both made the Semifinals.
Kemper's second place was enough to elevate him to No. 1 on the BWT ratings, just ahead of his fellow Maui surfer Kai Lenny. With the waiting period for the last event of the tour, the Mavericks Challenge, closes on February 28, Kemper now has an anxious 17-day wait to see if he claims his first ever BWT World Title. If conditions aren't right at Mavericks and the event doesn't run, Kemper will be the new World Champ. If Mavericks does go, it will be the title decider.
"I'm over the moon right now, I came here to make the final and am thankful and stoked to be at the top," Kemper said afterwards. "I took it wave-by-wave and heat-by-heat and and it has paid off," he continued, before thanking the people of Portugal and the locals of Nazaré in particular for the warm welcome they had given all the big-wave surfers.
However the World Title aside, this was a day that very much belonged to Chianca. It was fitting then that it is was in Nazaré that he announced himself as a potential future World Champion. He first came here in October 2016 and under the mentorship of Brazilian big-wave legend Carlos Burle began his quest to be the best big-wave rider in the world. The improvement and commitment in that short time has been incredible and at just 21 the scope for further advances seems limitless.
"I want to be the best big-wave rider I can be," he said after the win. "That is what I have dedicated my life to." It was his first win. It's unthinkable that it will be his last.
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