THE World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour (BWT) has issued a green alert for the Nazaré Challenge in Nazaré, Portugal to run on Friday, November 16, 2018 – meaning Ulladulla’s Russell Bierke will officially make his BWT debut.
The large WNW swell headed toward the region continues to look favourable and the big wave competitors will now make preparations for the event start.
"We've officially issued a Green Alert to run the Nazaré Challenge on Friday, November 16," WSL Big Wave Tour Commissioner Mike Parsons said.
"The conditions we've been closely tracking still look favourable for Friday.
“We hope to see epic waves for the surfers to paddle into in the 25-35-foot face range.
“The swell and the winds are expected to all come together and be very clean to kick off the Big Wave Tour season."
Praia do Norte (North Beach) in Nazaré, Portugal is a big wave break notorious for its powerful waves and dangerous speeds.
The world-famous venue that will host Friday’s competition has produced the biggest waves in the world, including the Guinness World records titles for the men’s and women’s largest waves ever surfed.
The third edition of the Nazaré Challenge will see the world’s best battle the infamous break that has long been considered inaccessible to paddle-in-surfing.
The men’s field will consist of fearless chargers, such as defending event winner Lucas "Chumbo" Chianca (Brazil), reigning Big Wave Tour Champion Billy Kemper (Hawaii), and renowned waterman Kai Lenny (Hawaii).
“I’ve been doing some big wave training and feeling out some new boards,” Lenny said.
“With Nazaré looming, you have to be ready and feel comfortable on big boards.
“Nazaré is usually too big and we are waiting for a swell that is not 100 feet so we can paddle it.
“If I catch a really big wave, I might as well do some really big turns.
“Nazaré is not really the most ideal place for turns. It is more survival.
“Just survive. Just trying to prepare myself mentally.
“If you go to Nazaré, you will probably get smoked no matter what, so you have to be prepared.”
Jamie Mitchell (Australia), the 2016/2017 Nazaré Challenge winner, has been recovering from a shoulder injury to be ready to compete on this season’s BWT.
The Australian feels ready to tackle the giant waves and push the boundaries with the goal to claim a second event win.
“Nazaré is a crazy wave; you don’t ride it, it rides you,” Mitchel said.
“Nazaré is a relatively new wave and the boundaries keep getting pushed here.
“The biggest wave ever surfed has been at Nazaré and the whole community is right behind the big wave community, so it’s a special place for sure.
“I’m coming off a shoulder surgery this summer and have worked hard to be ready for the Big Wave Tour, so it would be special to do well again here.
“I am jumping on a plane, heading over there now and am excited that we are on.”
Rodrigo Koxa (Brazil), the new record holder for the biggest wave ever surfed, which measured 80 feet (23.77 meters) at Nazaré, will compete in his first ever Big Wave Tour event.
All eyes will be on the accomplished surfer to see if he can achieve similar record-breaking feats without towing in on a jet ski and instead only paddling in with arm-strength.
Bierke will make his debut in heat two against Hawaii’s Ian Walsh, Great Britain’s Tom Lowe, United States’ Will Skudin, Portugal’s João De Macedo and Brazil’s Rodrigo Koxa.
2018/2019 Nazaré Challenge round one matchups:
Heat one: Billy Kemper (HAW), Lucas Chianca (BRA), Greg Long (USA), Nathan Florence (HAW), Francisco Porcella (ITA), Antonia Silva (PRT)
Heat two: Ian Walsh (HAW), Tom Lowe (GBR), Will Skudin (USA), Russell Bierke (AUS), João De Macedo (PRT), Rodrigo Koxa (BRA)
Heat three: Kai Lenny (HAW), Jamie Mitchell (AUS), Natxo Gonzalez (EUK), Jojo Roper (USA), Pedro Calado (BRA), Andrew Cotton (GBR)
Heat four: Makuakai Rothman (HAW), Alex Botelho (PRT), Grant Baker (ZAF), Nic Lamb (USA), Nic von Rupp (PRT), João Guedes (PRT)