The world’s best big wave surfers are counting down the days to the kickoff of the second half of the 2016/17 World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour (BWT) season. The window runs from October 15, 2016 to February 28, 2017 and will center on the unpredictable Northern Hemisphere swell cycle. With the potential to run at three of the most treacherous waves on the planet — Nazaré in Portugal, Pe’ahi in Hawaii and Todos Santos in Mexico — exceptionally courageous men and women will put all on the line to compete for the BWT World Title.
The WSL Big Wave Tour will hope to light up all three locations on the winter schedule. In order to receive the “green light,” conditions must produce waves of at least 20 feet and wave faces greater than 40 feet, at which point, competitors and alternates will have 72 hours to drop everything and race from all corners of the globe to chase the swell.
“We are excited for the start of the winter season and eager to watch the world’s best big wave surfers take on the Northern Hemisphere breaks,” said Peter Mel, former BWT Champion and WSL Big Wave Tour Commissioner. “We have added the Nazaré Challenge to this year’s Big Wave Tour alongside the Pe’ahi Challenge in Maui, Hawaii and the Todos Santos Challenge in Baja California, Mexico. The athletes charged Pe’ahi and Todos Santos last year on the Tour, and we hope Mother Nature cooperates so we can run as many events as possible this season.”
The WSL Big Wave Tour competitors consist of the Top 10 seeds from the previous WSL Big Wave Tour season, four Surfline Performers of the Year, an injury wildcard, six local invited competitors and three wildcards to be selected by the Big Wave Commissioner. There is $100,000 in prize money on the line for each Big Wave Tour event. Competitors are scored on their two best waves with the higher score doubled, in order to reward the surfer who paddles into the biggest wave.
Exciting additions of this year’s winter season include Nazaré as a stop on the Northern Hemisphere leg and an exclusive Women’s Championship Big Wave event.
“The bar was definitely raised with the historic El Niño winter last year,” continued Mel. “This year we added Nazaré to the list, so we are excited to see how the surfers push the boundaries with this new event. We have seen incredible performances from female big wave surfers as they continue to charge the biggest, heaviest waves around the world. This season the world’s best will get the opportunity to compete at either Pe’ahi or Todos Santos at the inaugural Women’s Championship event. Best of luck to all of our competitors.”
The debut of the Nazaré Challenge in Portugal will see the world’s best take on some of the heaviest waves in the world with notorious power and dangerous whitewater speeds. The infamous break has long been considered inaccessible to paddle-in-surfing, but now with a BWT event, the competitors will be put to the ultimate test.
“Nazaré commands the respect and attention of the whole world,” said BWT competitor Nic Lamb. “I’m most looking forward to putting on spectacular performances for the viewers. To prepare, I’ve upped my cardio and explosiveness. I am excited to compete alongside the best big wave surfers in the world. They bring out the best in me. I’m all in, ready to risk it big.”
A diverse lineup of the leading waterwomen have been invited to participate in the Women’s Championship event. Two Semifinals of 6 women in each heat will narrow the field, with 3 moving on from each Semifinal to the Final. The women will compete at either Pe’ahi or Todos Santos, depending on the conditions.
“I’m super stoked that the WSL is stepping it up and finally supporting the big wave women,” said Paige Alms, winner of the Women’s Best Overall Performance Award at the 2015 Big Wave Awards. “This will be an amazing event and I’m so honored to be invited. I’ve been training pretty hard to prepare and feel like when November rolls around I’m going to be in the best shape I’ve been in years. I’m beyond stoked to have an event at home with Pe’ahi as an option.”
Pe’ahi, known as “Jaws,” premiered on the BWT last winter with exceptional performances in epic conditions. All eyes will be on this venue this year to see the top ranked BWT surfers take on the monstrous conditions. Event officials will watch closely for the perfect mix of swell activity in the Western portion of the North Pacific and calm winds from the south to create ideal conditions.
“Killers,” the venue for the Todos Santos Challenge, lies 60 miles south of the US border and nine miles off the coast of Mexico. The break feeds off the violent energy of the North Pacific winter storms, yet is far enough south that it often escapes the winds that plague the local winds that play havoc with many West Coast breaks during the season.