Brazilian big-wave hellman Carlos Burle (right) just won the Billabong Pico Alto in Peru–the second stop of the four- event 2012 Big Wave World Tour (BWWT)–in 35- to 40-foot surf.
But did anyone notice? For that matter, does anyone care?
I certainly do, and so should you.
Big wave contests matter for a number of reasons, not least of which is that they showcase the latest exploits of surfing’s lunatic fringe–surfers operating on the edge and pushing boundaries every time they enter the lineup on a huge day.
Big wave events provide the sort of heart-stopping, lump-in-throat moments that resonate with both the most hardcore and casual fans of surfing. Events like the U.S. Open of Surfing serve a purpose and they generate an energy all their own, but the two hardly compare in terms of blood-pumping drama. One is manufactured, the other primal.
Sadly, another season of the Big Wave World Tour is going by virtually unnoticed. The Billabong Pro Tahiti, by comparison, is a virtual press blitzkrieg with daily surf reports and morning updates for an event that will most likely be run in less-than-death-defying 3- to 5-foot surf at Teahupoo. It’s time for the ASP to step up and partner with the BWWT. I’d even advocate combining the two tours into one. A pro tour with events at Snapper and Mavs–now that would produce a real World Champion.
That being said, this year’s Pico Alto event did not disappoint.
Pico Alto carries a rich contest tradition (the Peruvian Invitationals were held here in the 1960s and were well attending by the best international surfers of the time) and is considering one of the original big-wave venues in the Southern Hemisphere.
The wave itself is sort of a cross between Todos Santos in Baja, California, and Mavericks in Central California, featuring a steep, peaky take off and a long righthand wall. This year’s grey backdrop and dark green water add to the Mavs comparison.
By the time the final rolled around, 35- to 40-foot beasts were consistently hitting the shelf at Pico, providing plenty of opportunities for the international crew gathered for the contest (many of whom were pinballing around the globe chasing swells like steel balls in a Japanese pachinko machine, bouncing from Chile to Mexico to Peru all in a matter of days).
In the end, it was the stout Brazilian taking top honors, just nipping San Clemente’s Greg Long in second, and Santa Cruzer Kenny “Skindog” Collins in third (Skindog also copped a broken nose for all his hard work; he was the victim of a nasty face-to-board collision in which his 9’6″ came out on top).
Photo courtesy Red Bull