The big-wave surfing world descended upon Puerto Escondido in Mexico for the first contest of the Big Wave Tour today. And with Tropical Storm Irwin and the remnants of Tropical Storm Hilary pulsing a major amount of swell in the Pacific Ocean, the 2017 Puerto Escondido Challenge did not disappoint.
In what would have been one heck of a story, Australian Jamie Mitchell battled a broken sternum to leading the final with less than four minutes left. Mitchell had broken his sternum earlier in July at Puerto Escondido during a large swell. Miraculously he was not only able to surf the contest today, but he stormed his way through the entirety of the event to shine through and hold a lead for the majority of the final.
And then Maui’s Kai Lenny nabbed an 8.60 with three-and-a-half minutes left, bottom-turning into a house-sized barrel and coming out cleanly. The wave gave the 24-year-old Lenny his first-ever Big Wave Tour victory.
“I can’t believe it, I’m so stoked,” he said after being chaired up the beach. “That was awesome. I knew I needed a good score, because Jamie got one. It was hard to get one because it was so shifty. The one I was waiting for came and as soon as I came out [of the barrel] I knew I had it, because I was just getting pounded all day. I can’t believe it.”
While Lenny’s last minute heroics stole the show, fellow big-wave surfer Greg Long (who was dealing with his own knee injury today and did not compete) was in the booth announcing all day, heaping on the praise for Mitchell’s gutsy performance by finishing second:
“I am absolutely baffled how he is still going. I couldn’t do it. He is thriving off this now, gritting his teeth and just going through it. When this guy’s back is up against the wall is when he hones in and focuses and shines through. I’m just blown away.”
The day was full of crunching wipeouts and some big-time scores. While the Big Wave Tour shrunk down to only three events for this season, it was truly a great start at Puerto Escondido. “What a great start,” Big Wave Tour Commissioner Mike Parsons said in the webcast. “We’re really pleased this swell held in there. The swell has hung in there all day in the 25-foot range, so very happy with how the first event went.”
Lenny now takes the early lead in the rankings on the Big Wave Tour. Certainly one of the most taleneted all-around wave riders in the world, Lenny’s time as a dominant contest surfer could be just getting started.
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