Carlos Burle of Brazil crowned as first Big Wave World Tour champion
A new page in surfing history was written Saturday when Brazil's Carlos Burle (pictured at left) was crowned the first Big Wave World Tour champion. An intimate gathering of big wave surfers from around the world convened at the Surfing Heritage Foundation in San Clemente to celebrate the culmination of the 2009-10 Big Wave World Tour season.
The tour is the brainchild of Gary Linden, a legendary surfboard shaper and big wave rider from Oceanside, Calif. The four stops on the tour are the Quicksilver Ceremonial at Punte de Lobos in Chile, the Billabong Pico Alto contest in Peru, the Mavericks Contest in Half Moon Bay, Calif., and the Todos Santos contest at Killers, near Ensenada, Mexico.
The winner is determined by contest rankings and wave size. Burle was the only contender who placed in all four events, with a fifth place in Chile, second in Peru, fifth at Mavericks and fourth at Todos Santos.
The top seven surfers included Santa Cruz's Peter Mel and Shane Desmond, Hawaii's Mark Healey, South Africa's Grant Baker and Chris Burtish and Greg Long from San Clemente. Burle took home a $5,000 prize from the event, which was sponsored by Jim Beam Bourbon. The championship was not Burle's first time making big wave surfing history. He also won the first big wave contest at Todos Santos in 1998. Linden was unable to find sponsorship to make the four-stop tour a reality in the years that followed, but after more than a decade of big dreams and hard work, Linden pulled off the tour this year during a historic El Nino season, which saw some of the biggest swells in a decade.
Burle was humble in accepting the award, telling the crowd, "What I'm getting tonight doesn't belong to me. It's not mine, it's not ours. It belongs to the sport."
The tour marks a significant step toward professionalizing the sport, allowing new opportunities for big wave surfers to compete on a regular basis. "We are making history," Burle told the crowd. "Keep raising the bar," he asked of his friends. "What we do is the biggest and most stressful thing in the world. I'm so happy at the age of 42 to paddle with you guys."
Said Linden after the ceremony: "The first phase of the dream is complete. But to relax is momentary. I'll never relax. We have more work to do. Now we have to keep it going. We created something, now we have to build it into what we want it to be and that's going to be the real work -- maintaining."
While sponsorship has traditionally been an obstacle, this year Linden realized that his field of dreams would have to be built first before money came in. "I realized that I didn't need sponsorship to build a product -- once I had a product I could attract sponsors."
The tour has no official sponsors for the 2010 season, but the surfers are not deterred as they prepare for the first contest in Chile, the waiting period for which lasts from April 1 to May 31.
-- Sachi Cunningham
Photo credit: Sachi Cunningham / Los Angeles Times