PUERTO ESCONDIDO, Oaxaca/Mexico (Monday, July 31, 2017) – Kai Lenny (HAW) claimed victory today at the 2017 Puerto Escondido Challenge after besting a competitive field of 24 of the world’s best big wave surfers in epic 20-to-25 foot surf at Mainland Mexico’s Puerto Escondido.
The first event of the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour (BWT), the Puerto Escondido Challenge, saw no shortage of excitement as Lenny took on the towering conditions to collect his first BWT victory. Big Wave Tour Commissioner, Mike Parsons, alongside the judging panel, gave today’s event a Bronze rating, as faces were deemed in the 20-to-25 foot category. Based on the Bronze rating, Lenny will lead the rankings with 10,000 points.
“I remember coming here last year and being super terrified because I had never been here,” said Lenny. “My goal last year was to make the Final because I missed out last time. There are so many good big wave surfers in the world that when you get called up you really feel like you have to perform and charge. My goal today was to not hold back and — when a good one came — go no matter what. It was a pleasure competing with these guys. Any one of them could have won if they got the waves and I was just grateful to get that last one in the end. It was so special. Thank you to my friends, family, and sponsors. I am super grateful right now!”
The hour-long Final witnessed multiple lead changes as Lenny, Jamie Mitchell (AUS), Tom Lowe (GBR), Billy Kemper (HAW), Trevor Carlson (HAW) and Alex Botelho (PRT) navigated the heavy beachbreak conditions. Mitchell charged out the gates to lock in two massive waves, but his incomplete rides only garnered low scores. Lenny took advantage of a solid set to earn a 6.33 (out of a possible 10) and gained the lead heading into the halfway mark. Under pressure in the second position, Mitchell flew down a steep barrel for a 7.22 to surpass Lenny’s score. With fifteen minutes left on the clock, Lowe and Kemper had also posted solid attempts, but still trailed behind Lenny and Mitchell. The dramatic Final continued all the way to the dying minutes of the heat. Lenny, still in second place, miraculously found the exit on a massive barrel for an excellent 8.60 and the win.
Jamie Mitchell (AUS) secured the runner-up position and will look forward to defending his Nazaré Challenge title going into the Northern Hemisphere window. Mitchell charged through the three critical rounds with a fractured sternum, which he suffered at Puerto Escondido a few weeks prior to this event. The Australian will now take time to recover and return even stronger to the second-half of the year.
“There are so many guys wanting to be where we are right now — they are animals,” Mitchell said. “You just go into beast mode and try to numb out the pain. All these guys are so talented. I am really stoked for Kai (Lenny). To see him win today is great. It was an amazing Final and I am stoked to be here.”
In his second time competing on the BWT, Tom Lowe (GBR) proved himself with a third place result in Puerto Escondido. Lowe, who hails from St. Ives, Cornwall in the UK, earned first in Semifinal 2 and first in his Round 1 matchup en route to his third place finish, the highest ever by an English surfer.