The 2018 Nazaré Pro kicked off at Praia Do Norte in the big, heavy shorebreak we associate with this world-famous beach. Portugal was on a high in 2017 after high-flying action at last year’s Nazaré Pro when local legend To Cardoso won the comp in fine style and Joana Schenker from Sagres became the first Portuguese riders to wear the world title crown in the history of surfing.
APB Tour Director Alex Leon said it’s “probably one of the best beach breaks in the world that can hold really heavy waves, which is perfect for real high-performance bodyboarding.”
Alex admits with last year’s big moves, Portuguese winners and perfect tens, it will be a tough event to eclipse. Nevertheless, the last few days of action have seen Brazillian Socrates Santana win the trials, Canarian ripper Alexandra Rinder win the Nazare Pro, and Japanese sensation Ayaka Suzuki win the APB world title. The new world title holder found it hard to believe that she was finally at the top.
“I am really really really happy. That is all.”
Recently, Ayaka returned from training at a notorious Mexican beach break in Puerto Escondido to prepare herself for the power at Praia Do Norte.
“That helped me a lot,” says Ayaka, “because when I started the World Tour they went to a lot of places where there are heavy waves, or closeout sections, or big shore breaks. I realized I got to train in a powerful break and I started traveling more and more and surfing heavy waves. I think my level got a little better.”
And get better it did. She is now the world champion.
Ayaka feels winning the world title will help bodyboarding in Japan, “In Japan, we have the Olympic Games really soon but they don’t have the bodyboard category. So, I didn’t want to push them for a bodyboard division this year but in the next one, I want to be there. That is my goal.”
What’s more, Ayaka has just become the first Japanese world champion in the history of the sport.
Ayaka’s big win means Joana Schenker from Sagres in south Portugal steps down as reigning World Champion. Similar to Ayaka, when Joana won her title in 2017, she also became the first of her country to do so.
“Last year was really funny because I didn’t think I would win the world title in the beginning of the year.” says Joana, “I started really bad in Chile but then I won Sintra, which was a huge event in points so it was a big deal winning it. And it was so crazy winning the world title at Nazaré.”
“It was really tense and the whole beach was feeling the same as me. If it was anywhere else in the world it wouldn’t feel like that. But here in Portugal, it was crazy to share that feeling. My boyfriend, Chico, was there and the whole Portuguese bodyboarding community was cheering for me. I left the beach because, you know, I didn’t want to cheer for anyone to lose. Chico went up the hill behind Praia Do Norte. But everything worked out for me.”
As for the men’s title race, Iain Campbell, PLC, Tanner McDaniel, and Jared Houston are frothing for a race that is up for grabs in the dumping shorebreak of Praia Do Norte. South Africa’s Iain Campbell – current champ and frontrunner on the men’s APB tour – has particularly enjoyed the Portuguese leg of the world tour:
“The guys here are really strong. I was super blown away by the pro juniors in Viana. [The tour] is fortunate to have a lot of up and coming really good riders, especially from Europe and from Chile.”
“It is really cool to see such a strong community of bodyboarders in Portugal,” says Tanner McDaniel. “Portugal is definitely one of the superpowers of the sport with lots of good riders coming out of here. The waves are awesome. Praia Do Norte is one of the best beach breaks I have ever surfed and one of the best waves in the world. Having a bodyboard event here is perfect, all the locals are bodyboarders so it is kind fitting.”
McDaniel didn’t have the best result here last year but this year he has a shot at the title, needing to win the contest to come out on top in the overall race.
“It is my first time being in a position to win a world title. It is a new pressure but also a new bit of excitement. I am really looking forward to the main event getting started. There is no shortage of waves on the forecast, that’s for sure. It is going to be big and it is going to be gnarly.”