If it feels like 21-year-old Lucas “Chumbo” Chianca came out of nowhere recently, well, it’s because he kind of did. In under three years, he’s gone from a little-known Brazilian with a passion for large surf, to one of the most entertaining surfers in the world at Mavericks, Jaws and Nazaré — the big three of big-wave surfing today.
In an interview with us earlier this year, Chumbo said: “I think big-wave surfing is not just about surviving the wave, but actually riding the wave. For me, I see Mavericks like a big J-Bay. I can ride the wave, I can do maneuvers, I can pass sections. I can really ride the waves.”
Apparently, it’s not just Mavs where Chumbo takes his progressive approach. In the final at Nazaré, he threw his 10-foot surfboard into the lip of a 10-foot wave, floating the section the same way you or I might at our local beachbreak. With that floater, Chumbo took out the final, becoming the youngest surfer to win an event on the Big Wave Tour.
We caught up with Chumbo—still in Portugal, awaiting the next swell—to find out just what in the hell he was thinking on that wave, and how he’s feeling about it all today.
How does it feel to be the youngest surfer to win a BWT event?
No way! I'm the youngest? Super stoked. I'm even more stoked than before now [laughs]. Things happened so fast. It was just like, boom, and I won the contest.
How much experience did you have surfing out at Nazaré prior to the event?
My first time was in October of 2016, but I've surfed it many times since then. It's such a special place. The first time I came over was when I started working with [Carlos] Burle, and after that first trip we started searching out every swell: When it's good to paddle, when it's good to tow…and since we've been here so much I feel really comfortable in the water out there. And that helped me get some really good waves in the comp.
Do you prefer to paddle or tow at Nazaré?
I like both, depending on the day, but I love to tow Nazaré. I'm still here, actually, because there's another big swell coming on Friday. I just love this place. I can train with the ski, train with the tow boards, train with my big paddle boards. This is one of the most special places for me because I can ride every kind of board and train for every kind of surfing. That definitely helped me in the contest. Not many guys in the contest spend as much time surfing here.
With finals day being smaller than what I'm sure you hoped for, you turned to performance surfing on a 10-foot board. Was that the biggest floater you've ever done? And what were you thinking?
I think so [laughs]. I was sitting right there, waiting for that wave, and when I took off I knew I needed to do something to get more points. When I saw the lip starting to break, I just thought, "OK, I'm gonna do something here." I pushed my 10'2″ up into the lip and started sliding. It got windy and I felt myself drop so far back onto the wave. It felt sooooo good. I just went for it and it happened. I've never done a floater in big waves like that. It wasn't a big, big wave, but 10-foot is still big [laughs]. Especially at Nazaré. You get so pounded out there. You never know what it's going to be like. That floater was so special. It won me the contest and everyone is talking about it now.
You've been a standout in big waves everywhere these past couple of years. I've seen photos of you at Jaws and Mavs on back-to-back days. How do you prepare, mentally and physically, to be able to stay switched on during those runs of swell?
I'm so glad to have Burle with me. Carlos is my mentor and we work together always. With him, I feel so comfortable. He makes me more calm and more relaxed, and together we search for the right swells with the right conditions, for both paddling and tow. Earlier this year, after my injury [Chianca broke his ankle in July] — which is why I missed the contest at Puerto Escondido— we started training so much. I knew I couldn't be the world champ but I wanted to earn the Performance of the Year award. I didn't want to get second again. So we just started picking the right swells, but not going everywhere, so that we wouldn't get too tired. But we got some really good days this year at Nazaré, Mavericks and Jaws. I got a magic wave at Mavs, some bombs at Jaws, and I trained so hard at Nazaré. I'm enjoying it so much. Nazaré feels like a second home.
If you had to choose between the three [Mavs, Jaws and Nazaré], what's your favorite big wave?
My favorite wave is Mavericks. That's the best big wave to ride. But my favorite spot to be, and to stay, and to train, is Nazaré. This is where I get the most out of big waves.
There are two weeks left in the 2017/2018 season for the final comp at Mav's. But it doesn't look like it's going to run. If it doesn't, what are your plans for this year?
I'm staying in Nazaré for now, waiting for the next swell. Then I'm gonna fly back to Brazil and work on my media and my sponsors. I don't have any sponsors yet. But if a big swell happens anywhere, I'm gonna fly there, for sure. For now, since I don't have a sponsor, I'm just spending all my money doing everything I can to hunt big waves.