Kemper advances to Nazare semifinals

Maui’s Billy Kemper competes during the first round of the WSL Big Wave Tour Nazare Challenge on Saturday. -- World Surf League / LAURENT MASUREL photo

Maui’s Billy Kemper advanced to the semifinals of the Nazare Challenge on Saturday as the World Surf League Big Wave Tour event got underway in Portugal.

Kemper finished second in his first-round heat with a score of 16.33. Brazil’s Lucas Chianca won the heat with a 17.63, and Oahu’s Nathan Florence also advanced with a 14.31.

The trio will take on California’s Peter Mel (15.43), Puerto Rico’s Alex Botelho (14.23) and Australia’s Jamie Mitchell (9.66) in the first semifinal.

The competition was called for the day before the last two first-round heats could be run due to dangerous conditions.

“We saw the wind come up really strong out of the NW,” Big Wave Tour commissioner Mike Parsons said. “The conditions were way too dangerous for the surfers. We went on hold to see what the conditions would do, but because we did not see a change, we have decided to pause the competition and look to finish the event tomorrow. There will still be solid swell and the forecast projects that there will be lighter winds. It was just too dangerous with the winds. The surfers could not get down the face. Their feedback was that it was way too hazardous out there.”

Alex Botelho and Jamie Mitchell drop in on the same wave. The two went on to place second and third, respectively, in their heat to advance to the semifinals. -- World Surf League / LAURENT MASUREL photo

Among those still to surf in the first round are Maui’s Kai Lenny and Ian Walsh. Lenny, Kemper and Walsh come into Nazare 1-2-3 in the BWT rankings, with Lenny having won the Puerto Escondido Challenge in July and Walsh winning the Peahi Challenge — Kemper finished fourth and second, respectively, in those events.