Azores: an Atlantic archipelago blessed by spectacular waves | Photo: Poullenot/WSL

The Azores Airlines World Masters and Grand Masters Championships will bring back legends of surfing to crown world champions in the above-45 and above-55 divisions.

These events were held for the last time in Rio de Janeiro in 2011, crowning Nathan Webster and Iain Buchanan.

This time, most competitors will discover a completely new destination as the 2018 edition will bring some of the most successful surfers of all time to the idyllic Azores archipelago, and specifically the island of Sao Miguel, in Portugal.

"It's going to be a highly competitive event, all the guys are still ripping. I try to surf everyday wherever I am. I'm feeling at a good level and anyone can win on the day," Buchanan said.

"It's an honor just to be invited to be in the Masters, and very special to be able to compete in the Azores, with the surfers who have shaped and created the history of our sport."

The picture-perfect black-sand beach of Praia de Santa Barbara on the north coast of Sao Miguel has hosted Qualifying Series events for almost a decade now, and has produced world class waves to crown some of the current Top 34 athletes on their way to surfing's biggest stage.

With reduced formats and a six-days waiting period, event officials will have the chance to really opt for the best conditions possible to run the competition.

The biggest change in 2018 is that the Azores Airlines World Masters Championships will include a women's division, inviting six competitors to fight for a first-ever women's Masters Title.

Azores: a unique surfing island | Photo: Poullenot/WSL

Seven-time world champion Layne Beachley and four-time world champion Frieda Zamba will highlight the women's field in Azores.

"I'm super excited to find out that I've been invited to surf the WSL World Masters in the Azores," said Freida Zamba, the Floridian world champion between 1984 and 1988.

"Sao Miguel sounds like an amazing place to hold this event and I'm looking forward to competing again."

And the men's field won't disappoint either with the likes of Sunny Garcia, Tom Curren, Mark Occhilupo in the Masters, Shaun Tomson and Wayne Bartholomew in the Grand Masters among others.

"I've never been to the Azores before so it's a great opportunity for me to visit a new surf region and test my shapes which I'm now working on to get the best out of my old carcass," adds Simon Anderson, the legendary Australian surfer who introduced the "Thruster" three-fin setup in the 1980s.

"I'm treating the Azores Masters like it's the old days getting ready for a WSL event, trying a variety of shapes and styles of board to find some magic that'll work at the contest."

The Azores Airlines World Masters and Grand Masters Championships are scheduled from September 18-23, 2018 at Praia de Santa Barbara, Sao Miguel, in the Azores Islands.

Azores Airlines World Masters and Grand Masters Championships | List of Athletes

Men Masters
1. Martin Potter (GBR)
2. Sunny Garcia (HAW)
3. Gary Elkerton (AUS)
4. Damien Hardman (AUS)
5. Derek Ho (HAW)
6. Tom Curren (USA)
7. Mark Occhilupo (AUS)
8. Luke Egan (AUS)
9. Dave Macaulay (AUS)
10. Fabio Gouveia (BRA)
11. Shane Beschen (USA)
12. Joao Alexandre (PRT)

Women Masters
1. Layne Beachley (AUS)
2. Pam Burridge (AUS)
3. Pauline Menczer (AUS)
4. Rochelle Ballard (HAW)
6. Frieda Zamba (USA)
5. Jodie Cooper (AUS)

Men Grand Masters
1. Shaun Tomson (ZAF)
2. Wayne Bartholomew (AUS)
3. Michael Ho (HAW)
4. Cheyne Horan (AUS)
5. Hans Hedemann (HAW)
6. Glen Winton (AUS)
7. Simon Anderson (AUS)
8. Buzzy Kerbox (HAW)
9. Iain Buchanan (NZL)

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