2022/2023 La Vaca Gigante: seven-meter waves exploding in Costa Quebrada, Cantabria | Photo: La Vaca Gigante

It has been an atypical season of big waves in Europe, to say the least. From autumn to winter, few swells have arrived in the Old Continent.

And those that came did it with huge variability in the reports that complicated the organization of a surf championship that goes from 0 to 100 in 48 hours.

On this occasion, La Vaca Gigante was confirmed just 24 hours in advance, and, in retrospect, it can already be said that it was a successful call.

At noon on March 23, 2023, during the safety meeting, the waves that broke in front of the Cueto cliffs were less than two meters high.

But with the swell marching in, the tide rising, and the passing of the hours, the waves reached seven meters in height.

The show was served for the more than 5,000 people who arrived at this spectacular enclave of the Costa Quebrada in Cantabria.

First, there was a 45-minute trials round; in other words, seven local and international surfers fighting for a spot in the competition.

Nano Riego: the Cantabrian claimed the 2022/2023 La Vaca Gigante title | Photo: La Vaca Gigante

A Local Champion

The event rules are simple - each surfer had their two best waves scored based on their size and how critical the take-off or riding was.

The Ecuadorian Daniel Rangel claimed the trials' spot and joined the 17 surfers ready for the final stage.

Time passed by quickly between big waves, wipeouts, rescues, celebrations, split boards, and changes in the wind.

After three qualifying heats, the tide's sweet timing, and La Vaca bellowing, spectators anxiously awaited the final and the announcement of the €10,000 prize purse winner.

The cowboys in contention were the Brazilians Vinicius dos Santos and William Santana and the Cantabrians Nano Riego, Miguel Welsh, Michel Velasco, and Óscar Gómez Ibars.

And although the final began dominated by Brazilian big wave surfers, the Cantabrian team got their act together, and Nano Riego, with the best wave of the championship - 9.87 points - grabbed the win.

He was taken out of the water on their shoulders toward the podium accompanied by his family, where he shook the cowbell and raised the milk jug that certifies him as the king of La Vaca Gigante 2022/2023 and the big wave Spanish champion.

"Surfing is my passion, and this comes at the best time of my life," said Nano Riego.

"I dedicate it to my family, the local community, the people who have come from Nazaré and, especially, to my uncle Nando, who recently passed away."

"He has been a very important person in my family, a legend in the rowing world."

"I know that today, he has rowed with his trawler, which has pushed me very hard. I have really enjoyed this day."

2022/2023 La Vaca Gigante | Results

1. Nano Riego (CAN) - 26,97
2. Vinicius Dos Santos (BRA) - 26,56
3. William Santana (BRA) - 25,66
4. Miguel Welsh (CAN) - 18,26
5. Michel Velasco (CAN) - 17,83
6. Óscar G. Ibars (CAN) - 13,99

Best Cantabrian: Nano Riego
Best Wipeout: Nano Riego

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