Teaser: The Azores Airlines World Masters Championships
Check out words from the legends who will enter the Azores Airlines World Masters Championships taking place Sep 18 - 23.

For most professional athletes, retirement from competition tends to mean hanging up the clubs or the racket and effectively walking away from full-time pursuit of the sport which they spent decades mastering.

But surfing, of course, isn't like other sports. Unlike football or tennis or running, surfers can practice until they physically can't anymore -- or they can't find a longboard long enough. Add to that generally healthy lifestyles, and their levels of performance typically stay extremely high.

When he was competing in the CT Fabio Gouveia was afraid of surfing Pipeline, not anymore. Surfers like Brasilian Fabio Gouveia (pictured above, at Pipeline) haven't quite taken their feet off the gas in recent years. - WSL / Marcio Canavarro

That's the very reason why the Azores Airlines World Masters Championships is back, for the first time since 2011, and is set to run September 18-23, on the Atlantic shores of São Miguel, Azores. The last surfers to win the event are Nathan Webster, who won the Masters division, and Iain Buchanan, in the Grand Masters.

Iain Buchanan, Nias, Indonesia WSL Europe head judge Iain Buchanan still gets in the water every opportunity he gets. - WSL

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

This time, most competitors will discover the picture-perfect setup of Praia de Santa Barbara, a black-sand beach on the north coast of São Miguel, set against a lush green and mountainous background.

WSL Qualifying Series events have run there for almost a decade now, and the beach has produced world-class waves on occasion, to crown some of the current Top 34 athletes on their way to surfing's biggest stage.

The biggest change this year is that the event will include a women's division. Seven-time World Champion Layne Beachley and four-time Champion Freida Zamba -- two of the most successful surfers of all-time -- are among the women invited to compete.

Pauline Menczer 2002 1988 World Champion Pauline Menczer will also join the party in Azores.. - WSL / Tostee

"I'm super excited to find out that I've been invited to surf the WSL World Masters in the Azores," Zamba said. "Sao Miguel sounds like an amazing place to hold this event and I'm looking forward to competing again."

And the men's field, you ask? Just a few standouts: Sunny Garcia, Tom Curren, Mark Occhilupo in the Masters; Shaun Tomson, Wayne Bartholomew in the Grand Masters, among others.

Mark Occhilupo (AUS), Azores, 2011 Mark Occhilupo already has competing experience in the Azores, and will be a favorite to watch out for. - WSL / Laurent Masurel

Check out all photos, videos, results and of course the live stream from Azores right here from September 18-23, 2018.

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