Last Man Standing: The Return of Hauke Walter

 He’s always been a favorite, even when he competed for the first time – and won. This year Hauke Walter from Germany became the third person to win the Cigar Smoking World Championship (CSWC) for the second time.

Closing in on three hours at the CSWC grand final in Split, Hauke Walter made sure Marcin Sakowski from Poland at the table behind him saw his cigar. With only a few left in the game, psychology always plays an important part.

“He was ahead of me the whole time,” Walter says. “So I hoped he would change techniques and lose control if he saw that the length of our cigars were similar.”

Whether Walter’s tactics worked or not only Sakowski knows, but minutes later he was out of the contest; he eventually finished in seventh place. When the cigar of the 2021 world champion Henrik Kristensson from Sweden burnt out, approximately 12 minutes later, Walter was left with the only remaining competition, Anastasia Arsenova from Kazakhstan, sitting right next to him at his table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or so he thought.

“Suddenly the judge Pierre Gustavsson told me that there was another guy left, at a different table. ‘Oh, ok,’ I said, and asked how long his cigar was.”

It didn’t matter, though. After 3 hours, 25 minutes and 10 seconds Andrey Leontiev from Belarus was out and the last man standing was Walter, for the second time. Unlike his first win in 2018, he was now able to enjoy the situation from the start. “Five years ago, I was lost for words,” Walter says, remembering the event. “It was my first year of competing and the third time ever smoking that Macanudo cigar. Since you couldn’t buy it in Germany, I wasn’t able to practice. So it took me the whole day to understand what had actually happened. This time I could enjoy the win right away.”

Despite it having been his debut in 2018, a place in the top 20 that season made him a favorite to win. Multiple three-hour performances later and five German championships in a row have kept it that way. Unfortunately, health issues have stopped him from going all the way, until now.

“In 2020, I had knee surgery, for instance, and two days after the competition, I had a heart attack. In 2022, I had a stroke two weeks before the final. But I’m fine now.”

It’s difficult to explain what makes him good, Walter says, but one thing is to never be affected by the other competitors. In other words, don’t fall for the same trick that he did to Sakowski.

“It’s like poker. You have to do your own thing.”

He also emphasizes good lighting. In order to see the glow better, skilled smokers hide the cigar in their hands.

“If the cigar doesn’t get enough air, the glow goes inside it, and that’s not good. Then you have to take more puffs and rotate the cigar so the glow goes down.” He demonstrates, holding the cigar up vertically. “It’s difficult to explain, but I always hold the glow at three or nine o’clock, if you understand what I mean.”

Twice in the final, Walther’s cigar almost went out, and he thinks the reason for the this could have been the different colored spotlights in the room, which made it harder for him to see the smoke. “It was terrible,” he laughs. “If you have a dark background, you see the smoke better, but  there were all these lights in blue, yellow, green or red.”

Making a cave with your hands also makes you feel the heat, he says. “It lets you know when to take the next puff. If there’s heat, the cigar is burning too fast.”

A good start is also important. In the first hour he doesn’t talk to anyone. He focuses only on the cigar, and he hates it. “The first 40 minutes when I can’t ash the cigar are horrible,” says Walter. “My heart’s beating at 160 beats per minute, and after that I need about 20 minutes to calm down.”

So anyone who thinks cigar smoking is about relaxing, think again.

“Normally it is,” he laughs.

After that critical first hour, Walter slowed down his smoking more and more, enabling him to keep the glow going for long enough to join exclusive company. Only Oleg Pedan and Alexander Shagai, both from Russia, have managed to win twice before, and it doesn’t exactly make him less of a favorite for next year.

“The pressure increases,” he says with another laugh. “But I think I can go all the way again.”

Since graduating with an engineering degree in surveying in 2005, Simon Lundh has preferred to follow a profession in journalism. He stumbled upon the cigar world while working for a non-governmental organization in Estelí, Nicaragua, and is now mainly making a living writing about cigars, metal music, tattoos, and travel.


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