Stop No. 10 on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal, resumed in excellent waves again as Supertubos delivered six-to-eight foot barrels all-day for the World’s best to perform. The World Title race took an exciting turn today with five of the eight contenders bowing out early in Peniche, opening the door for John John Florence (HAW) to potentially claim back-to-back World Titles with a big finish in Portugal. Gabriel Medina (BRA) will try to play spoiler in the Hawaiian’s campaign when competition recommences as the 2014 World Champion can still push the title race to Hawaii with a win at Supertubos.
Current World No. 1 John John Florence (HAW) took on lethal wildcard Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) in Round 3 and left nothing to chance as the reigning World Champion — who was crowned in Peniche last year — operated his barrel riding magic to put two solid scores on the board early on. Ribeiro fought hard and navigated a couple of great barrels but wasn’t unable to match Florence’s impeccable wave selection and fell short of turning the heat.
“It was definitely a scary heat, there were a lot of good waves coming through and he’s a really good surfer!” Florence said. “I just wanted to be on the same peak as him when I was in priority and kind of play it safe. I was so excited, the wind was blowing into the lefts and I was going so fast on that first wave I just had to hit it. I thought for a second I had it but I landed way too much into the flats.”
Josh Kerr (AUS) landed the day’s biggest upset by eliminating current No. 2 on the Jeep Leaderboard Jordy Smith (ZAF) in their Round 3 match-up. The Australian caught a good wave in the opening minutes to post a 7.17 and take an early lead. Smith multiplied his efforts but opportunities didn’t come his way and the South African contemplated a potential end to his world title campaign as Kerr walked away with the win.
“It’d be cool to re-qualify to surf just one more event at Snapper where I grew up, but yes I’m pretty much officially done with the tour,” Kerr admitted post-heat. “I’m looking forward to doing a lot more trips and traveling with the family, we have great opportunities to turn to. My daughter really wants to do an event with me so at some point I might come out of retirement to do a QS if she’s doing the QS. I’m Jordy (Smith)’s number one fan and I really want him to win the world title so hopefully he still gets a shot at Pipe and can pull it off there.”
Gabriel Medina (BRA) is the last remaining World Title contender still going at Supertubos. As the day winded down in slower heats and lower scores, the former World Champion and recent winner in France paddled out into the sunset and put on an all time performance to keep his Portuguese campaign alive. Medina started his 30-minute bout with a near-perfect barrel ride scored 9.77 to instantly push Ethan Ewing (AUS) in a pressure situation. Freed from all pressure, the explosive goofyfoot took his act to the air and entertained the massive crowds posted on the water’s edge.
“I’m not thinking about the title, I just want to surf and I’m stoked I got some good waves in that last heat it was super fun,” Medina said. “Ethan (Ewing) is a very good surfer and I don’t think you can ever hold back in a heat. I always tried to replace and improve my backup and that’s why I went for the airs. Supertubos is hard, you can get two 9s quickly on two sets so I just tried to go big.”
In a slow match-up between current No. 5 on the Jeep Leaderboard Matt Wilkinson (AUS) and Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA), the Italian rookie got busy at the 10-minute mark to score two back-to-back barrels, the best of which on his forehand to post a 6.33 and put Wilkinson up against the ropes. The giant killer from Rome, who ended the World Title race efforts of Filipe Toledo (BRA) yesterday, continued to upset the World’s best to keep his Portuguese campaign alive.
“I’m at a point where I don’t have much to lose so I’m just going out there and waiting for good waves,” Fioravanti said. “Here in Europe, I feel really comfortable and I have so many people here supporting me. I’m just trying to go out there and have fun and if I lose it doesn’t matter.”
Fresh off his season-best result in France, an excellent quarterfinal finish, Miguel Pupo (BRA) continued his recent successful trend and once again defeated Adriano De Souza (BRA) in Round 3. Pupo already altered the former World Champion’s title race in France and definitely buried his chances today in Peniche. Despite De Souza’s catching the heat’s best wave, an incredible 9.27, Pupo stayed busy to try to improve his heat total and eventually took the win.
“When you surf against Adriano (de Souza) there’s no hesitation, you have to take every wave and make them count,” Pupo said. “I’ve worked so hard all year to get to this point, I’ve made a few heats in this European leg so let’s do it! I’m not really counting points or anything, I just really want to surf well and make my heats to show everyone I still can surf and hopefully keep my spot on tour for next year.”
Sebastian Zietz (HAW) opened his account with an insane backhand barrel on a massive set wave and came out clean to claim the second highest single-wave score of the event, a near-perfect 9.70 out of 10. As time ran out, the ocean went quiet and both Zietz and Conner Coffin (USA) scoured the lineup for smaller waves and any scoring opportunity. But eventually, the Hawaiian’s early effort became the only major wave of the heat and saw Zietz move on to Round 4.
“It was just a really perfect wave,” Zietz stated. “I saw a lot of good ones and I was so excited to get out there. The waves are absolutely pumping. The wave got a little small at the end, so I got really small to get out and I’m stoked to get a big score. Yesterday the bombs weren’t always the good ones, but today you can pretty much wait for the bigger ones and go right or left on it.”
Julian Wilson (AUS), who won his opening heat yesterday with the round’s lowest heat total of 4.97, built momentum in Round 3 to eliminate fellow Aussie Jack Freestone (AUS) and move on to Round 4. The Sunshine Coast resident, currently sixth on the Jeep Leaderboard, still has a mathematical chance to rival Florence for the 2017 World Title but will need two massive results in Peniche and Hawaii.
“It helps just to come down and feel out the swell and the waves are so nice down this morning,” said Wilson. “I was excited to get out there today, it was a fun heat and I’m so happy to make it. The forecast is so good and I’m staying with Bede (Durbidge) and he had me so pumped up. The crowds are amazing here and so passionate for the sport so it’s infectious to feed off the energy that’s on the beach.”
An extremely patient Kolohe Andino (USA) was trailing Italo Ferreira (BRA) for the most part of their Round 3 battle. Andino put two scores on the board early on and sat patiently while Ferreira surfed twelve waves to try and build house. In the dying seconds of their match-up, a good right rolled through the lineup just in time for Andino to pull in and get barreled for a buzzer-beater 7.83.
“In my mind that heat earlier when I got the 9 was what we do these events for but actually that last heat was a better feeling for me,” Andino said. “Getting a wave in the last second was really incredible. I think I claimed it about 5 times. I get inspired by baseball players — I feel like the pitching is kind of similar to the waves, you never know what you’re going to get, and their demeanor is kind of low key but pumped at the same time.”
Frederico Morais (PRT) and Connor O’Leary (AUS) both made it out of Round 3 today, to keep the Rookie of the Year race increasingly close while Joan Duru (FRA), Ian Gouveia (BRA) and Ezekiel Lau (HAW) bowed out in equal 25th in Peniche. With only one more event after Peniche, every point taken in Portugal will be crucial to claim the coveted title by year’s end.
“It was a great battle and we both managed to get some good scores, which was great,” said O’Leary “It’s been a good year from me. I had a little slump on the last two events, but I have to keep reminding myself that I’m a rookie and I have a lot to learn. I’m stoked to get a few results earlier this year so I don’t have to worry too much about the QS.”
“It was a really tough one,” Morais said of his match-up with Michel Bourez (PYF). “I’m not sure, but it feels like every time I paddle out it just gets super slow. I didn’t get any big scores, but it was a fun heat. I waited and built my scoreboard, so I’m stoked to get through.”
Surfline, official forecaster for the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal, are calling for:
Head high to slightly overhead waves leftover on Monday morning with clean conditions, but size continues to ease through the day. Fresh run of head-overhead WNW swell moves in Tuesday and continues through mid-week, while good wind conditions prevail. At this point, there are no swells of much significance lining up for the last days of waiting period (27th-31st).
Event organizers will reconvene at 7:45 a.m. (local time) tomorrow at Supertubos to assess conditions and make the first call.
For more information, check out WorldSurfLeague.com.
MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 11.66 def. Mason Ho (HAW) 6.33
Heat 2: Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) 11.20 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 10.17
Heat 3: Adriano De Souza (BRA) 12.27 def. Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 4.93
Heat 4: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 15.34 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 8.40
Heat 5: Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.24 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 8.00
Heat 6: Frederico Morais (PRT) 5.03 def. Nat Young (USA) 2.87
Heat 7: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 9.07 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 6.90
Heat 8: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 10.70 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 5.97
Heat 9: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 15.93 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 9.23
Heat 10: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 11.53 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 7.77
Heat 11: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 12.33 def. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 3.87
Heat 12: Conner Coffin (USA) 11.10 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 8.60
MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 9.76 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 5.63
Heat 2: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.10 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 4.77
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.43 def. Jack Freestone (AUS) 7.00
Heat 4: Kolohe Andino (USA) 13.96 def. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.56
Heat 5: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 15.73 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.50
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW) 14.74 def. Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) 13.73
Heat 7: Josh Kerr (AUS) 8.67 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 8.27
Heat 8: Frederico Morais (PRT) 11.00 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 8.74
Heat 9: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 11.67 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 5.27
Heat 10: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 13.54 def. Adriano De Souza (BRA) 13.24
Heat 11: Mick Fanning (AUS) 11.40 def. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 10.40
Heat 12: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.34 def. Ethan Ewing (AUS) 10.40
MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal Round 4 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITL), Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Julian Wilson (AUS)
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW), Kolohe Andino (USA), Connor O’Leary (AUS)
Heat 3: Josh Kerr (AUS), Frederico Morais (PRT), Kanoa Igarashi (USA)
Heat 4: Miguel Pupo (BRA), Mick Fanning (AUS), Gabriel Medina (BRA)