The Meo Rip Curl Pro Portugal, the final European stop of the 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour, got underway today and ran through Round 1 in clean three-to-four foot (1 – 1.2 metre) surf at Supertubos. The world’s best surfers fought to avoid elimination Round 2 and advance directly to Round 3.
Current World No. 4 on the Jeep Leaderboard Jordy Smith (ZAF), 28, successfully launched his Peniche campaign with a Round 1 win over Jeremy Flores (FRA) and rookie Kanoa Igarashi (USA) to advance straight into Round 3. The winner of the Hurley Pro at Trestles suffered a shock elimination in the second round in France and will look to find his rhythm back in the hollow peaks of Portugal.
“Conditions are pretty good out there and it’s just a matter of finding the right waves, it’s really low tide and pretty much dry off your first turn,” Smith said. “Luckily enough I found a couple lefts. I found I’d have a few opportunities on a little right bank, but here you just have to adapt on the fly.”
Miguel Pupo (BRA), 24, secured the first excellent score of the day, an impressive 8.17 for a combination of a clean barrel ride and a solid forehand turn at Supertubos. Pupo sent rookie Ryan Callinan (AUS) and World No. 3 Matt Wilkinson (AUS) to elimination Round 2 while he will skip it and advance directly to the third round.
“When I was walking in the competitors area I saw Wilko (Matt Wilkinson) look at the waves down there so I sort of knew he would sit down the beach but Ryan (Callinan) and I had waves after waves and luckily I got the one with the double-up,” Pupo stated. “I feel a lot of pressure, but I’ve been in this position before and I managed to requalify. This is a wave that I love very much but I’ve never done well so this could be the year maybe. I’m trying not to rush things I think that’s what I have to do and that’s how I surfed that last heat, I waited for the waves and tried to feel the ocean.”
A Quarterfinalist in this event last year, lethal wildcard Frederico Morais (PRT), 24, resumed his quest to get the biggest scalps in pro surfing as he took down World No. 2 and former WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) and rookie Conner Coffin (USA) in a slow opening round match-up. Morais, who seriously altered Mick Fanning’s (AUS)chances of claiming a World Title in 2015 by eliminating the Australian in the third round in Peniche, could replicate his rankings shake-up if he can keep his good form going into Round 3.
“I have nothing to lose so I just surf, conditions are really hard and there are a lot of closeouts so you just need to take a lot of waves to get some good ones,” Morais said. “I want to qualify so bad but everyone knows how hard the QS (Qualifying Series) is. I’m 38th and there are three events left. I love Hawaii, the big surf, so hopefully I can do good there and maybe even qualify next year.”
Jadson Andre (BRA) delivered a shock upset in Heat 6 of Round 1 by defeating No. 1 on Jeep Leaderboard John John Florence (HAW) and sending him to elimination Round 2. Andre is currently sitting in 25th place, just outside the requalification bubble, and needs a strong result in Portugal to move up the rankings. Florence will have a rematch against wildcard Miguel Blanco (PRT) in the opening heat of Round 2 and battle to keep his chances of claiming the WSL Title in Portugal alive.
“I definitely don’t want to be in that position every year but sometimes you don’t have a choice, I had a couple of injuries at the beginning of the year that really brought me down,” Andre said. “Miguel (Pupo) and myself are the only two guys I think who have been in that situation every year for a while so we may have a little bit of an advantage. I love Portugal, I always do good here and I really hope I can win a couple more heats.”
11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater (USA), 44, was in sizzling form on the opening day of competition in Peniche and locked in the day’s maneuver, a massive forehand rotation for an excellent 9 points to take the lead. The Floridian later found some tube time on a lefthander to back up his main wave with a 6.83 and put Matt Banting (AUS) and Stuart Kennedy (AUS) in a combination situation and into Round 2.
“I was trying to find a peak down to the South I thought I saw a couple rights, I pulled in a couple of barrels on my first three waves but I realized this wasn’t going to work unless it was a straight peak and no wall,” Slater reflected. “Then I saw that right and knew there wasn’t much in it except for an air so I took as much speed as I could and hit it as late as I could and that one stuck. I took a few days for myself in France and feel relaxed now.”
Josh Kerr (AUS), 32, bested Slater to claim the day’s equal highest combined heat total of 15.90 out of a possible 20 for a Round 3 berth. Round 1 Heat 9 saw Kerr follow Slater’s scenario to the letter to belt his two best scores on a big frontside aerial and a backhand tube as well.
“The only game plan I have when there’s like little wedgy peaks like this is to just go out and have a free surf,” Kerr said. “There’s no limit to how many waves you can catch and a lot of opportunities in a lot of very different waves, barrels turns or airs so I just keep my options open.”
Top seeds Adriano De Souza (BRA), Joel Parkinson (AUS) and Italo Ferreira (BRA)all won their opening round encounters with solid scores to make their way into the third round. A runner-up last year, Ferreira took his time building house in Round 1 but managed to find two big scores in the dying minutes of the final heat to edge out Hawaiians Sebastian Zietz (HAW) and Dusty Payne (HAW).
Event organizers will reconvene at 8 a.m. (local time) tomorrow morning to assess conditions and make the next call.
Surfline, official forecast partner of the WSL, are calling for: SW/WSW swell will fade on Tuesday as new, long period W swell from Hurricane Nicole begins to filter in. W swell offers fun surf for the middle and second half of the week with generally light winds and favorable conditions. An active North Atlantic provides the potential for stronger NW/WNW windswell/swell for the weekend and into the early/middle part of next week but local winds and conditions look unfavorable for Supertubos at this point.
Meo Rip Curl Pro Portugal Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Kai Otton (AUS) 12.43, Nat Young (USA) 11.77, Julian Wilson (AUS) 11.40
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.76, Keanu Asing (HAW) 9.94, Alex Ribeiro (BRA) 7.23
Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.30, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.94, Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 11.37
Heat 4: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 14.34, Ryan Callinan (AUS) 13.20, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 7.63
Heat 5: Frederico Morais (PRT) 11.37, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 9.76, Conner Coffin (USA) 8.03
Heat 6: Jadson Andre (BRA) 13.20, Miguel Blanco (PRT) 11.17, John John Florence (HAW) 9.94
Heat 7: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 10.94, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 9.53, Adam Melling (AUS) 8.00
Heat 8: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.83, Matt Banting (AUS) 10.77, Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 9.63
Heat 9: Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.90, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 15.76, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 7.84
Heat 10: Adriano De Souza (BRA) 14.17, Jack Freestone (AUS) 13.50, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 11.24
Heat 11: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 14.83, Davey Cathels (AUS) 12.66, Michel Bourez (PYF) 10.66
Heat 12: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.00, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 14.83, Dusty Payne (HAW) 12.27
Meo Rip Curl Pro Portugal Round 2 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Miguel Blanco (PRT)
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Ryan Callinan (AUS)
Heat 3: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Heat 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Alex Ribeiro (BRA)
Heat 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 6: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Matt Banting (AUS)
Heat 7: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Alejo Muniz (BRA)
Heat 8: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)
Heat 9: Caio Ibelli (BRA) vs. Davey Cathels (AUS)
Heat 10: Stuart Kennedy (AUS) vs. Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 11: Nat Young (USA) vs. Conner Coffin (USA)
Heat 12: Keanu Asing (HAW) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (USA)