The MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal, Stop No. 10 on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), resumed in clean three-to-five foot surf at Supertubos. Competition ran through the all important Rounds 4 and 5 to decide the event’s Quarterfinalists and prepare for an exciting finish on Wednesday.
Reigning WSL Champion and defending event winner John John Florence (HAW) came out on top of a tense battle with Kolohe Andino (USA) and Connor O’Leary (AUS) and got one step closer to a second title. Andino put two solid scores on the board with big aerial maneuvers and put Florence under pressure. The Hawaiian didn’t tremble and locked into a long and clean barrel in the dying moments of the heat to turn in an excellent 8.67 and the win. Florence will face Andino again in the Quarterfinals when competition resumes.
“I learned a lot last year and coming into this year I’m in a similar position but I’m having a lot more fun with it and enjoying the waves,” said Florence. “I’m in a much better headspace than last year when I was nervous and this year I’m going with it more and enjoying it. It’s so important to soak up every moment and to have the support of the crowd is great – I’m having so much fun.”
Florence has a shot at backing up his maiden world title in Peniche if he can go all the way and win the event. If Florence finishes second only Gabriel Medina (BRA) can stop him claiming the prestigious title in Portugal by winning the event. A 3rd place result or lower for the reigning WSL Champion would see the title race go to the final event in Hawaii in December.
Andino kept his momentum going into Round 5 where he once again put his air game on display to post a near-perfect 9.63 and eliminate rookie Fioravanti in equal 9th, locking in his own Quarterfinal berth.
Medina took the final Round 4 win over Mick Fanning (AUS) and Miguel Pupo (BRA), courtesy of a mix of airs and carves. Coming off a victory in France, his first of the season, Medina seems to be in total control and a deadly form on the other side of the draw from Florence. Medina matches-up against three-time World Champion Fanning in the Quarterfinals.
“I was almost too excited watching the previous heats and at the beginning I was kind of lost, I couldn’t get a wave,” Medina reflected. “Then I got that good right, my first score and then the air. I got a little confused with the scores but then I turned the heat. I’m super happy to be in the quarters and I’m having fun, when you’re having fun the scores kind of come naturally.”
Pupo later engaged in a back-and-forth aerial battle with Kerr for a spot in the Quarters, eventually besting the Australian to keep his re-qualification efforts alive.
Three-time WSL Champion Mick Fanning went on to score an important round 5 win over local hero Frederico Morais (PRT). The Australian scored an excellent barrel in the opening moments of their match-up to post an 8.50 and keep the lead all the way. The heat went very quiet swell-wise and despite all his efforts in and above the lip, Morais could never challenge Fanning for the win.
“We’ve had some battles out here over the years and he (Frederico Morais) is extremely smart and confident in what he does,” Fanning said. “I started off strong but just couldn’t back it up, I didn’t feel like I was switched on, I couldn’t feel my legs. Gabe (Medina) is incredible, he gets in this scary mode where he’s unstoppable but in tricky conditions like this it’s anyone’s game so hopefully I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling a bit better and put on a good show.”
In medium-sized waves, airs took precedence over barrels at Supertubos and Julian Wilson (AUS) dominated the opening Round 4 heat with a couple of nice backhand rotations to send Sebastian Zietz (HAW) and Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) in to Round 5 while the Australian belted a ticket straight for the quarters. Currently ranked sixth on the Jeep Leaderboard, Wilson is still a contender in the 2017 World Title race at this point.
“The wait was so similar to last year’s, but opposite conditions it was too big and too messy and we had so many conversations with Kieren (Perrow) as I was in the first heat again,” Wilson said. “Today it was a joint decision to wait and wait, but there’s enough waves out there now, obviously we wish it was a bit bigger and barrels like the first couple of days. I took the pressure off myself in France, here I’m just taking this event for what it is, I feel like it’s a very long shot and I’m not thinking about it too much. I just hope I get a match-up with John (Florence) we haven’t surfed against each other this year.”
Heat 3 was an amazing display of everything modern professional surfing is, with Kanoa Igarashi (USA), Frederico Morais (PRT) and Josh Kerr (AUS) all opting for different approaches. Igarashi scored one of his two best scoring rides for a long and technical backhand barrel, local hero Morais absolutely destroyed a set wave on his backhand too with three radical power turns and Kerr launched into a massive alley-oop rotation for a 9.57, the heat’s highest single score. Eventually it was Igarashi with a long right and a couple of big turns that took the win to skip the elimination Round 5.
The last three 2017 rookies O’Leary, Fioravanti and Morais all bowed out in 9th place, keeping the Rookie of the Year race extremely intense as Morais and O’Leary sit in 13th and 15th position respectively.
Surfline, official forecaster for the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal, are calling for:
Reinforcing WNW swell for Wednesday with sets mainly around chest-head high at Supertubos (slow through early AM due to high tide). Inconsistent waves/peaks that are slightly overhead during best tides. Offshore SE flow through first half of Wednesday, before turning onshore in the afternoon. Swell fades Thursday into Friday, with no swells of significance due for rest of waiting period at this time.
Event organizers will reconvene at 7:45 a.m. (local time) tomorrow at Supertubos to reassess conditions and make the next call.
The events will be broadcast LIVE via WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL app and on Facebook LIVE via the WSL’s Facebook page. Also check the local listings for coverage on CBS Sports Network in the U.S., Fox Sports in Australia, ESPN in Brazil, Sky NZ in New Zealand, SFR Sports in France and Portugal, Sport TV in Portugal and the EDGEsport Network.
For more information, check out WorldSurfLeague.com.
MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Julian Wilson (AUS) 11.67, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 8.10, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITL) 7.77
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) 17.00, Kolohe Andino (USA) 15.57, Connor O’Leary (AUS) 13.50
Heat 3: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 16.83, Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.44, Frederico Morais (PRT) 13.60
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.47, Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.47, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 5.27
MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal Round 5 Results:
Heat 1: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.10 def. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 12.07
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 16.53 def. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 10.83
Heat 3: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 15.50 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 10.67
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 11.87 def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 10.00
MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal Quarterfinal Match-Ups:
QF 1: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
QF 2: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)
QF 3: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
QF 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Mick Fanning (AUS)