Trials Winner Justin Mujica. Photo: Warbrick

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Portugal's best surfers fronted up in Penich today for the TMN Trials of the Rip Curl Pro Search, but it is eventual winner Justin Mujica that has earnt the final Wildcard entry into Round 1 of the Men's Main Event.

The Rip Curl Pro Search is set to commence tomorrow (Monday) with solid waves forecast for the world's best surfers to sink their teeth into.

The third and final event of the 2009 European leg for the ASP Top 45, the Rip Curl Pro Search provides a crucial setting for a possible ASP World Title clinching as well as numerous battles for Dream Tour requalification.

Tiago Pires (PRT), 29, current ASP World No. 23 and Portugal’s first-ever qualifier for the prestigious ASP World Tour, salvaged a difficult season with an Equal 3rd in France to vault himself up the ratings and within the requalification bubble. Now at home in Portugal, Pires will look to further solidify his rating heading into the final event of the year.

“Competing in an ASP World Tour event in Portugal is something I have always dreamed of," Pires said. “Now that I have the opportunity to do this in front of my friends and family, I am very grateful. The wave at Supertubos is a beachbreak barrel and I don’t think local knowledge will have a big advantage out there. The guys on tour are the best in the world and every heat is a challenge."

Pires will face Bobby Martinez (USA), 27, and Nathaniel Curran (USA), 25, in Round 1 of the Rip Curl Pro Search (traditional format).

Owen Wright (AUS), 19, wildcard into the Rip Curl Pro Search and current No. 3 on the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS), was a standout in April’s Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, defeating reigning nine-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA), 37, and ASP Dream Tour standout Dane Reynolds (USA), 24, as a wildcard. Since then, the phenomenal goofy-footer has gone on to secure his spot amongst the world’s best for 2010 and will use his wildcard in Peniche to measure himself against this year’s ASP Top 45.

“It’s a massive honor to be selected, amongst the many incredible riders on the Rip Curl team, to compete in this event," Wright said. “At the beginning of the year, I put my head down and really worked hard at achieving my goal of qualifying for the Dream Tour and now that I’ve done it, it feels amazing. I really see this as an opportunity to get some practice in against the world’s best before being a part of the tour next year."

Wright will take on Bede Durbidge (AUS), 26, and Chris Davidson (AUS), 33, in the opening round of the Rip Curl Pro Search (traditional format).

Joining Wright as wildcards into the Rip Curl Pro Search will be Justin Mujica (PRT), 32, winner of today’s TMN trials, Bruno Santos (BRA), 26, winner of the 2008 Billabong Pro Teahupoo as a wildcard, and David Luis (PRT), 29, replacing injured ASP Top 45 member Jeremy Flores (FRA), 21.

For the first time in history, the world’s best female surfers will join the ASP Top 45 with the Rip Curl Women’s Pro Search running later in the waiting period. Event No. 4 of 7 on the 2009 ASP Women’s World Tour, the Rip Curl Women’s Pro Search promises to deliver an exciting new dynamic into professional women’s surfing, and the current crop of ASP Top 17 are preparing for battle.

Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 21, reigning two-time ASP Women’s World Champion and current ASP World No. 1, is ecstatic about the opportunity to compete in her first “Search" event and views it as a vital step forward to the progression of women’s surfing.

“It’s fantastic that Rip Curl have added the women to the ‘Search’ event this year," Gilmore said. “Supertubos really has the potential to be a world class wave for us girls and I think that’s something that’s been lacking since we lost venues like Tahiti and Fiji. It will be great if we can get some solid waves to see what this new generation of girls can do."

Eyeing her third, consecutive ASP Women’s World Title, Gilmore is locked in a brutal battle for this season’s crown against Silvana Lima (BRA), 24. Lima has won the previous two events, bringing her within 361 points of Gilmore, and is looking dangerous heading into the back half of the season.

“It definitely pushes my surfing and it’s what I need to stay competitively interested," Gilmore said. “I think Silvana (Lima) has figured out the winning formula for her and she’s definitely someone on tour who is innovative and able to get big scores. I’m excited for the back half of the season and am happy to get back in the singlet."

Gilmore will take on veteran Amee Donohoe (AUS), 28, and reigning ASP Women’s World Junior Champion Pauline Ado (FRA), 18, in the opening round of the Rip Curl Women’s Pro Search.

Surfline, official forecasters for the 2009 Rip Curl Pro Search, are calling for clean swell conditions on the opening day of the waiting period before tracking a sizeable swell indicating solid overhead waves for the primary venue of Supertubes as well as three-to-four times overhead for the backup locations of Balgas.

Event organizers will convene tomorrow morning at 7:30am to assess conditions for a possible 8am start. Event organizers will also make a call on which competitive format they’ll run, deciding between the traditional format and the elimination man-on-man format.