Common sense prevailed in Portugal today, as contest organisers upped sticks and moved the MEO Rip Curl Pro from the usual Supertubos venue to a nearby sand-bank where conditions were far superior.
The remainder of Round 2 and all of Round 3 were thus completed in overhead left-handers that offered long, rippable walls interspersed with the occasional barrel section. “It’s been pumping for three days and we’ve been sitting at Supertubos watching close-outs,” said Ace Buchan following his loss to Matt Banting in the day’s first heat. “It’s meant to be the world’s best surfers in the world’s best waves, and this is meant to be a mobile event, and to be frank this move has come two days too late.”
Gabriel Medina was the day’s most significant casualty, the world number 2 succumbing in the third round to an in-form Jeremy Flores, who had already eliminated third-placed Matt Wilkinson earlier in the contest. Medina’s loss means John John Florence, who beat wildcard Frederico Morais in his Round 3 heat, will extend his lead at the top of rankings. It’s now possible for Florence to clinch the world title here in Portugal, but he will have to reach the final to do so. If Jordy Smith also makes the final, John John must beat him to avoid a Pipeline finale.
Smith was one of the day’s standout performers, his 9.70 in the last heat of the day equalling the previous high-score of the event set by Michel Bourez earlier in the round. Bourez, another powerful regular-foot, was in action twice today, overcoming Jack Freestone in Round 2 before comfortably defeating Caio Ibelli to book a spot in the final twelve. Joel Parkinson also impressed, negotiating the barrel of the day for a 9.33, as did Miguel Pupo, who put a definitive end to Kelly Slater’s belated title campaign. Filipe Toledo was the other big name to miss out on a place in Round 4.