"It was marginal for the last six heats," said Contest Director, Damien Hardman, almost hitting the nail on the head. In fact, it was marginal all day. Observed through the illusory medium of photography, the crisp pitching lips are a beautiful thing to behold, but when it came to attaining two high scores, few found the magic formula.
Day one of the Rip Curl Pro Peniche saw two of the lowest seeds shine. Sporting a fisherman inspired wetsuit, Matt Wilkinson paddled out and blitzed the world number one, Mick Fanning. Despite having a few kilos of re-qualification weight on his shoulders, the charismatic Aussie slid into a succession of draining forehand barrels, leaving his fellow competitors flummoxed.
“I knew where I wanted to sit and I was just hoping that the conditions wouldn’t change too much,” Wilkinson said. “I got a few okay ones at the start and it was kind of scary, I saw Mick (Fanning) get a wave before my last one and I thought it might be the score so I didn’t know if I was chasing a score or not. That last one, I knew I was deep, I took off and was just pumping as hard as I could cause I really wanted to make it, I was stoked.”
Currently sitting 24th on the 'CT rankings, Wilkinson is in need of a strong finish to the year if he is to remain amongst the world’s elite next season. “I feel like I’m competing well and hopefully I can keep doing it,” said Wilko. “I love it here, getting barrelled on a sandy bottom is the most fun thing you can do, and here’s one of the best places in the world to do that."
Fanning's slip-up must have been been a welcome sight to Kelly, who also suffered a surprise defeat in Round 1. A standard phrase was regurgitated as Slater paddled out to face wildcard, Jacob Willcox: "Kelly had a world title before this kid was even born." This fact, however, was no hindrance to a young WA ripper who is still buzzing from his trials win. In a solitary pulse of oceanic brilliance Willcox found a running left-hand tube and Slater was left sat behind the 8 ball. The ocean all but died and the scraps proved insufficient for a comeback.
“It was pretty fun out there, I got a couple of good ones,” Willcox said. “I was stoked to get the opportunity to surf against those guys in the Trials, let alone win so I’m really happy. I got a few waves out here yesterday so I knew the banks pretty well and this is my second time competing in a WCT, so I just knew I had to keep calm and it worked out pretty well.”
In other news, it was an especially good day for the Js, with John John, Jacob, Jordy, Julian Wilson, and Josh Kerr all putting in dominant performances.
“There are still little barrels out there, it’s just a matter of finding them,” Florence said. “When the tide really dropped out, it got really slow and made the waves kind of weaker, I just got really lucky. This is the last event travelling before I get home, and ending here in big barrels it’s kind of like Pipeline but on a beach, it’s pretty sick.”
The forecast has yet to suggest the possibility of any Pipeline-esque conditions; in fact we could be faced with a string of lay-days until Sunday, when a swell in the head-high range starts to fill in. Beyond this we’re likely to see another swell towards midweek that could be larger, but with a risk of increasing southerly winds.
The Maths Behind the World Title Race
If Fanning wins the event:
- Slater will need a 3rd or better to take the title decision to Hawaii.
- Smith, Burrow and Parkinson will be out of the race.
If Fanning finishes Runner-Up in Portugal:
- Slater will need a 9th or better to take the title decision to Hawaii.
- Smith will need to win the event to take the title decision to Hawaii.
- Burrow and Parkinson will be out of the race.
If Fanning finishes 3rd in Portugal:
- Slater will need a 9th or better to take the title decision to Hawaii
- Smith, Burrow and Parkinson will need to win the event to take the title decision to Hawaii.
If Fanning finishes 5th or worse in Portugal:
- The ASP World Title decision will go to Hawaii as, even with a 25th in Portugal, Slater can still win in Hawaii.
RIP CURL PRO PORTUGAL ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Julian Wilson (AUS) 11.34, Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 4.63, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 4.20
Heat 2: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 11.50, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 6.53, Brett Simpson (USA) 4.93
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.00, Travis Logie (ZAF) 7.77, Dillon Perillo (USA) 2.96
Heat 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.43, Frederico Morais (PRT) 9.16, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 5.90
Heat 5: Jacob Willcox (AUS) 13.07, Kelly Slater (USA) 9.60, Kolohe Andino (USA) 5.50
Heat 6: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 17.37, Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.60, Francisco Alves (PRT) 7.56
Heat 7: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.77, Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.07, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 3.73
Heat 8: Josh Kerr (AUS) 12.37, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 12.10, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 7.16
Heat 9: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 11.30, Damien Hobgood (USA) 10.50, Adriano De Souza (BRA) 9.83
Heat 10: Kai Otton (AUS) 11.40, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 5.63, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 5.43
Heat 11: John John Florence (HAW) 13.66, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 13.24, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 2.37
Heat 12: Nat Young (USA) 8.77, Adam Melling (AUS) 7.66, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 6.47
UPCOMING RIP CURL PRO PORTUGAL ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Francisco Alves (PRT)
Heat 2: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Frederico Morais (PRT)
Heat 3: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Dillon Perillo (USA)
Heat 4: Adriano De Souza (BRA) vs. Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 5: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Yadin Nicol (AUS)
Heat 6: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Kieren Perrow (AUS)
Heat 7: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Alejo Muniz (BRA)
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Damien Hobgood (USA)
Heat 9: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 10: Brett Simpson (USA) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 11: Travis Logie (ZAF) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 12: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)