The MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal, the penultimate stop on the 2019 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), continued in improved conditions with four-to-six foot surf and light winds to complete the Elimination Rounds as well as the men’s Round of 32 (Round 3) this afternoon.
Event No. 9 and 10 on the Women’s and Men’s Championship Tour respectively, the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal is vital for many surfers in the World Title race, CT requalification scenarios as well as the coveted selection for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Under pressure from Jeremy Flores (FRA) midway through their heat, and sitting in a combination situation needing two waves to overcome the Frenchman’s 15 point total, Peterson Crisanto (BRA) pulled an incredible forehand full rotation on a solid set wave to ignite a comeback. His near-perfect score of 9.87 put the Brasilian right back in control of his destiny and despite time dangerously running out, the rookie on tour stayed patient and ultimately found a good right to lay three big turns for a 6.67 and the win. Sitting 28th on the Championship Tour rankings, Crisanto needs a couple of big results if he wants to keep his spot on the CT in 2020.
“I’ve finally made a big air and my ankle is feeling better,” said Crisanto. “After that 9 I got my confidence back and I knew I just needed to wait and I’d find another good wave. I’ve been training a lot and I’m happy to make it to that next round. I was definitely nervous after Jeremy got those two 7.50 and I knew I had to go for airs to score big and it worked. It’s that time of the season when I really have to go for it, it’s like go big or go home so I’m going to give everything in the water and try to get a good result in Portugal.”
11X World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) put together one of the day’s standout performances to edge out Sebastian Zietz (HAW) in their Round 3 matchup. The Floridian looked rejuvenated as he tore apart the lefts and rights of Supertubos to post an impressive 15.56 heat total without locking into barrels or going to the air. Currently sitting 13th on the Jeep leaderboard, Slater is mathematically still in the Tokyo 2020 qualifying race but he’ll need a couple of major results in the remaining events this season.
“I felt like I wanted to get right to it just when the heat started and it felt good,” said Slater. “I was channeling my inner high-tide Florida days from when we were kids and just looking for the odd corners, cause it’s pretty tough. I know some of the guys like Kanoa (Igarashi) and Kolohe (Andino) have made it (the Olympic Qualification) but I have a lot of work to do. John John (Florence) has been out for months and he’s still ahead of me so that speaks volume for how well he’s surfed this year. I haven’t performed how I expected to perform at J-Bay, Teahupoo, the Surf Ranch or even in France so the last four events have been really frustrating for me. So all I can do here is focus on each heat I have and each wave I catch and see what I get going.”
The 2015 winner at Supertubos Filipe Toledo (BRA) showed exactly why he is a threat in all types of conditions in the Portuguese lineup, collecting two solid scores to advance past local wildcard Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) into the Round of 16 (Round 4). Toledo started early in his heat under the priority of the main heat and scored a long and clean barrel for a 6.93 and went on to shut down all talks of his back pain limiting his abilities when he launched into a massive backside rotator for a 7.67 and the win.
“It was fun out there, definitely better conditions than yesterday,” said Toledo. “I got blessed with that first wave and a little barrel with a closeout turn, I feel like those opening scores make a huge difference during the heat. It’s always tough to surf against a wildcard, I remember 2015 when Vasco (Ribeiro) took out Adriano (De Souza) and Kikas (Frederico Morais) got Mick (Fanning) in the next heat, and with the support of those crowds it’s even harder. So I was really focused on my heat and trying to get the job done. ”
Current Jeep Yellow Jersey Gabriel Medina (BRA) and World No. 3 Jordy Smith (ZAF) also made their way into the third round of competition, besting wildcards Miguel Blanco (PRT) and Crosby Colapinto (USA) respectively. The high-flying Brasilian Medina sent a big frontside straight air on his best wave and never looked threatened or under pressure as he gently landed his maneuver and moved on to Round 4.
“It’s hard to surf in these kinds of conditions,” said Medina. “I was hoping for some of those barrels but they just stopped in our heat, which was probably good because Miguel (Blanco) is really good when it’s barreling. I’ve surfed a lot out here and getting lots of waves so I’ve gotten confidence from this experience. I’ve been enjoying my time here with my family and not putting any pressure on myself. Like I’ve already said, I’ve been in this situation before and I feel like I’m more mature.”
World No. 4 Italo Ferreira (BRA) would not let his opponents in the World Title race out of sight and made his intentions clear in his heat against local hero Frederico Morais (PRT) with an incredible display of aerial surfing. Ferreira advanced with an excellent 16.20 total to keep his chances of defending his event title in Peniche alive and well.
World Title race contender Lakey Peterson (USA) faced elimination against Keely Andrew (AUS) and Alana Blanchard (HAW) in the Elimination Round 2 this morning, but bounced back from a deceiving performance yesterday with a dominant effort to advance in pole position. The Californian put together two strong waves on a left and a right and went to power carves and vertical turns to build a healthy 12.67 total and take the win into Round 3.
“It’s not a fun round to be in especially this time of the year,” said Peterson. “But the waves were really fun this morning, a lot cleaner than yesterday so I felt like it was easier to figure out and I’m super stoked to make it. Alana beat me last year at Honolua so I was stoked to get one back on her. A lot of attention is on Carissa and rightfully so it’s amazing what she did in France. I know that I’m right there and I’m just trying to enjoy it, it’s easy to get caught up in everything and I just trust that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.”