Photo courtesy Rute C Martins
The tenth stop on the WSL Men’s Championship Tour just wrapped up this past weekend and, let us tell ya, the results have wide implications as we come into the home stretch of the world title race in surfing.
A little background: The MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal was originally founded in 2009 as Rip Curl Search Portugal and is held each year in October at Peniche, Portugal’s Supertubos beach. Last year’s event winner, Gabriel Medina, entered this competition with enough points on the Jeep Leaderboard to potentially go ahead and clinch the world title ahead of the final tour event in December.
But it was not to be for Medina. Instead, Brazilian Italo Ferreira had something to say.
In a surprise twist, World No. 2 Julian Wilson was taken down by Joan Duru in the quarters, eventually setting up a Ferreira vs. Duru finals amid clean three-to-four-foot surf at Supertubos on Saturday.
Duru competed well in the finals but Ferreira was simply too on top of his game, demonstrating an elite display of aerial badassery throughout the event that resulted in heat scores of 16.10, 16.47 and 15.93.
“This is crazy, I can’t believe it,” Ferreira said. “In my first year I got a second here, so now I’ve got my first win here. Thank you Portugal and thank you to everyone on the beach and my family and friends. I’m so excited. That was a crazy year for me, I got a couple of wins and some bad results, but I’m just living my dream and this is the best feeling.”
Rip Curl Pro 2018 marks Ferreira’s first-ever win on Portuguese soil and his third Championship Tour event win this year.
Because Duru was able to dispel of talented Aussie, Julian Wilson, in the quarters, it set up a chance for Gabriel Medina to wrap up the World Title in the semis against Ferreira. However, Ferreira’s dominance at this event—and, specifically, his 9.30-scored rotation toward the end of the semis—forces Medina to make one last charge at the final event of the year in Oahu.
While Medina may have fallen short this weekend, he managed to still increase his lead atop the Jeep Leaderboard. Reaching the finals at the Billabong Pipe Masters in December will enable him to clinch the World Title. If he finishes third, Julian Wilson or Filipe Toledo would need to win that event in order to prevent him from nabbing the overall 2018 title. If, however, Medina falls anywhere short of a third-place finish, either Wilson or Toledo would merely need to make the final.
"Italo deserved that win," Medina said regarding Ferreira this past weekend. "It was always going to be an airshow and whoever did the best air was going to win. I'm happy with my performance here and all through Europe. I'll go home now and focus on Hawaii. I'm excited and I'm in a great position.”
There’s one other storyline coming out of Rip Curl Pro… and it belongs to the runner-up, Joan Duru. Although he’s in no shape to contend for the World Title, he came into this event at No. 33 in the world. The 8,000 points he picked up in Portugal moves him to No. 23 and just one spot below the cut, meaning his year may not, in fact, be over.
"I was in a bad position on the rankings, so I decided just to have fun," Duru said. "I've made some heats so it's working. I just stuck to my plan. It was an intense situation for Julian, but I just had to focus on myself. A Final here is huge, I've given myself a chance, I'm so happy.”
We’ll have coverage of the Billabong Pipe Masters in Oahu, Hawaii, as it pops off from December 8 - 20.