With just two events left in the 2015 World Surf League season, Mick Fanning and Adriano de Souza find themselves in familiar territory. The two have been trading the Jeep Rankings Leader yellow jersey back and forth throughout the back half of the year and now head into the Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal separated by only 450 points. Although Fanning has the slight lead, the small waves on forecast for Portugal definitely gives an advantage to the pint-sized power-house Adriano.
“I look at it as another two weeks of work,” Fanning said last year’s Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal in a WSL interview before the event. “Some days you want to sleep in. [But] it’s time to put the head down. You can either celebrate or commiserate come the end of the year.”
The defending event champ has no secrets about what he needs to do to secure his fourth World Title. “People always think about, you’ve got to do something extra. But you get to this position doing what you know is right. For me it’s about being comfortable with myself and it’s a matter of making sure everything’s switched on, and zeroing in on myself.”
Going down in the quarters at last week’s Quiksilver Pro France, Fanning let Adriano edge a bit closer to the lead after de Souza placed 3rd. Adriano took a convincing win in Portugal versus Slater in epic conditions in 2011, yet the hard-working Brazilian is going into the event with a must win attitude. “I need to work pretty hard to catch Mick,” he said. “He’s sitting on a comfortable seat at this stage. The rest of the guys need to work really hard to get there, and I’m one of those guys. So the only choice I have is to work hard, and put my head down.”
Of course, there are a few more guys in the mix that are still mathematically in the title race. Julian Wilson (also a former champ in Portugal) sits just 8000 points behind Mick and has found a return to form after slipping down the ratings following a few rough finishes mid-year. He’s also defending Pipemasters champion, so these last two events are definitely his to take. Owen Wright sits a notch above Julian in 3rd place on the ratings and is always a threat in the hollow surf found at the last two event venues. The small forecast on offer in Portugal will not help his cause though, as the 6’3″ “Avatar” needs some larger canvases to open up on.
And then there’s Gabriel Medina. The 2014 WSL World Champion has shaken off the World Title hangover and has made the final rounds at the last 4 events, with a big win last week in France. Given his current momentum, his superhuman ability, and his comfort level in Portuguese beachbreaks, he is a sure pic to win the event. He made the finals at the Pipemasters last year as well (which he arguably should have won), so he could easily take both events and walk away with a come from behind World Title!
Medina pulled one of the best airs in history during last week’s Quik Pro France. Sheesh!
In all fairness, 6th and 7th place Filipe Toledo and Kelly Slater are out of the World Title picture. While Filipe is certainly a threat to win the event in Portugal, his performances in the last half of the season have seen him drop down the ratings and out of contention for the title. Slater was questioning even competing in Portugal after two nagging injuries have left the greatest surfer of all time feeling a bit tired. He’s a threat to win any event on any day, but given the small waves for this event, his interest will be lackluster. It’s still unclear if he is actually withdrawing from the event!
The surf stays in the knee-waist high range until Friday, so competition will be on hold for a few days. When action heats up on Friday and Saturday, expect some overhead tubes at Supertubos. After that, a weak forecast will have contest organizers scrambling to make the call of moving the event venue to nearby more exposed breaks in Peniche. Hopefully something will flare up in the Atlantic and give these guys some surf!
Watch the Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal live at worldsurfleague.com this Friday! (Thursday night in the U.S.)