Well the surf industry has certainly got its knickers in a twist after two weeks in stormy Portugal. There seemed to be as much going on off the pitch as on it. New benchmarks in aerials and air drops made for fireworks at this year’s Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal.
The crown was there for Medina to take and he fluffed it. Again. Is the pressure too much for the young Brazilian? Slater took his first title at the same age but the pair are clearly different beasts. Both driven and competitive to the extreme but fans and pundits now fear the fiery blood that courses through Medina may now be working against him.
[pullquote]Naming a wave “Super” anything risks a nasty bout of hubris[/pullquote]
In many ways the Portugal seemed merely an extension of the Quiksilver Pro. Both had a stop-start feel, the result of a particularly moody autumn. The Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal was again proudly held at Supertubos. Naming a wave “Super” anything risks a nasty bout of hubris, but more often than not patience seemed to be rewarded with pits. And everyone needed points. The ASP was divided into three camps: those fighting off relegation, those scrapping to requalify after period of penance on the WQS. But no one cared about them, not even their mums. No, all eyes were on the contest for the crown.
Going into the event it was still possible for Parkinson and possibly even Florence to join Fanning, Median and Slater in the title run, but Parko was quickly dispatched by Adam Melling in Round three in a fairly dull clash.
In a barren wasteland of churning Atlantic entertainment was provided by the Major of Peniche tootling about the line up on a jet ski but little else raised the pulse. The excitement peaked in two round three heats and then that was that. John John horse whispered Hurly teammate Brett Simpson who then paddled out and sent Medina to the showers early in Heat six. With two minutes still on the clock bizarrely Gabe paddled in, stalked through the competitors area and with entourage in tow exited the site without a word to anyone.
[pullquote]What the hell is going on? Europe is a bit of a weak spot for Slater we all know, but this is his third chance to finish, or at least hobble[/pullquote]
The strangeness continued into the next heat where Aranburu savaged Slater leaving the champ nearly comboed. What the hell is going on? Europe is a bit of a weak spot for Slater we all know, but this is his third chance to finish, or at least hobble, Medina and the third time the 11 times champ has failed to strike. King Kelly, who stole the limelight with his 540 during the waiting period, seems to have been making rookie mistake after mistake. This is the guy who once corrected the ASP when they tried to give him the crown one round too early in 2011. Now apparently he can’t count. Am I implying Slater is pulling his punches? Certainly not, that invites a smack in the mouth from a rabid Medina fan. But surely I’m not alone wondering why, with the third chance to slow the Brazilian Slater went for a three hour surf trip up the coast right before his heat. On the upside the board snapping pantomime that followed Aranbuna’s victory saw a trio of groms leave the site with fragments of Slater’s Al Merrick.
Fanning on the other hand could not have been more predatory. He has no compunction about keeping things ‘interesting’ and heading to Pipe. Sniffing blood in the water and Mick moved purposefully towards the chance of a fourth world title to match Aussie legend Mark Richards. White Lightning eviscerated a sleepy looking Kai Otten before marching into his third final of the year.
On the other side the ever-on-form John John was knocked out of serious contention by his 2014 rival Jordy Smith. Again Florence had garnered 10’s galore throughout the event but by the semis the others had progress far enough to stop any title run. The top three would need to contract Ebola for the Hawaiian to have a chance this year, but next season is a very different matter.
The final that seemed a sideshow to the Medina-Slater mystery. Fanning countered Jordy’s above the lip flair with flawless barrels and short hacks in an anticlimactic 30-minute heat, a trophy was lofted, some speeches were made and then it’s everyone off to Hawaii.
We have the Triple Crown to get through before anything can be settled but again the title run comes down to the gladiators pit at Oahu’s Banzai Pipeline.