The European leg of the Tour wraps up in Peniche, the epicenter of Portugal’s surf scene, before the final event takes competitors back to Pipeline. As far as Fantasy Surfer predictions went, the results of the Quik Pro France defied conventional picking, and according to Portugal’s best-known surfer, Tiago Pires, the same unpredictability applies to Peniche.
“It has everything you want on a wave.” Pires says. “There's a throaty barrel section, and when you come out of a barrel, there's room to do a big turn or a big air, so it's a multidimensional wave. I'd say it's not as powerful as France, but it’s still really steep. The guys that have more tricks in the bag and are really good barrel riders will always have a chance in Peniche.”
That ability alone favors four surfers, according to Pires: John Florence, Gabriel Medina, Kelly Slater, and Julian Wilson, all competitors who can mix performances above and below the lip.
He was quick to point out the previous wins in Portugal for both Adriano de Souza and Filipe Toledo, and how, depending on the conditions, any approach has the chance to perform well. With that in mind, Pires says the judges’ scoring criteria will play a big role in the way surfers approach Peniche. Will the panel award a 10-point air in sections that are barreling? If the contest site is relocated, will new score preferences lead to upsets, like what we saw at Lower Trestles? All possibilities to consider.
What role will experience play? Will prior success at the beachbreak mean success? Again, says Pires, the answer is complicated.
“It will depend on the quality of the waves,” says Pires. “If the waves are pumping, I think experience will prevail, because you have to wait for the bombs, and the bombs are what will give you the high scores. But if the conditions are windy and tricky like last year, guys who are out of the Title race who have nothing to lose, but who are patient, can do well. Sometimes it's difficult to be patient here, because waves that quietly sneak under you can suddenly open up and grow. The guys will want to get the bombs get really deep. But if it's anything like last year, anything is possible.”
Finally, Pires’ dark horse candidate is a rookie who can adjust his style to the ever-changing conditions at hand.
“I could see Ryan Callinan doing well, because he's solid in the air and is also a solid barrel rider,” he says. “It's hard, though. Supertubos is a big question mark all the time. By the look of it right now, it'll be barreling in fun and clean surf. It's super-open for anyone to take. It's not that kind of wave that suits this surfer or that surfer. It can suit anybody.”