The Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal kicked off with less-than-stellar conditions today. Heading into a tightening world title race, the pressure was on Gabriel Medina to hold his lead over Kelly Slater, who realistically needs to win this event to push the title race to Pipeline. Today, in their round 1 heats, both surfers posted wins and will move onto Round 3.
In his heat against Matt Wilkinson and wildcard Nic Von Rupp, Slater found himself with his back against the wall after Wilko dropped a 9.57 tube ride in the opening minute of the heat. But in typical Slater fashion, he weaved through one of the deepest pits of the day in the dying minutes, earning a 9.57 and the heat win. Wilko, who’s fighting for a spot to requalify, is forced into Round 2 along with Von Rupp.
Following his Round 1 win, Slater weighed in on title race frontrunner Gabriel Medina. “He’s hyper-competitive and he wants to win more than anybody else, just like I did when I was his age. You can see he loves to surf, he loves to get better…he’s got crazy skills.”
For his part, Medina put on a dominant performance in his opening heat today over wildcard Jacob Willcox and past event winner Kai Otton by posting a clean 7-point tube ride and backing it up with another 7. In his post-heat interview, Medina commented on the pressure he’s facing for the title race. “It’s not pressure, it’s motivating me. I feel good like this,” he said.
Round 1 Heat: Gabriel Medina / Kai Otton / Jacob Willcox
Round 1 Heat: Kelly Slater / Matt Wilkinson / Nico Von Rupp
Day 1 Highlights: