The Rip Curl Pro, which was held Wednesday at Peniche, Portugal, just completed Round 4 in punchy, rippable two- to three-foot waves at the backup venue known as Belgas.
Surfers in the three-man, non-elimination round pushed the boundaries of high-performance surfing with current No. 2-ranked surfer Jordy Smith leading the way and setting up for a possible finish Thursday.
Smith proved to be the in-form surfer of the day, netting a near-perfect 9.93 out of a possible 10 for an incredible aerial 360, which he completed on a good, clean right hander. Other winners included Kelly Slater, who dominated his heat from start to finish and kept his quest for a 10th world title well within reach — especially noting the shocking upset loss of current No. 3-ranked surfer Mick Fanning, who has been on a two-event tear-up until this event and now sees his chances of defending last year's world title greatly diminished.
With the current conditions being held in punchy beach break conditions, I think you have to lean toward Slater in winning this event with his superior heat strategy and experience. Smith will push all the way, but it will be too little, too late, and at the end of the year, Slater will win his 10th world title.
Other winners included Jeremy Flores and Adrian Buchan. Contest organizers will reconvene Thursday morning at 8 a.m. at the primary site of Supertubos to survey the current conditions for a possible 8:30 a.m. start. Magic Seaweed, the official forecasters for the Rip Curl Pro, are calling for the swell to fill in for a potential finish at Supertubos. Highlights from the Rip Curl Pro will be available at live.ripcurl.com and for more information, log onto http://www.aspworldtour.com.
JAMES PRIBRAM is a professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His websites include AlohaSchoolofSurfing and ECOWarrior Surf.com. He can be reached at Jamo@Aloha SchoolofSurfing.com.