The MEO Rip Curl Pro in Peniche, Portugal, is the last Men's CT event before the grand finale at Pipeline. With a tight title race on one end of the Jeep Leaderboard and a massive requalification battle on the other, the tension is palpable. Here are some of the key questions to be answered this week.
Can Gabe Close the Gap?
Medina's incredible track record in France delivered again, and he gained a little ground on John John Florence at the Quiksilver Pro. In Portugal he'll be looking to close the remaining 2700 points gap on the Jeep Leaderboard before the Tour heads to Hawaii. The stats indicate his job in Portugal will be tough. Medina's Heat Winning Percentage (HWP) is decent but not dominant, at 58.82 percent. Florence, meanwhile, is at 52.17 percent, but he's delivered 10 excellent scoring heats (a point total of 16 or above) in his five Portugal appearances, compared to Medina's four.
Can the Rookies Break Through?
Several CT rookies are facing high-pressure situations in Portugal. Conner Coffin (ranked No. 24), Davey Cathels (No. 27), and Matt Banting (No. 30) are the most glaring examples. They're shy of the No. 22 CT cutoff -- below which surfers do not keep their spots in 2017 -- and nowhere near covering their butts on the QS like their fellow rookies. Bottom line: these guys need a few sips of whatever Keanu Asing was drinking in France, and soon.
Will Filipe Fly Again?
Filipe Toledo was absolutely on fire in France, clicking one of the best airs ever seen in competition during his dog fight with John John Florence in Round Four. Sitting at No. 7 on the Jeep Leaderboard, the defending event champion won't be bogged down by World Title stress. Plus, he's walking into Portugal with a league-leading Heat Winning Percentage of 76.92.
Will Supertubos Deliver?
The Top 34 always arrive in Portugal preparing for Supertubos pits, and with a decent swell due to arrive during the first few days of the MEO Rip Curl Pro, we can expect our fair share. Unlike Hossegor, the banks at Supertubos are much more predictable, making life a bit easier for the commissioners. That said, this is Europe, and conditions on this ultra-exposed coast change rapidly. If things get breezy or bumpy, expect the wings to come out.
Will Wildcards Wreak Havoc?
If we've learned anything from the past few events, never underestimate local knowledge. Portuguese wildcard Frederico Morais won't be sneaking up on anyone at Supertubos. Last year he eliminated 3x World Champion Mick Fanning on his way to a Quarterfinal appearance. Top seeds should be afraid. Morais will face World No. 2 Gabriel Medina and California rookie Conner Coffin in Round One.
The MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal event window runs from October 18 - 29. Watch live daily on the WSL website and app.