"This is why we do all the work, this is why push so hard to make the tour," Michel Bourez said after his Round One win over Filipe Toledo and Jadson Andre at the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal. "It's so we can surf waves like this. It's difficult out there, but when you are in the right position and you push yourself to go, it's dreamy."
Bourez might like to buy Commissioner Kieren Perrow a fresh plate of sardines and a cold Sagres tonight, for it was KP's call that saw Supertubes provide one of the most compelling and intense days of surfing so far this year. Early this morning, the lineup was more the stuff of nightmares rather than dreams, as a low-tide, straight swell and slight onshore wind made for a rather dispiriting outlook. However, Perrow backed himself and the forecast, gambling that the higher tide, an amplifying swell and a landward twist in the wind would settle on the swirling sandbanks. With a World Title on the line, it proved to be both a brave and correct decision.
"I don't think we've had proper Supertubes like this for five or six years," said Joel Parkinson after his heat win. "I've probably surfed it like this a handful of times, but I suppose that is more than a lot of the guys. It's a cliché, but rhythm and instinct is key out there." Parko showed both, catching only two waves, but earning one of the highest heat scores of the day.
Parko was riding a 6'2" pintail step-up, a board he'd last ridden in Fiji and one he'd had made for Teahupo'o. That shows just what power was on offer today as lumbering, long period, 20-foot high and 10-foot thick waves detonated on the shallow sandbanks just 20 yards from shore. Of the waves on the Championship Tour, only Pipeline could offer that type of flawed, focused intensity and the energy of the waves fueled what was already a hyped-up Portuguese crowd. It was a day when Supertubos was the main star as the best surfers in the world surfed for survival and the crowd bayed for blood and glory.
"I couldn't hear the score, ‘cause the crowd was yelling and screaming," said Jack Freestone, after he scored the first real set barrel of the day. "It looked so hard out there, but it switched just before my heat and there it was. I just put my head down, swung and hoped it went my way." Freestone's almost impossible late exit elicited roars from the crowd that masked the announcers calling it the first 9-point ride of the day. It was easily Freestone's best wave of the year in a singlet and kept his requalification hopes alive.
Over the day, the roars kept in line with the increasing swell and reached a crescendo when local wildcard Vasco Ribeiro snatched a 9.37, the highest score of the day, to end Owen Wright's World Title chances late in the day. It was a perfect ending for what had been an epic day of professional surfing. When the ocean delivers this mix of threat, perfection, danger and ecstasy -- and when the world's best surfers rise to the occasion -- competitive surfing becomes something truly special. Today was one of those days.