EVENT WINDOW: October 18 - 29, 2014
LOCATION: Peniche, Portugal
TIME DIFFERENCE: GMT 0
Surf Culture: Portugal is a sports-loving country and when the Championship Tour (CT) rolls into town, thousands of zealous surf fans descend on Peniche. Need proof? Look no further than the 2009 event, when 30,000 fans hiked five kilometers to see the men do battle at the backup site, Belgas. While Portugal hasn't had a CT surfer on tour since Tiago Pires, it does have a handul of up-and-comers who are carrying the torch. Among them are Frederico Morais and Miguel Blanco, this year's local wildcards.
Morais, who fans may remember took down Mick Fanning in last year's event, is Portugal's highest-ranked Qualifying Series (QS) surfer and sponsored by MEO. His best result so far in 2016 was a win at the Martinique Surf Pro in April. In Peniche, he'll face Gabriel Medina and Conner Coffin in Round One. Blanco, meanwhile, is a Rip Curl team member and also a QS surfer; his best result this year was runner-up at the Pro Zarautz in April. In Peniche, he's face Jadson Andre and John John Florence in Round One.
Supertubos: The event's main site, Supertubos, is a pumping sandbar that offers left and right barrels, plus great launch sections when the size stays in check. Some of the tour's most skilled progressive surfers (read: Toledo, Ferreira, Medina, and more) make the most of the break's launchpads when tubes aren't an option, or sometimes find both on one wave.
Backup sites for the contest include, from southwest to northeast, Pico do Fabril and Pico da Mota; Piscinas; and two potential peaks at River Mouth. Another backup option for 2016 is Nazaré, which is known for its XXL-sized waves and is also the new home of a WSL Big Wave Tour event. The MEO Rip Curl Pro would only run there, however, in mortal-sized waves.
The town: A working port town, Peniche is on a headland that's surrounded by water on three sides. It has an interesting mix of new development cropping up, an idustrial feel and a walled old town, complete with cobblestone streets and hidden-gem eateries. The town's fort has been used in multiple ways; during Salazar's regime political prisoners were kept there. At other times, African refugees took shelter in the fort. In terms of surfing, Peniche is arguably one of Europe's best-kept secrets. Apart from Supertubos, there are numerous spots to pick from, and the city's unique location means that if the wind is onshore at one beach, it will be offshore at another.
World tour history: In 2009, Rip Curl's Search event series took the WSL (then ASP) Top 45 to the barrels of Supertubos. The event was such a hit that the ASP made it a permanent fixture of the Tour. Reigning ASP World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) won the inaugural competition and Kelly Slater (USA) took the title in 2010, the year he won his 10th ASP World Title.
PAST EVENT CHAMPIONS:
2015: Filipe Toledo (BRA)
2014: Mick Fanning (AUS)
2013: Kai Otton (AUS)
2012: Julian Wilson (AUS)
2011: Adriano de Souza (BRA)
2010: Kelly Slater (USA)
2009: Mick Fanning (AUS)(as a Search event)
Watch the MEO Rip Curl Pro live daily on the WSL website and app, from October 18 - 29.