After a pair of low-scoring Semis, it was quickly clear that the Final promised to be a different kind of party. Again, Mick Fanning was out of the gate first, getting a quick tube for a 5.67 to start. Fanning's next wave topped that: When Jordy Smith backed off of a left under priority, Fanning pulled in high and tight for a technical ride capped with wrapping turns for a 9.00.
Smith was then in a combination situation, but answered back with an impressive tube of his own, hacking the lip after the exit for a final flourish. He earned a 7.67 and then started to play the patience game. Fanning sat and waited too, as a long lull set in. It wasn't until the last three minutes that Fanning improved his scoreline, with a 6.50, to secure the event win in Peniche for the first time since 2009.
"I'm just stoked to get a win," Fanning said. "It's been about five years since I got a win here."
The good news for Kai Otton was that the Mick Fanning show was on hiatus, giving him a chance to break out his own formidable skills. After a few minor scores, he put a 4.67 on the board for the lead, while Fanning looked for a solid wave. He found a modest one, scoring a 6.00 for one of his expert tube rides. Fanning then nailed a 7.17 for another barrel, his last of the heat.
He wouldn't need another one. Otton worked to answer back, pulling into a handful of tubes, but none of them earned significant scores. Fanning took the win, and went on to the Final against Jordy Smith.
"I felt like very wave had a bump on it, and I just got bumped off," Otton said after, with his baby in his arms.
The first Semi at the Moche Rip Curl Pro saw a rematch between John John Florence and Jordy Smith, whose last significant faceoff was the Hurley Pro Final, where Smith took the win. At Supertubos, the pressure was all on Florence, who needed to advance to stay in World Title contention. But it was Smith who put the pressure on again with a pair of eight-pointers that put Florence in a combo situation.
With fewer than seven minutes left, Florence found a fast, heavy barrel that could have been a game-changer, but it shut down. Smith took the win, ending Florence's Championship hopes and moving him into another Final.
"I'm bummed, but I've had a good run for these last few events," said Florence. "I was just out of position the whole time, and JOrdy got the good ones. Congratulations to him." Still he said, a Title spoiler isn't out of the question: "I want to win Pipe, no matter what."
Mick Fanning set the bar early yet again but this time it was with a mid-sized tube for a 6.50. Filipe Toledo began building his scoreline, too, snagging a string of smaller scores until a 6.57 put him back in the game.
Fanning stayed calm, watching his younger opponent scratch for as many waves as he could muster. Ever the tactician, Fanning's next wave was a huge barrel, which he tackled with textbook style. The performance earned him a 9.57, solidifying his top spot. Toledo made a last-ditch effort but his Portugal ride was over.
Kai Otton, still chasing consecutive event titles, opened the heat with a tight, technical tube ride. He scored a 7.50, to set the bar early and assert himself in the faceoff. He backed it up with a 5.27 to take a slight edge over Josh Kerr.
Kerrzy, meanwhile, took his time to get into the mix. About 10 minutes in, he found a tight barrel of his own and capped it off with a textbook air reverse. The ride earned him and 8.00, and suddenly upped the ante. But Otton, ever the determined competitor, quickly answered back with another barrel, minus any airtime, for a 7.00. The score was enough to reclaim the lead and win.
"I ran into some luck, and maybe made some good decisions," he said. "I'd love to go back-to-back and win it again, that's my goal."
Jordy Smith and Adriano De Souza went wave-for-wave throughout, with Smith trailing slightly for most of the heat. He surged ahead in the last ten minutes though, with a 6.77. By the final few minutes, De Souza had narrowed the gap and needed just a 6.05 to snatch the lead back.
Smith made a priority mistake when he went for a wave, leaving De Souza to try for an 11th-hour, winning wave. It didn't pan out though, so Smith took the win and was headed for the Semis.
"Conditions were really tough out there," Smith said. "Every time you think the waves going to barrel, it doesn't barrel." Watching another surfer find one as he spoke, he added, "Maybe it's my big frame that's not fitting in there!"
Adam Melling was first out of the gate and stayed active, tallying a 6.33 before John John Florence rode a single wave. But when Florence finally did find a wave, he went big, pulling into a substantial barrel and plowing through the foam to score an 8.00. His next barrel was bigger, and he threaded section after section to make a clean exit and earn a 9.83. Next up was Florence's air clinic. He threw a huge flare and again rode out through the foam. The score was negligible, but the wow-factor was huge.
Melling, meanwhile, was in a combo situation from which he couldn't dig out. In the final minutes he found an elegant, righthand barrel -- but it wasn't enough to keep him in the game. Florence would go to the Semis, while Melling was eliminated.
"I'm resting more," Florence said, when asked what might have fueled up his competitive fire at recent events. "The past couple of years, when I'm at home I've been freesurfing every day. Before, I was surfing every day, all day, around an event. So I've slowed that down and focus more on heats and morning sessions."
The last heat of Round 5 started as a close one: Michel Bourez stayed incredibly active, taking off on as many waves as he could for a string of negligible scores. The approach gave him a slight edge over Filipe Toledo -- at first.
Midway through, Toledo turned the tables with a set wave that let him show power and agility. Capitalizing on his momentum, he went for an air-reverse next, connecting seamless turns first and then landing it to snag a 7.50, the highest single-wave score of the heat. The backup solidified his win, and sent him to the Quarters.
Kai Otton and Aritz Aranburu each paddled out with proverbial monkeys on their backs, which may have fueled their performances. As defending event champion, Otton knew he could do well in Portugal, but had struggled throughout the contest so far this year. As a Spaniard with a foundation surfing similar breaks at home -- not to mention the man who had taken down Kelly Slater the day before -- Aranburu also had the experience and elevated expectation to do well in the event.
That experience, however, didn't translate into scores. Otton maintained a lead throughout the heat, thanks to savvy wave selection and aggressive power-hacks. Aranburu found a final barrel before the horn, but like many of the morning's tubes it closed out, and ended his run at the Moche Rip Curl Pro.
Despite being relegated to the sudden-death heats of Round 5, Jordy Smith seemed to get his groove back under pressure. Displaying the sense of fun that has helped him stand out in the tail-end of the season. He took an early -- if narrow -- lead and didn't let go. Barrels continued to be few and far between, but Smith was still able to sniff out a few tight tubes, finishing with wrapping turns.
Durbidge wasn't too far behind, going almost wave-for-wave. Still, he wasn't finding the tubes and ramps that Smith was, and couldn't wrest away the lead -- even with an attempted air-reverse at the end. Smith would go on to the Quarters, while Durbidge's run was complete.
"I was trying to get a big wave count," Smith said. "There's no World Title chase for me. It's purely about getting a good performance, and work my way back to the Top 10 for the rest of the year."
The Mick Fanning show continued in Heat 4. He opened with a 9.57 to immediately put pressure on the other surfers. He backed it up with an 8.17, leaving defending event champ Kai Otton and Filipe Toledo in the proverbial dust. Otton, who waited for much of the heat to get moving, earned a 2.67 as his high score.
Despite a solid effort by Toledo, there was no catching up to Fanning. While the other surfers got pinched inside the tube again and again, Fanning made it all look easy. He went on to the Quarters, while Otton and Toledo would try again in Round 5.
"That was a scrappy heat for both of us," Melling said after his win. "I was out of synch with it a little bit."
The Mick Fanning show continued in Heat 4. He opened with a 9.57 to put pressure on the other surfers from the start. He backed it up with an 8.17, leaving defending event champ Kai Otton and Filipe Toledo in the proverbial dust. Otton, who had waited for much of the heat to get moving, earned a 2.67 as high score.
Despite a solid effort by Toledo, there was no catching up to Fanning. While the other surfers got crunched inside the tubes again and again, Fanning made it all look easy. He went on to the Quarters, while Otton and Toledo would try again in Round 5.
"Once you're at an event, you're in tip-top shape," Fanning said of performing well on Finals day. "You run half on fitness and half on adrenaline."
As the tide began to turn, so did the pace of the competition. Heat 3 saw waves thats hut down, keeping scores extremely low. Josh Kerr took an early lead with just a 6.17, as Michel Bourez hung in the second spot and Aritz Aranburu trailed them both.
In the final few moments, Aranburu -- who had taken down World No. 2 Kelly Slater (USA) the day before -- flew down a righthander, almost surfing into Kerr, who had taken the left on the same wave. Despite a solid ride topped off with two sweeping turns, it wasn't enough to push him ahead. He and Bourez would compete again in Round 5, while Kerr was headed for the Quarters.
Following his takedown yesterday of rankings leader Gabriel Medina (BRA), Brett Simpson carried his momentum into Round 4, finding a clean barrel for a six-pointer. Bede Durbidge was also fired up, pulling into a bigger tube for an eight.
Before it was over, though, Adriano De Souza took them both down with back-to-back eights. Having injured his knee the day before he rode only three waves throughout the heat, but had what he needed to move on to the Quarterfinals.
"The last 24 hours have been pretty dramatic," De Souza said. "I still feel my knee is pretty horrible. But we can only give 100 percent. I believe in God. I maybe had only 50, but he gave me 50 and pushed me through. I don't have a lot of force, because my knee is pretty horrible."
Jordy Smith found the first barrel of the heat, and the first lefthander of the morning. Despite a solid drop, the wave shut down before he exited. John John Florence pulled into the next left and made it out for a six-pointer and the lead.
It was Adam Melling who found his rhythm by the midway point though. He brought some style to the tube-riding, mixing in vertical turns to earn a 9.63 and take the lead. But it was Florence who was riding a hot streak and had a shot at the Title on his mind. Finding a narrow, fast tube, he scored his second Perfect 10 of the event, pushing Melling into second. Florence held his lead through the end and earned a trip straight to the Quarterfinals.
"This morning it was hard to get a good one," Florence said afterward. And as for his World Title chances? "That one ended up racing the whole way across, so I'm stoked. I try not to think about it too much."
In what was practically a carbon copy of his opening performance the day before, Mick Fanning found a steep barrel off the bat to earn a 9.43. He quickly backed it up with a smaller tube, pumping and tucking to make his way out before it shut down. With barely 10 minutes off the clock, Alejo Muniz was in a combo situation, needing two scores to catch up.
By the halfway point, Muniz had paddled north toward Fanning's choice spot where bigger barrels were forming. He soon found a few of his own, climbing out the combo but still lagging. Despite a huge effort, including two heavy wipeouts, Muniz never caught up. Fanning took the win and Muniz's run in Peniche was over.
Kicking off the day in mid-sized surf, Kolohe Andino took an early lead, finding a clean face to tally a three-pointer, followed by an 8.17.
But it was Filipe Toledo who found the coveted tubes, earning a 6.17 and then an 8.83, overtaking the lead. In the final 30 seconds, Andino needed a 6.84 to tip the scales. In a last-ditch effort, he stomped an air-reverse at the buzzer, but his score came in just short. Andino's run in Peniche was over, and Toledo moved on to Round 4.
"I woke up this morning confident and excited to compete," Toledo said. "Brother [Andino] was ripping the last few events ... but I went out there to have fun, and it worked."