Everything you thought about the top pro surfers went out the Portuguese window Sunday at the Moche Rip Curl Pro as more of the elite Championship Tour's (CT) top-ranked surfers went down and the contest's intensity skyrocketed. By the end of the day, the top four surfers on the men's Jeep rankings were eliminated, Gabriel Medina (BRA) proved his wunderkind status once again, and the World Title race was headed for Hawaii, to be decided at the season's final event - The Billabong Pipe Masters.
If you slept through it all, here are the 5 things to digest before the work week starts anew:
1. Brett Simpson Eliminated Kelly Slater in Round 3
Just before heading out for his heat, World No. 34 (out of 34) Brett Simpson (USA) popped into the athletes' area, kissed his wife and his tiny daughter, who was playing nearby. He then proceeded to paddle out and take down Kelly Slater (USA).
"I wanted to make sure I got a decent start and tried not to let Kelly do his thing," Simpson said afterward. "Fortunately with two decent rides and priority I was able to control the heat. I don't do that enough, that was a more strategic win."
For Simpson, who will have to requalify through the next-tier Qualifying Series (QS) if he wants to keep his CT job next year, getting past Slater was a much-needed coup -- and his first time getting past Round 3 in 2015.
"It's a big heat, beating Slater and going into Round 4. It's been a struggle, but I keep surfing and having fun, the surf stoke is there."
2. Replacement Surfer Eliminated World No. 1 Mick Fanning
Within seconds of starting, Round 3 Heat 6 became the most exciting 30 minutes of the contest so far when Frederico Morais (PRT) -- a local surfer and injury replacement in the event -- ripped apart a set wave to earn a 9.13. With that, World No. 1 and World Title contender Mick Fanning (AUS) was instantly on the defensive. Fanning fell on his first wave -- unusual for the steely Aussie -- and despite a few fired-up waves, it wasn't enough.
Whether it was the massive hometown crowd cheering for Morais, the nerves that come with being so close to winning a fourth Title trophy or both, Fanning faltered and was eliminated in what would be just the first huge coup for Portugal.
3. Wildcard Eliminates World No. 2 Adriano de Souza
As if Fanning's defeat wasn't enough for one day, wildcard Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) kept local pride levels high when he took down World No. 2 Adriano de Souza (BRA) in the very next heat. Fanning's early exit theoretically left the door wide open for De Souza to overtake his opponent in the Jeep rankings. When they landed in Portugal, the two were neck-and-neck in the World Title race, with Fanning leading by just 450 points, and no one else really in the conversation. But by the end of the day, their battle would be headed for Hawaii and another name would be in the mix.
4. John John Florence Isn't the Only Hawaiian Who Can Win
After missing two events due to injury last summer, Hawaiian prodigy John John Florence (HAW) has shown that he can, in fact, lose heats. First, there was the shocking Round 2 loss to Glenn Hall (IRL) at Trestles. He bounced back to some extent in France with a fifth-place finish, but in Portugal fellow Hawaiian Keanu Asing stopped him in his high-flying tracks. For Florence, it was a disappointing run in Europe. For Asing, it's a last-ditch shot at hanging on to his elite CT job next year. Currently ranked equal-21st on the Jeep rankings, Asing is very close to falling off Tour and needed a boost at Supertubos.
5. Gabriel Medina Is Back (Really) -- But He's Not Alone
In case no one was sure, Gabriel Medina (BRA) is back in a big way and means business. After a year that could be called a World Championship slump, the young man who became the first Title winner from Brazil has been steadily gaining steam. Just before the Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal, he won the Quiksilver Pro France. It was his first event win of the year, suggesting the fire is still burning strong.
But Medina's no longer the only young Brazilian with talent to spare and poise under pressure: In the final heat of Round 3, he faced fellow young gun Caio Ibelli (BRA), a top Qualifying Series (QS) surfer who will almost definitely be on the elite CT in 2016. After trailing for most of the 30-minute heat, Ibelli found a huge barrel in the final minutes to score a 9.77 and take the lead. Just as it seemed that another titan would go down, Medina fired back with a massive air-reverse to land in the flats. He scored scored a 9.50 and won the heat as he walked in to the beach, just like that. The crowd was singing, Medina was beaming and his stepdad and coach, Charlie Serrano, was the happiest guy in Peniche.
6. Round 4, Heat 1 Was Ridiculous
After Sunday's spate of heavy matchups, it was tough to imagine that anything more exciting could happen. That is, until Filipe Toledo (BRA) paddled out for Round 4 Heat 1, a non-elimination heat with three surfers. Within minutes he had his first score in the nine-point range for a solid tube ride. Pretty soon, he found another for -- you guessed it -- a huge air.
But just as Medina had a dark-horse opponent, Toledo wasn't the only one in the water: Not to be outdone, Kolohe Andino (USA) found a perfect 10-point ride to get back into the game. The performance moved him into second place but wasn't enough to catch Toledo, who kept the lead from start to finish. Andino and Simpson will get to surf again in Round 5, while Toledo hops up the rankings, and directly to the Quarterfinals.