Peniche -- home of the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal -- has been on the schedule for seven years and stakes claim to plenty of parity. Seven different champions have been crowned and five of them remain in this year's draw. Of those five, four of them lay in Tier A, including last year's winner, John John Florence.
There's no doubt Florence will land on a high percentage of fantasy teams, and for good reason. John blows everyone away with 14 Excellent Heats through six events surfed. That nearly doubles the next best surfer in that category: Mick Fanning, who has eight. John's Average Heat Score in Portugal is 14.13, which is the third best of all time, but what's more impressive is John's 16.53 AHS for 2017. Just 1.82 points separate John and the next best surfer's AHS this year. To put his dominance in perspective, that same 1.82 margin is also the difference between 2nd and 18th in Average Heat Score.
Jordy Smith comes into Portugal already with more points through 2017 (47,600) than he finished with as World Title runner-up in 2016 (46,400). That bodes well for him, at a historically good location for his surfing. Jordy has made the Semifinals in three of the six events he's surfed, and twice made the Final in 2010 and 2014. No other surfer has cracked the Semis more than twice in Peniche.
Owen Wright and Julian Wilson, meanwhile, both sit inside the top 5 in AHS with 13.79 and 13.77, respectively. The difference here lies in Heat Win Percentage where Julian's 60 percent beats out Owen's 50 percent. Julian took a controversial win in 2012 over an emotional Gabriel Medina, but also bombed out with back-to-back 25ths in 2014 and 2015. As for Owen's part, he's missed two events in the past four years due to injury.
Common sense would lead you to guess that Portugal is a place where Medina would thrive. Curiously enough, the numbers tell a different story. Although he did make the Final in 2012, in the other five events, Gabby only reached the Quarterfinals one time, where he was comboed (needing two new scores to catch up in a heat) by Italo Ferreira in 2015. His 12.49 AHS is all the way down to 18th of surfers currently on Tour and his 55 percent HWP is good for 14th.
Although they're long-shots for the World Title, Adriano de Souza or Filipe Toledo can keep themselves in the running by becoming the first surfer to win twice in Portugal. They both need to finish 3rd or better to stay in the hunt, as long as John and the higher seeds don't improve on their throwaway results. Both ADS and Filipe are top 5 in AHS at this event but Filipe is coming off a rib injury, which significantly hindered him in France. He's confirmed to surf but will not yet be at 100 percent.
Only one surfer in Tier B has previously gone on to win the MEO Rip Curl Pro. Mick Fanning took the trophy in 2014. It sounds wild to think that Mick hasn't passed the Quarterfinals the entire 2017 season, but if his form in France serves as a prequel, we could easily see that streak end at Supertubos. Mick has the second-highest AHS at this venue with a healthy 14.25, but his 61 percent HWP doesn't match up, dropping all the way to 9th of the surfers currently on Tour.
It's a small sample size, but through two seasons on Tour, Italo Ferreira sits with the all-time highest AHS in Portugal at 14.83. You probably remember his freakish backside air reverse in the 2015 Final vs. Toledo. His strong showing that year gives major confidence that Italo will perform even if the conditions do not.
Another small sample size with big impact is for Conner Coffin. On the verge of falling off Tour in his rookie season, Conner blew up with a 2nd place in Peniche last year. He did it the hard way, losing in both Round One and Round Four but bounced back with clutch wins over Filipe Toledo, Jeremy Flores and eventually Jordy Smith, to officially clinch John's first World Title.
Don't forget that Portugal has some of the most passionate fans in all of surfing and they now have something major to root for with Frederico Morais. He dismantled Mick Fanning's Title run in 2015 and forced Gabriel Medina into Round Two in 2016, both as a wildcard. Frederico is currently in the driver's seat for Rookie of the Year and has already notched 10 Excellent Heats this season, tied with Medina for 6th on Tour.
One unassuming name you might want to avoid is Adrian Buchan. With all his success in France, it seems weird that he'd fare so poorly in Portugal, but Ace has finished last place in five of the seven events held in Peniche. His 9.63 AHS is dead last of surfers on Tour, which matches his 25 percent HWP, which is also tied for last with Wiggolly Dantas.
Is it too early to panic for surfers who haven't backed themselves up with solid results on the QS? Absolutely not! While Coffin laid out a blueprint for how to battle back and requalify last year, that scenario isn't realistic for many Tier C surfers at this point.
There are a few in this bracket with prior success at Supertubos. Nat Young made the Final his rookie year on tour in 2013 but has yet to back it up with anything substantial and has a mid-rang 12.71 AHS.
Josh Kerr had a run of three consecutive results here going 5th, 3rd, 5th from 2012-2014 and also stuck one of the most legit stalefish airs in CT history. His 12.65 AHS and 62 percent HWP are worth noting.
Lastly, beware of the wildcards. Portuguese native Vasco Ribeiro has only received one prior chance to surf in this event and he ripped all the way to the Semifinals in 2015, before Italo halted his dream run.
The other wildcard slot goes to Mason Ho, who consistently finds a way to flourish in CT competition. His unpredictable nature shines in heats and fans flock to their devices to watch when he hits the water. Mason's only experience in this event came in 2015 where he eliminated Julian Wilson in Round Two, but couldn't back it up against Toledo, albeit in marginal conditions.
Jack Freestone and Zeke Lau both have a single 3rd-place finish in their results this year. One more of those could be enough to push them to safety for 2018. Only two chances remain to gain valuable points.
Make sure to get your WSL Fantasy picks in soon, as the MEO Rip Curl Pro could kick off as early as this Friday, October 20, with a window that runs through October 31.