Crunch time for Owen Wright

Owen Wright. Photo: WSL/POULLENOT
Owen Wright. Photo: WSL/POULLENOT

Following an exciting conclusion to the recent event in France, the world’s best surfers, including Culburra Beach’s Owen Wright, have now arrived in Portugal for stop number 10 on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal.

The event holds a competitive window starting October 20 and running through October 31.

Held at the world-class beach break of Supertubos, the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal has hosted the world’s best surfers since 2009.

With just two events remaining this season, the event will once again be a crucial stop in the hunt for this year’s world surfing crown as well as the battle for requalification.

The title race is wide open with eight WSL title contenders going into Portugal: John John Florence (HAW), Jordy Smith (ZAF), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Owen Wright (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Julian Wilson (AUS), Filipe Toledo (BRA) and Adriano de Souza (BRA).

Defending event winner and reigning WSL Champion Florence is the only surfer that can clinch the 2017 World Title in Portugal and can only become champion in the following scenarios:

  • If Florence wins the event, Smith will need a fifth or better to stop him;
  • If Florence finishes second, Smith will need a ninth or better to stop him and Medina, Wright and Wilkinson will need to win the event;
  • If Florence finishes third or below, the World Title decision will go to Hawaii.

“This event is always a really exciting event coming at the end of the year," said Florence, who claimed his maiden WSL Title at this event in 2016.

"Last year here is one of the best memories I have in my competitive career.

“I’m really excited to be here this year with the swell forecast so hopefully we get some big barrels."

Smith wore the yellow jersey until a disappointing round three exit in France saw Florence overtake him on the Jeep Leaderboard and claim the jersey for himself.

The South African has a strong record at the event, with a semi-final finish last year and a runner-up finish in 2014.

“The way the points are at the moment, I think the WSL Title will come down to Hawaii,” Smith said.

“Like John (Florence) said throughout this year,  there will be some big waves and some big barrels so who knows, anything could happen.”

Medina is fresh from a victory at stop number nine on the CT in France and now sits in third place on the Jeep Leaderboard as a serious title contender.

The 2014 WSL Champion is carrying a 25th place finish in his ranking points total so will need to improve on last year’s round three elimination in Portugal in order to keep his title hopes alive.

“It was very nice to win in France and I’m feeling really good and it’s given me lots of confidence,” Medina said.

“It’s like my second home here, so I’m happy to be back.

“The forecast is really good so I’m looking forward to the event.”