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Our Tips for the Women’s MEO Pro Portugal

That was some Hawaiian leg. After the excitement of Pipeline, which saw two incredible wins from surfers at the polar opposite stages of their careers in Kelly Slater and Moana Jones Wong, Sunset Beach didn’t disappoint, with enormous, unruly conditions and a couple more surprise winners. Barron Mamiya and Brisa Hennessy both snagged their first ever tour wins and will both be donning the yellow jerseys at the MEO Pro in Portugal – something which anyone who claims to have predicted is lying. This is how the women’s side of the event is shaping up

The Favourites

There were plenty of surprises in the women’s edition of the Hurley Pro at Sunset Beach, but perhaps none bigger than Carissa Moore’s Round of 16 defeat. That loss marked the first time in nearly three years that she didn’t reach the semi-finals of a tournament, and it’s hard to imagine lightning striking twice in that regard. The women have only surfed at Peniche three times at the CT level, and Moore is winner of one of those events – back in 2010. She was just 18 at the time, and now 29, she is the deserved favourite to take it out again.

Tyler Wright’s third place at Pipeline suggested she was ready to return to her title contending ways, and though being knocked out in the Round of 16 at Sunset was a disappointment, it’s likely to be a mere blip on the radar rather than a genuine blow to her chances. She didn’t surf in any of the three previous incarnations of this event, but she’s won just down the coast at Cascais in the past and has plenty of ability in barrelling conditions, so expect her to take to Supertubos like a duck to water.

Lakey Peterson was unable to follow up her semi-final appearance at Pipeline with a second good result to begin the season, falling in the Round of 16 at the Hurley Pro, but nonetheless she is looming as a contender this year and is likely to be in the mix at most tournaments she competes in throughout the season. During the best seasons of her career to date she was consistently making it through to the quarters and very often the semis, and at her only CT appearance at Supertubos she finished in second place to Caroline Marks. She has the ability and prior form line to be a real threat here, and it would be no surprise to see her taking out the event and solidifying a place in the top five in the world rankings. 

The Next Tier

There are a number of would-be title contenders who have endured very indifferent starts to the season, and Steph Gilmore is perhaps the most notable among them. The seven-time world champion withdrew from Pipeline with COVID before finishing ninth at Sunset, meaning that she finds herself in 16th place in the world rankings and below the newly introduced cutline which will come into effect after five events. Another poor showing would put her in genuine danger of being axed halfway through the season, but though she’s no longer at the peak of her powers, the 34-year-old is still good enough to mix it with the top tier and will be eager to put in a good showing at Portugal.

In a similar boat to Gilmore is Tatiana Weston-Webb, who after finishing second last season has failed to make it past the Round of 16 in both events so far this season. That has her sitting just below the cut line, but she’s too good to stay there and will surely be able to bounce back at some point in time. Still just 25 years of age, the goofy footer excels in the pocket and can smack the lip like few others in the world, but she’s shown a penchant for the pits in Peniche in the past, having finished in third place there at the most recent Supertubos event. It seems likely that she will be able to bump herself up the standings at this contest, and she has to be considered among the threats despite her poor start to the year.

Our final member of this category is in virtually the opposite scenario to the above two names. Malia Manuel has been a consistent member of the CT over the past few years but has typically been unable to quite get to the level required to consistently beat the best in the world, but her start to the 2022 season suggests maybe that’s all changed. After a fifth place finish in Pipeline she made it through to the final in Sunset, and though she was unable to earn what is proving to be an elusive maiden event win at the top level, the result was still sufficient to see her jump into second place in the world rankings. She’s surfing as well as anybody in the world, and is a big chance of taking out this event.

The Roughie

Will Brisa Hennessy’s inaugural Championship Tour win open the floodgates for the Costa Rican? Having never previously made it into a final, she was brilliant from the outset at Sunset Beach and rarely even looked in danger of losing a heat throughout the event. That followed on from a good performance at Pipeline, where she finished fifth, and will see her wearing the yellow jersey for the first time in her career at Supertubos. She’ll need to maintain this kind of form before she starts being considered a genuine title threat this year, but her start has been about as impressive as she could have hoped for, and another strong showing in Portugal will see her name being mentioned alongside many of the aforementioned, more established stars.

Our Tip

As mundane a tip as it may seem, Moore deserves to be regarded as one of, if not, the best chances to win most events she heads into. Her early defeat at Sunset Beach was a big surprise, but come season’s end we will almost certainly look back on that as nothing more than a blip on the radar. She won this event when it was held for the second time back in 2010 at the age of just 18; nine years later when it returned to the schedule she finished third, so clearly she surfs the wave well – as she does most waves – and deserves to be considered the favourite for the event.