Shop Sale ~ Mens > Womens > Sports >

Portuguese Surfing Team Tokyo Games 2020 – Preview

Portugal isn’t as renowned for producing quality surfers as the likes of Australia, the USA and Brazil, but the country’s exposed coastline has nonetheless helped to produce plenty of decorated pros over the years. They’ve managed to fill three of the four spots allotted to them for the upcoming Olympics – let’s take a look at the team they’re sending to Tokyo.

The Team

Portugal will send two women and one man to Tsurigasaki Beach, but despite those numbers it’s on the men’s side of the draw where they are the best hope of snaring a medal. Frederico Morais will carry their hopes as the sole Portuguese surfer on that side of the action – he qualified through the 2019 European ISA World Surfing Games rather than the Championship Tour route that most of the best chances took, but since 2019 he has bounced back and is now a staple of the tour.

On the women’s side of things, Yolanda Sequeira and Teresa Bonvalot will carry the red, green and yellow flag, having advanced through the last available route at the recently concluded ISA World Surfing Games. Both aged 23 or under, they don’t have the experience of their male counterpart and are less fancied head home with a medal.

The Women

Yolanda Sequeira doesn’t exactly boast a high profile in the professional surfing world, but over the past couple of years she has begun to gradually scratch out a name for herself. Born in Algarves on Portugal’s southern coast, the powerful 23-year-old spent a number of years competing on the local circuit before taking her skills to the national level a few short years ago. She continued to progress under coach John Tranter, and in 2019 became Portugal’s National Surf Champion.

Sequeira does most of her training in Sines, a little further north from her home region, because back in Algarves the waves have a tendency to be a little fickle. Perhaps it’s for that reason that she is, by her own admission, out in the water regardless of the conditions, and at a Japanese beach break that may hold her in good stead. She will still head into the event as one of the least favoured to take it out, but with the potential for smaller, less powerful conditions to what we typically see on the Championship Tour, the playing field may be levelled up somewhat, and her experience in smaller conditions could come in handy.

Teresa Bonvalot has a little more experience in high-level professional competition, and the 21-year-old from Cascais may be Portugal’s best hope for the women. She first made an appearance on the Championship Tour at the ripe old age of 14 courtesy of the fact that the Women’s Tour held an event in her hometown, and for each of the next three years she appeared at that event. She typically didn’t fare too well – it wasn’t until 2017 that she first advanced out of the first round, and since that 2017 appearance she hasn’t been seen at the top level.

Instead, she’s predominantly been getting her feet wet on the Qualifying Series, where – while she has had some good results – she hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. The lightly framed goofy-footer is still young and has plenty of time to further her professional career, but heading to Tokyo it will be a surprise to see her in the final few. 

The takeaway, essentially, is that neither of the two Portuguese women are likely to challenge for a medal at Tsurigasaki Beach. They are a rung below the best surfers in the world and will need things to go their way to even challenge, meaning Portugal’s best hopes rest predominantly on the shoulders of their sole male surfer at the Olympics.

The Men (or should we say, the man)

Frederico Morais took a while to make his mark. Though he made sporadic appearances on the Championship Tour – predominantly in Portugal – in his early 20s and performed reasonably well in some of them, it wasn’t until he was 25 that the Cascais local began to make his mark at the top level. A terrific end to the 2016 Qualifying Series saw him qualify for the Championship Tour in 2017, and in his first full year at the top level he finished in 14th. A disappointing 2018 saw him drop back down a level the year after, but he is once again back on the Championship Tour in 2021 and has made a solid start to the season, finding himself in 11th after six events.

Morais has established himself as a solid enough surfer to compete with the best, as he has demonstrated with numerous solid runs at CT events, though he has never won at the top level and is clearly a tier below the top ranked surfers. A powerful regular-footer who typically excels in bigger surf, the waves at Tsurigisaki may not be ideal for him – they will likely be better suited for surfers who can create speed on a whim and probably score points in a number of waves – but nonetheless, with all his experience on the Championship Tour he will head to Japan as Portugal’s number one hope.

Portugal are the only nation to be sending three surfers to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – all of Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, Peru and the USA will fill their quota of four, while a couple will send two and the rest will send one. Despite boasting a reasonably full team, however, they will be up against it to finish up with a medal. Both Sequeira and Bonvalot are young and the latter, in particular, has plenty of scope for improvement, but they are competing in the lower ranks for a reason and will likely struggle against the best in the world. Morais is another story – he is certainly capable against anyone in the world on his day and it wouldn’t be a surprise to make it to the latter stages, but he too has numerous competitors much more highly fancied than him to finish on the podium.