Who Will Win the 2024 MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal

The Hawaiian leg of the 2024 Championship Tour is now complete, and lo and behold, we actually got some decent waves! After a dismal 2023 from a conditions perspective, Pipeline delivered some quality and Sunset Beach was arguably even better, the scattered beach break delivering some of the heaving waves for which it’s so well known around the world. The tour now heads to Europe for the only remaining leg on the continent after Hossegor was canned a couple of years ago, at another heaving beach break. 

Portugal’s Supertubos can dish up some of the best barrels you’ll ever see, as Callum Robson so capably showed everyone with his 10-point ride there last year. It can also be extremely fickle, prone to unfavourable winds and close outs, and the early signs are that the event window will see a lot of the former of those. But Supertubos is the kind of wave which can deliver diamonds in the rough even when conditions are not ideal, and regardless of what kind of waves are on offer, 10,000 points will be up for grabs on both sides of the draw. Let’s take a look at who are the best chances to win both the men’s and the women’s events. 

Men’s MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal

It’s been a funny start to the year on the men’s Championship Tour, with three of the four finalists from the first two events having been knocked out in the Round of 32 of the other. John John Florence is the solitary exception, having picked up a second and a fifth at his two home events, and that is enough to have him paddling out in the yellow jersey in Portugal. As a past winner here he will be one of the favourites to take it out, though he will need to break a trend of Brazilian dominance at the wave, with Joao Chianca, Italo Ferreira, Gabriel Medina and Filipe Toledo having won five of the last seven contests here. Of course, a couple of those will be absent this year while the two others are not surfing like they once were, but they still slot in as a couple of the favourites to win the event.

The Favourites

Jack Robinson will enter the contest as the outright favourite coming off a hugely impressive win at Sunset Beach which reminded us of just how dominant the Margaret River local can be – oh, and a win which, incidentally, I picked. He got better as that contest went on, excelling in the heavy conditions to average 15.32 across his six heats and 17.17 across his last three – including an 18.04 in the final. Plenty of his opponents surfed really well, but nobody was beating Robinson in the form he was in, which was similar to how he surfed this time last year when he made at least a semi-final in each of the first three events. That included a second-place finish at Supertubos which saw him score 15.93 in the Round of 16, 16.17 in the semis and 15.14 in the final. He’s got recent form at this wave and performed like the best surfer in the world at the previous event, so there is good reason to believe that he will be extremely difficult to beat. 

Robinson has plenty of contenders, but the biggest of them is the only man ahead of him in the world rankings two events into the season. John John Florence didn’t manage to snare a win at either North Shore event, but he made the final at Pipeline and the quarters at Sunset, and is generally looking like having his best crack at a third world title since his most recent one way back in 2017 – assuming, of course, that he can manage to actually stay in the water all season long. Injuries have been a constant issue for John John throughout his career and have seen him miss two of the past four contests at Supertubos, but he’s won here before – albeit a long time ago – and finished in third back in 2022. Last year was a notable exception, but the one bad heat which saw him knocked out won’t bother him too much. The year prior he averaged 14.15 in five heats at the break, so it’s fair to say he knows what he’s doing there. The yellow jersey wearer should be in the mix deep into this contest.

The Next Tier

Florence and Robinson stand alone as the favourites for this event, but not too far behind them is the best chance of continuing the Brazilian dominance in Portugal. Gabriel Medina should be back in the championship mix in his second full year back on tour, though he isn’t exactly off to the ideal start. The three-time world champ was knocked out in the Round of 32 at each event in Hawaii, which is notable, particularly at Pipeline given how dominant he has been there in the past. The 30-year-old also hasn’t really excelled at Supertubos despite having won here in the past; that win came back in 2017 and he followed it up with a third the next year, but overall in ten appearances at the contest he’s only made it past the Round of 16 four times. For that reason, Robinson and Florence clearly look like better chances than he does in the lead-up to the event, but write off Gabriel Medina at your own peril. At the age of just 30 he should still have plenty of high-quality surfing ahead of him despite performances to the contrary to date so far this year, and it would be no surprise to see him catapult back up the world rankings with a strong performance in Portugal.

Medina and his Brazilian amigos, as mentioned, have had a pretty good run at this event, and the only man to keep them off the top of the podium since 2016 is Griffin Colapinto. He just barely did so, beating Toledo by 0.14 in the final, but he well and truly deserved that win having averaged 14.25 over the contest, his most impressive performance coming in the quarters when a 10-point ride helped him to a heat total of 17.83 against Kolohe Andino. He couldn’t back that win up last year, when he was knocked out in the quarterfinals, but he actually looked like just about the best surfer in it till that heat, averaging over 15 points each time he paddled out up until then. He hasn’t had the greatest start to this season with two consecutive Round of 16 defeats, but over the past two editions of the MEO Rip Curl Pro he has proven himself to be one of the best in the business at this wave. The 25-year-old from San Clemente should again be right in the mix to make the WSL Finals this year, and this event looks like the ideal place for him to kickstart his season.

As one of the top handful of surfers in the world, Ethan Ewing has to be considered a reasonable chance of going deep as well, though truth be told this is far from his ideal wave. The bigger the face the more Ewing excels, with his beautiful carving ability best suited to peeling point breaks like Bells. But the older he gets, the more well-rounded he becomes, He’s finished fourth and then second the last two years and is increasingly getting good results at a range of different breaks. His start to the year has been solid but unspectacular with a ninth and a fifth place finish, and there is no doubt that there are a couple of names ahead of him here that could see him resigned to another similar finish at the season’s third event. But now aged 25, Ewing has established himself as one of the best of the best over the past couple of years and will only continue to get better. Performing at waves like this, to which he may not be perfectly suited, will be the best way for him to go from a world title contender, to a world champion.

The Roughie

It’s been seven years since Jordy Smith last won a Championship Tour event, and now aged 36 there is no guarantee that he will ever add to the six that he has won to date – in fact it probably looks pretty unlikely. But he has wound back the clock so far this year, picking up a fifth and a third in Hawaii – enough to have him sitting in fourth place heading into the third event of the year. None of those six event wins have come at Supertubos, but he has gone close many times. Three times he has finished second at this event, ranging from 2010 through to 2019, while he also picked up a third place finish during that period. Smith is not the surfer that he once was and hasn’t been a legitimate championship threat for the past couple of years, but the South African himself has acknowledged the greater emphasis he has placed on conditioning and preparation in the lead-up to this season than previously, and how much better he is feeling in the water as a result. Whether he can maintain the form he has displayed early in the year and establish himself as a genuine WSL Finals threat remains to be seen, but at this event, where he has surfed very well in the past, he has a chance to show everyone that he’s capable of matching it with the next generation with another deep run. 

Our Prediction

There’s no doubt in my mind that Florence and Robinson deserve to be viewed as the ones to beat in this contest. Following the Hawaiian leg of the CT season they find themselves sitting in one and two respectively in the world rankings, and each of them has surfed well here before. But Robinson has done it more recently, and also comes into this contest on the back of a dominant performance at Sunset Beach. Like he did last year, he looks ready to stamp his authority early on in the season, and based on the way that he surfed at Sunset – as well as his performance at Supertubos last year – he looks well poised to do what very few surfers have ever managed and win back to back contests for the second time in his career. 

Women’s MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal

It’s safe to say that we have entered a new generation of women’s surfing. There has been a huge influx of young talent come through in the past couple of years, and already they are taking over. The top three in the world after the first two events are aged 21, 18 and 18, while Caroline Marks back in fifth is an old hand at 22. Unlike on the men’s side of the tour, the top women excelled in both events in Hawaii, with three surfers making the semis at both events. Unsurprisingly, those three will be among the best chances to win at Supertubos, particularly with a couple of them having won the event before. 

The Favourites

Molly Picklum catapulted into world title contention with a fifth place finish in her second year on tour, and this year she appears to have taken another significant step forward. Her start to the season has been electric; after surfing better than anyone at Pipeline she racked up a second place finish to start, and backed that up with a win at Sunset during which nobody really got close to beating her. With those two results up her sleeve she is of course the yellow jersey wearer, and has also solidified herself as the world title favourite in Carissa Moore’s absence. Having only been on the tour she obviously doesn’t have a wealth of experience at this wave, though in her two appearances her finishes have been pretty much in line with her overall finish that year. In 2022 she finished ninth at Supertubos in a year in which she finished 14th overall, while last year she jumped up to fifth at Supertubos and finished fifth overall. Now the number one ranked surfer in the world, it would be no surprise to see her notch up the third victory of her short career and her second in a row.

The only woman to beat Picklum so far this year is Caitlin Simmers, who, aged just 18, knocked her off at Pipeline. She wasn’t as consistent at that event as Picklum but surfed well when it mattered most, although, despite making the quarterfinals at Sunset Beach the next week, struggled in the conditions. But for an 18-year-old, that’s to be expected. In just over a year on tour, Simmers has demonstrated that she is already capable of matching it with the best, but with only 14 CT events under her belt, it’s no surprise that doing it consistently isn’t her forte. But the young Californian has good reason to be confident going into this event. Her first ever win at this level came at this event last year at the ripe old age of 17, and with another year of experience under her belt there is no reason to doubt her ability to make it two wins in as many years in Portugal. 

With so much youth at the top end of the women’s world surf rankings, Caroline Marks, in her sixth full year on tour, seems like a veteran, but incredibly, she only turned 22 a couple of weeks ago. She’s already packed plenty into her young career, which happens when you finish second at the age of just 17, culminating in a maiden world title last year. She has long looked as good as anyone on her day but has often been hampered by a few disappointing results, but last year she put it all together and there is no reason to think she won’t continue her forward march this year. Her start to the year hasn’t been fantastic – though she finished 5th and 3rd in the two Hawaiian events, she was only scraping through and didn’t really put together any scores of note – but this is a good place for her to turn that around. At just 17 years old she won this event, and won it easily at that, knocking out the likes of Steph Gilmore, Tatiana Weston-Webb and Lakey Peterson by big margins en route to the victory. Though she still remains capable of throwing in the odd poor performance, Marks will see herself as a big chance to win this event.

The Next Tier

Tyler Wright is the forgotten woman of the tour in many ways, but she shouldn’t be. The two-time world champion has gradually been working herself back into title contention over the past couple of years and has often looked like the best in the business alongside Carissa Moore, and with Moore now out of the picture she should be right up there with the title favourites. But with the influx of young talent and a couple of poor performances to start the year, she finds herself in 11th and below the mid-season cut line early in the year. Don’t expect her to stay there. Wright is still just 29 years of age and has plenty of good surfing ahead of her, and it’s hard to imagine her not turning her form around at some point soon. She surfed pretty well at Supertubos in 2022 – the first CT contest she had competed in here, and though she was surprisingly knocked out in the Elimination Round last year, that was nothing more than a blip on the radar in a season in which she made the semi-finals in all but two events. It certainly wasn’t indicative of an inability to surf this wave, and she won’t likely be repeating it this year. Wright is a perennial contender at nearly every event she surfs in, and though she’s had a poor start to the season, there’s no doubt she’ll bounce back at some point. 

When Wright first competed in a Championship Tour event, Bettylou Sakura Johnson was just four years old, but now 18 she will join Wright as one of the better chances to win the 2024 MEO Rip Curl Pro in Portugal. Hailing from the North Shore, Sakura Johnson has been recognised throughout her adolescence for her ability at her home breaks, but she is capable of surfing well at more than just Pipe and Sunset Beach. After getting the chop at the mid-season cut in 2022 – understandable given that she had just turned 16 – she improved to finish tenth last year, a year in which she was knocked out by Carissa Moore on four occasions. She doesn’t have to worry about that anymore, though there are plenty of others to fill that void. She wasn’t great at this break last year, sneaking through the Opening Round with a low score before going down in the Round of 16, but she appears to have taken a big step forward over the break, recording the best two results of her career at the two events so far this year. It feels inevitable that Sakura Johnson will at some point begin to show her wares outside of Hawaii, and she looks well placed to give a much better showing here than she did last year. She’s undoubtedly a little way below the above four names as far as chances at this event are concerned, but is good enough to put herself in the mix.

Our Prediction

There are a couple of surfers on the women’s side of the draw who it’s really difficult to go past, Molly Picklum chief among them, but despite a less than ideal start to the year Tyler Wright looms as a massive danger to each of them. With Moore out of the picture she has the potential to take over the tour this year and remind the world that the previous generation of female surfers isn’t ready to hand over the torch to their younger counterparts just yet. She hasn’t had the results that she’d want at this break in her previous two cracks at it, but she has shown for more than a decade that she is capable of winning anywhere. Wright can begin her march up the world rankings with her first win since almost a year, and her first career win in Portugal. 

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