Eight in (mathematical) contention for the World Title, a favourable forecast, surfers battling for their careers and the chance of massive Nazare. The next week at the MEO Rip Curl Portugal Pro should pose plenty of questions for the surfing world. Here’s five key questions, and five questionable answers. 

Will it be any good? 
In a word, yes. Now predicting Supertubes is a fool’s game, but early freesurfing sessions this week have seen the banks looking in prime condition. Swell is never a big issue at this time of year, it is the south and northwest winds that tend to wreck the waves and the commissioner’s mind. From Sunday though, the winds look to be out of the ideal northeast quadrant and the swell hovers up and down around the solid six foot mark till Thursday. The 2011 event that featured four days of back-to-back perfection is the benchmark, but right now next week looks like we could finally see all-time Supertubes, in patches at least. When it’s on, there are few beachbreaks in the world that are better. 

Peniche, the setting for the penultimate event on the WSL calendar and often the location where world titles are determined.WSL/Cestari
Will John John win a second World Title in Portugal?
In theory there are eight surfers still in mathematical contention for the Title, but only one, John John Florence, who can win it in Peniche. The race will go to Pipeline, however if John finishes third or below. If he makes the final, Jordy will need at least a fifth. Interestingly, or not, there has been seven winners in the seven years the event has run. Jordy isn’t one of them, but he has made the semifinals in three of the six events he's surfed and twice made the final. More of that form and we will see the Pipe climax most surf fans crave. 

Can the Aussie battlers save their season?
It’s now or never for Jack Freestone, Ethan Ewing, Josh Kerr and Stu Kennedy. If they are to have any chance of qualifying via the CT, they will need a huge result just to give themselves a chance at Pipeline. Of the four Josh Kerr might be the best bet. With the forecast promising throaty tubes, Kerzzy might be able to forget his annus horribilis, surf on instinct and simply pull in. He showed glimpses of real form in France and if anyone is owed some luck, it’s Kerr. 

Will Nazare come into play?
Last year Nazare was included as a back up venue for the event, but this year if any competition runs there it might be the Nazare Challenge. “We’ve had good waves here over the last month or so, but we need some magic numbers for paddling Nazare at its biggest,” UK surfer and Challenge invitee Andrew Cotton told Tracks. “A three metre swell from the northwest, long period, light east winds. Ideally you want it a dreamy 25-foot Hawaiian size with barrels. Next week has potential for some of those numbers, but it’s so hard to predict even a week out. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Imagine having a version of Nazare for a WCT event. WSL/Rafael G.Riancho

Are there any jokers in the pack? 
Everyone’s favorite wildcard, heck, everyone’s favourite surfer, Mason Ho is set to return to the CT at Supertubes. Rosie Hodge will be having nightsweats at the thought of the post heat interviews, as will the top seeds if they have to face Ho in challenging barrels. The other wildcard is local Vasco Ribeiro, and although not as entertaining or box office, he is a former World Junior Champion who made the quarterfinals here two years ago. A wildcard hasn’t done any real damage since Yago Dora back in Brazil. That could be about to change in Peniche next week. 

 Win or Wipeout, Mason Ho is guaranteeed to be an entertaining wildcard. WSL/Kenneth Morris