It’s going to be a tight finish, to be sure. Adriano showed a few cracks in his first round performance that saw him placed third against giant killer Fred Morais from Portugal and Kolohe Andino in heat 5. Owen Wright had just lost the heat previous to Adriano’s, and it was like the world title just yawned open, leaving a massive gap for Fanning to walk straight into.

Adriano was cool on the ground on his first round loss however, knowing that there is much more still to come. “I need to improve for sure and I’m looking forward to my round 2 match,” said Adriano. ”I feel great and I feel relaxed. The contest just started and a lot of things will happen at this contest, but my focus is on round two against Tiago.”

Speaking of Tiago…

Fanning, however, needed no more prompting to get into a good position to finish this thing off for the year. He surfed a tight heat against Taigo and Seabass, showing some clean and explosive surfing on the small A-frames, looking for the corners, and showing commitment on every one of his turns. This event, and the world title is so his for the taking.

Slater arrived, and his arrival and aura was reminiscent of years gone by. There was a time in past when the sport of professional surfing was made up of some very distinct and colourful characters. It was a time of Mark Richards, Dane Kealohoa, of Shaun Tomson and Cheyne Horan and Rabbit. Remember those times?

One of the most eccentric of these characters was Cheyne Horan. His focus was incredible, but his directions were somewhat misguided at times. He focused on diet, on yoga, on meditation and on board design. Along the way his boards, single fins everyone of them, started getting more and more weird, culminating somewhere along the line with his tear-drop Ben Lexcen-designed winged keel prototype-thingie. When he first introduced it to the world he used to walk down to the beach and prepare for the competition with a towel firmly wrapped around the fin, so no one could see what his design was all about, and couldn’t thus steal any ideas.

It probably wouldn’t have mattered that much. Not too many people were interested much beyond lampooning his approach and weirdness, but the fact that he took it so seriously meant that he believed intensely in what he was doing at the time. There’s the rub.

Kelly arrived at the contest site, after there was much talk as to whether he was going to appear or not, with a board that had nothing on it. No dimensions marked off, no shaper name, and what looked like a whole lot of extra foam, as well as an unusual-for-Slater squash tail. The lack of dimensions marked was akin to the Cheyne Horan wrapped fin scenario, keeping something a secret without putting in too much effort, drawing attention, yet revealing nothing. Everyone was talking about the board…

Slater started off going straight into the skies in his heat against Artiz Aranburu and Adrian Buchan, attempting airs on all of his first waves despite the fact that he hadn’t surfed in over a week. “I’ve been in London and I have been seeing a Doctor that I haven’t seen for a few years, and he was treating the injury I got in France,” said Slater of his under-the-radar behavior. “I woke up this morning and decided to come. It’s only an hour away, so I thought I’d come over, just to see how I go. The injury is pretty sore still, but I think the adrenaline took over and kept the pain at bay.”

His board did look a little bit more ‘corky’ than usual, but it had plenty of pop, with Kelly busting one clean but small alley oop, followed by a small forehand air reverse that he just fumbled on. The combo was quick and tight. Kelly was on fire again.

While he is out of the world title hunt, there is one thing about Kelly, and that’s the crazy Slater froth-factor that never seems to dissipate. “I saw that there are going to be some really big barrels later in the waiting period, and I wouldn’t want to miss that.”


All photos World Surf League Kirstin/Poullenot

Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal Round 1 Results:

Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 13.17, Tomas Hermes (BRA) 12.83, Jadson Andre (BRA) 8.40

Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.00, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 12.60, Mason Ho (HAW) 10.86

Heat 3: Keanu Asing (HAW) 12.30, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 12.07, Julian Wilson (AUS) 8.07

Heat 4: Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) 12.17, Michel Bourez (PYF) 11.47, Owen Wright (AUS) 11.07

Heat 5: Frederico Morais (PRT) 16.43, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 16.27, Kolohe Andino (USA) 16.27

Heat 6: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.24, Tiago Pires (PRT) 10.17, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 9.10

Heat 7: Kelly Slater (USA) 13.90, Aritz Aranburu (ESP) 11.86, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 8.67

Heat 8: Brett Simpson (USA) 16.13, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.33, Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.60

Heat 9: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 15.63, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.07, Ricardo Christie (NZL) 12.67

Heat 10: Nat Young (USA) 12.60, Kai Otton (AUS) 10.34, Glenn Hall (IRL) 9.54

Heat 11: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 14.17, John John Florence (HAW) 11.60, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 10.16

Heat 12: Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.97, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 13.94, Adam Melling (AUS) 10.04

Round 2 Match-Ups:

Heat 1: Adriano De Souza (BRA) vs. Tiago Pires (PRT)

Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)

Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Mason Ho (HAW)

Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Tomas Hermes (BRA)

Heat 5: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Aritz Aranburu (ESP)

Heat 6: Wigolly Dantas (BRA) vs. Ricardo Christie (NZL)

Heat 7: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Glenn Hall (IRL)

Heat 8: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. C.J Hobgood (USA)

Heat 9: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)

Heat 10: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)

Heat 11: Jadson Andre (BRA) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)

Heat 12: Miguel Pupo (BRA) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)