PRAIA DE SUPERTUBOS, Peniche, Portugal (Tuesday, March 14, 2023) – Today, CT rookie Caitlin Simmers (USA) and CT sophomore Joao Chianca (BRA), won the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal Presented by Corona, the third stop on the World Surf League (WSL) 2023 Championship Tour (CT), in firing 8-to-10 foot surf at Supertubos in Peniche, Portugal.
A massive day of action in Portugal gave the CT rankings a good shake-up. Now, just two events remain before the Mid-season Cut narrows the field following Stop No. 5, the Western Australia Margaret River Pro. The stakes are even higher this year as the world’s best surfers are also eyeing Olympic qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games through the CT rankings.
Conditions were somewhat unruly at first this morning but gradually cleaned up throughout the day to provide an incredible day of high-performance surfing as well as deep and technical barrels. The wind switched offshore in the afternoon, just in time for the Semis and Finals to show the true potential of the wave at Supertubos.
When the dust settled on an epic day in the Portuguese sun, Australia’s Jack Robinson and Molly Picklum retained the rankings lead and yellow Leader jersey heading to their home country for the next two CT events. Joao Chianca (BRA) climbed up a spot up into second, and Caitlin Simmers (USA) took a giant leap from 9th to 2nd, now tied with 5X World Champion Carissa Moore (HAW) after her win today.
Caitlin Simmers Fights Rough Final Start, Claims First CT Title
In an outstanding performance, California’s Caitlin Simmers (USA) became the first rookie to win an event on the Women’s CT since Lakey Peterson (USA) at the 2012 Nike US Open of Surfing. The MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal was only her third event at the highest level of professional surfing. After a commendable 9th and a 5th place in the first two events of the season, the 17-year-old went all the way in Peniche, claiming her career-first CT victory and moving all the way up to 2nd on the rankings. Far from a walk in the park, Simmers had to regroup after a difficult start in the Final and showed resilience to keep fighting, turning the heat with two good scores in the later part of the matchup.
“I really can’t believe it honestly,” said Simmers. “Courtney (Conlogue) got really tubed, and I was like ok this is starting. I tried to get some away from her and paddle up and down the beach to find one and then it happened and I was really happy. This is my favorite kind of wave, I surf beach breaks pretty much everyday. I’m really grateful for everyone here, Portugal is really cool. I’m grateful for surfing, and I don’t know what else to say, thank you!”
In the Final, it was Conlogue who started with a bang, finding the excellent barrel she had been chasing all day, to post an incredible 9.00 ride early on. It took almost 30 minutes for Simmers to really get involved in the heat, but she eventually did, finding her own good barrel for a 7.17 to get right back in the battle. The young rookie wasted no time to back it up with a two-turn combination under her opponent’s priority and turned the heat with a 6.33 to apply pressure on Conlogue.
The tour veteran got a good opportunity on a solid left but unfortunately hit a foamy patch on the bottom turn that threw her off, losing a scoring opportunity and the priority which eventually cost her the win.
Courtney Conlogue Finds Her Rhythm in Pumping Portuguese Surf
After the worst possible start to her season, Courtney Conlogue (USA) bounced back in a big way, making her first Final appearance since Tahiti last year. Coming in ranked 16th after two Elimination Round losses in Hawaii, Conlogue was in real danger of not making the Mid-season Cut. She has made her attempt at a comeback story much easier with the runner-up finish today. Conlogue was a standout all-event at Supertubos, taking maximum risks and hunting the biggest barrels out in the lineup, true to her charger mentality. CT win No.14 may have to wait for Conlogue, but the Californian has definitely found her winning formula at the right time. The tour now heads to Bells Beach where she has won three times in the past.
“I’m honestly just so grateful to get a result finally,” Conlogue said. “Tricky conditions but I was very grateful to share the Final with Caity (Simmers), and off to Bells now. I’m just going to keep manifesting good results.”
Conlogue and Simmers made their way into the Final after overcoming defending event winner Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) and Macy Callaghan (AUS) respectively in the Semifinals.
Joao Chianca Claims Career-First CT Title, Becomes World No.2
Joao Chianca (BRA) could not be denied his career-first CT win today in Peniche, putting on an incredible display in four consecutive rounds of competition. The surfer from Saquarema built momentum throughout the day and eventually posted back-to-back excellent heat totals, both above 17 points (out of possible 20), in the Semis and Final to claim the title. After battling his way back on tour through the Challenger Series (CS) last season, Chianca is having a breakthrough season with two equal 3rd place finishes in Hawaii and today’s win vaulting him into the second position on the world rankings.
“Five minutes after I paddled out I just realized how good the waves were and how much I love everything about this,” an emotional Chianca said. “Perfect barrels, perfect beach break. I just told myself to enjoy the process, you’ve been doing everything you can to make it happen. I was thinking all of this in the water, I was thinking if you don’t get it now you will get it later. And it’s incredible my time came. Since I qualified for the tour I’ve been dreaming about my first win, and it’s incredible how it all came together here in Portugal.”
The Final got off to an exciting start with Robinson and Chianca threading barrels on almost all set waves, both locking in precious tube time on their forehand. The Brazilian got the upper hand on the first exchange with a 7.83 over Robinson’s 6.17. Chianca continued to build momentum with another great barrel ride punctuated by a big finishing turn for an excellent 8.50, putting Robinson against the ropes.
At the 10-minute mark, Chianca made an impossible barrel almost look easy, posting a 9.07 for a very late drop into a long tube. Never completely satisfied, he swiftly found another incredible barrel on his backhand. Robinson did not sit back to watch the Chianca show, but instead continued to roam the lineup and eventually found his own, deep, technical barrel to post an 8.97 to get back in the fight. Time ran out for Robinson unfortunately, who did not get another opportunity.
Jack Robinson Keeps Stellar Season on Track, Retains Yellow Leader Jersey
Jack Robinson (AUS) continued to impress at Supertubos, further cementing himself as the current best surfer in the world with the runner-up finish today. With a win, a 2nd, and a 3rd place finish so far this season, his ability to adapt to a variety of conditions and dominate his competition remains unmatched. Rising steadily through the ranks over the last couple of seasons on the CT, the Australian is making a strong case for a potential first World Title for his country since Mick Fanning (AUS) last won ten years ago.
“I’ve got a lot of gratitude right now and I’m just super grateful to be here in Portugal,” Robinson said. “I had a good event. I’m just going to try to keep the journey and the momentum going, it’s just step by step for me and I’m just super happy.”
Chianca and Robinson had previously defeated Callum Robson (AUS) and Yago Dora (BRA) respectively in epic Semifinal clashes on their way to the Final.
Past Winners, World Champions Italo Ferreira and Gabriel Medina Defeated in Round of 16
Two of the most loved and supported surfers in Portugal, World Champions Italo Ferreira (BRA) and Gabriel Medina (BRA) both suffered upsetting losses in the Round of 16. Ferreira found one of the best scores of the day, an incredible 9.33 for a deep barrel perfectly ridden but eventually couldn’t back it up high enough and was eliminated by Yago Dora (BRA). Medina fell to last-minute heroics from former event winner Griffin Colapinto (USA). Colapinto needed a big number to overcome the 3X World Champion and turned in a near-perfect 9.50 in the dying moments.
Molly Picklum Stopped in Quarters, Retains Rankings Lead into Australian Leg
World No.1 Molly Picklum (AUS) advanced one round ahead of her direct competition, 5x World Champion Carissa Moore (HAW), by making it into the Quarterfinals here at Supertubos. Picklum will now head to Australia as the only woman wearing the yellow Leader’s jersey. In her second season among the world’s best, Picklum has found her groove and is putting on a fantastic start with two equal 5th places and her maiden win at Sunset recently.
“Going home in the yellow jersey is everything,” Picklum said. “All my team will be there, my friends and family so that’s a pretty cool moment in itself. I feel like I’m in a good space, heat-wise and surfing, not taking any momentum really, I feel like each event has its challenges and we’ll see what Bells brings. Of course I’m super psyched and kind of feel pressure-less and free to surf and rip.”