Holy tight superhero jocks, Batman, the world title race is squeezing my balls. It’s closer than the fit of Tom Carroll’s boardshorts in 1984. With Julian taking down France, Gabby hitting the semis and Filipe falling early, everything has combined into a pressure-cooker recipe for the rest of the year. Not all the mixed metaphors in the world can tell you how excited I am.

Just to keep the energy buzzing, Portugal starts tomorrow! The swell forecast is solid for the first few days of the waiting period, so it’s pretty likely things will kick off right away in cracking pits. Ooohwee. Don’t waste any time. With the WSL being slow off the mark in opening up Fantasy Surfer trading (among being slow at everything else) you’ve only got a short window to lock in that team. Here’s the scoop on who will rip, who with flip and who will end up picking Supertubos sand out of their keister over the next few weeks.

Tier A - Champion vs Chumpians

Let’s face it. There’s one guy in here you’ll all have in your team. Gabby. He is almost unstoppable in Europe and one of only three people in the draw who has made the final in Portugal twice (the others are Julian and Jordy). Gabby was in blazing form in France, is a total terminator when it comes to keeping his cool in heated situations, and will perform if it’s 10ft or 1ft. I’m calling an 80%+ ownership ratio, which is damn high.

The rest of the choices are tough. You’ve got Jordy and Julian, who were both ripping in France, both have a good history in Portugal, yet are both hot and cold like a microwaved turkey. You’ve got Owen, who made quarters here as a wildcard back in the day before bursting his eardrum and never improving on that result at the event again. Italo who got 2nd two years ago and seems in good form, yet dropped out early in France. Then, you’ve got Filipe, who has won here before and made quarters and semis on other occasions. However, if it’s thumping there remains a question mark over his head to see if he can better the tube pigs that are Gabby, Julian and Owen. Geez, even Mikey Wright could be a contender if it gets (and remains) heavy. The shining light here is that the tail end of the forecast looks small, so if Filipe survives the early rounds, he’ll be well placed to dominate in 4ft fun pits.

Taking all that into account, I’m taking a punt on Julian as my 2nd string guy, hoping that he can (for once) carry his momentum from one event to the next.

So, in short: Gabby and Julian.
Semi-dark horse: Jordy

Tier B - Just like Pepsi (good, but not the best)

So much potential here, yet so much uncertainty. I was sure Kanoa was going to blaze in France and yet he let me down harder than a punctured blow-up doll. Connor Coffin surprised as well with his semis finish. Then there’s someone like Ezekiel Lau, who looked super sharp in the early rounds of France but put me off with his five-hour-long claim after his buzzer-beater against T-Rex. Don’t even get me started on Kolohe ‘I don’t know the rules’ Andino. So, who’s going to be the pick of the bunch here?

My first gut instinct is Adriano De Souza. He finally looks fired up after a pretty lacklustre year and with re-qualification on the line seems focused and ready. He’s been a past winner here before and has to be a major consideration again. Kolohe has dropped back into mid-tier from A, has good history in Portugal with plenty of quarter and semis appearances, plus has got to have a lot of ‘fuck you’ energy in his system after that loss against Patty G. I’m going to stick with Kanoa again, since he’s normally super consistent, so it would be odd for him to lose early two events in a row. He also made semis in Portugal last year, which is reassuring. Then you’ve got Seabass, who is in amazing form and loves Portugal as an event as well.

That leaves me with dark horses to consider like Zeke, Ace, Griffin, Bourez and Flores. You might be surprised to learn that Ace has yet to crack the quarters at Portugal in the last 6 years, which is weird considering that he loves bagging pipes more than an orally-fixated Scotsman. Bourez is in the same boat. Jeremy is a little better, making it to 5th way back in 2012 and more recently in 2015. The larger forecast should play into his hands too. All of this adds up to the fact that I’m leaning a little towards some of the young guns, who could bring home some freshly smoked bacon.

In short, my key guys are De Souza, Kolohe, Kanoa and Seabass.
Dark Horses: Flores, Connor Coffin

Tier C - The Hungry vs The Thirsty

Everyone in this tier is staring down the barrel of either retiring, heading back to the QS in 2019, or relying on the QS for requalification. There may be a couple of Cinderella stories here, but most will end in tragedy. So, it’s likely about figuring out who is hungry, rather than thirsty.

Patty G and Wilko both surfed out of their skins in France, so could be solid contenders to start. Ian Gouveia fairly ripped and is a little nugget when it comes to finding barrels. There’s also Parko, who wasn’t super impressive in France, but damn he can ride a barrel. He’s also the saltiest of the sea dogs on tour and at a wave where it can come down to victory at sea, has been more victorious than anyone else in this group. Parko is out…

Then, there’s the wildcards. Hello Ryan Callinan. HE WAS ALL-CAPS TEARING IN FRANCE and loves getting coned off his facehole at every opportunity. It would be epic to see him rematch against Filipe early on to see if he can smack down some world title dreams for the second event running. There’s also Vasco Ribeiro, who has made semis in Portugal before and is deadly in any conditions. Count these guys out at your peril.

So, after all that waffle, I need to commit to two guys. For me, that’s –
In Short: Parko Wilko and R Cal
Dark Horse: Ian G


Images used for this post grabbed via the WSL photos page.