“We’re seeing a generational shift here in Portugal.” Well, duh. That was overwhelmingly the overused phrase from the broadcast during the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal this week. But we’ve been seeing a generational shift for the last few years, especially on the women’s side, and Caity Simmers made that blatantly apparent for anyone who’s been sleeping under their board bag, winning her first Championship Tour event in only her third try at just 17.
“I’m so happy,” she said in her understated style after. “Shoutout out to Oceanside.” With her pop-shuvits and gouging turns under the lip, Simmers’ surfing was well above the rest of the women’s field. The most glaring example was the final, where Courtney Conlogue (who nearly pulled herself above the cut line in Peniche) had Simmers in combo with an opening nine. But there was no flinching from Simmers. While she couldn’t quite find the barrel during the tournament, she did what she did all event: identify open faces and put them to full use with powerful rail work and near-faultless surfing. She easily made her way out of combo, taking down Conlogue for her first win. For her part, Conlogue heads to Bells as a three-time winner of Australia’s most historic event.
“I’m really grateful for everyone here,” Simmers said. “Portugal is really cool. And I’m grateful for surfing!” (Find out more about Caity, below.)
João Chianca was uncontrollably happy after his first event win in Portugal, fighting back tears in his post-heat interview. The Brazilian fell off tour, fought his way back on, and now sits in second on the 2023 rankings. His finals foe, Jack Robinson, stays in the yellow jersey as the CT heads to stop four at Bells in Robinson’s home country. Chianca has been threatening the top of the podium all year with brilliantly on-point surfing.
Meanwhile, tensions will be high as we move on to Australia. The cutline looms after Margaret River and there are some big names sitting below it. Kelly Slater, Kanoa Igarashi, Kolohe Andino and Zeke Lau all find themselves in a perilous position. The women’s side is just as critical with stalwarts on tour all looking at elimination: Stephanie Gilmore, Lakey Peterson, Sally Fitzgibbons, and Conlogue are all in a tough spot. With Margaret River looming April 20th, all eyes will be on West OZ.