Now that the Quik Pro France is over, the top surfers in the world are making the trek to Portugal. Some will fly and others will drive – families and people with a big crew normally just drive. When you’re in Europe, it’s much easier to rent a car for the whole time. The ten hour drive from Hossegor to Peniche takes you through central Spain, which is beautiful.
Peniche is open to the elements. Winds come from all directions, and because of that, most of the time you can drive for 15 minutes and find a wave that’s offshore. The first year was funny. The swell swamped the tower and put the comp on hold. We surfed in three different spots that year, struggling to finish, surfing in all different conditions. When Supertubos is on, it’s a world-class wave. The set up is just wild. The feel is like Blacks in Cali or Puerto in Mexico: a beachbreak with some deep canyons out the back where the wave will drag in some areas and speed up in others. The bottom sends the wave off in one direction and then, instead of closing out, it grows like a baseball bat before it hits a sandbar in the middle of the beach, enhancing what’s already going on. And boom, you have a sick wave. You can pretty much ride any setup in Peniche, from a fish to a step up, although you don’t want to get much more than a step up, because it is, after all, a beach break. You want some paddle power, but don’t want much nose, because drops are late and you need to get under the hood quickly. There’s also some backwash and the wave can shift at the last second. I always notice it tends to run off without me at times – it’s easy to get too deep. I will probably run a quad, and I imagine the tour will be split in the fin arena. Half thruster and half quad setups. There are all kinds of rips that pop up in Portugal because there’s a lot of water going into the beach. It needs to make its way back out, so when you’re out there, you’re always looking for the clean water. You have to stay out of the rips or, at least, just to the side of them.
Now that France is over, it looks as though it’s a two horse race. It’s crazy how much one contest can change the landscape of the tour. Mick’s gone crazy before, winning in France and backing it up in Portugal to go on and overtake Parko, taking the world title. Mick’s been in this situation before but, then again, so has Kelly. It’s going to be fun watching these two titans battle it out.
Either way, Portugal’s a rad place. The people are friendly and knowledgeable about surfing. The trade-off, though, is that it can get a bit crowded.
You’ll see some of the top guys that do well in Peniche head down to the prime, as an extra $50k is on offer for the best two results of the three Portugal comps (Azores Prime, Peniche CT, and Cascais Prime). Imagine if you’re in the World Title hunt – you might hold off on that prime, as well as the other two primes in Hawaii, like Joel did last year. Coming into Pipe really hungry worked for him last year, but I wouldn’t put it by Kelly… don’t wave some extra coin in his face.