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We promise this won't (really) hurt.

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John Florence Is Running Away With The World Title In Europe

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday.

Yesterday’s flexing groundswell made for difficult viewing, but with a dropping period and stiff offshores, the AM low tide draining out quickly, the last heats of Round 2 enjoyed overhead, pristine pits along the narrow Supertubos rip bank.

With caravans and tiny clown cars stacked for miles along the Supertubos strip, fans from up and down the Portuguese coast flooded Peniche today. It was the largest crowd the event has seen, and the people certainly got their money's worth, as several World Title hopefuls watched their chances of victory slip away. Last night we saw Owen Wright’s giant killing at the hands of Portuguese wild card, Vasco Ribeiro. Today more blood was shed.

With Owen out, Day 2 began with some quick calculations, the title race down to John, Jordy, Gabby, Wilko, ADS, Jules and Filipe. But by day’s end, the season’s closing narrative was already outlined, with “red lines being drawn through World Title hopefuls all day,” to steal Ronnie Blakey’s line: Filipe’s out, and so is Wilko—Leo dusting him in one of the day’s lowest scoring heats—while Adriano fell in Round 3, tripped up by his pal Miggy Pupo. It was a bittersweet day for the incredible amount of Brazilian fans assembled in the dunes of Peniche.

With Round 3 wins, Jules and Gabby still have a statistical shot, and though the morning’s highlights made for terrific live surfing (See: Conner vs Bede; Kolohe vs Italo; O’Leary vs Ace; Frederico vs Michel), the attention today was firmly on Round 3’s double-header matchups: John John Florence and Vasco Ribeiro, followed by Jordy Smith and Josh Kerr.

Vasco’s a bruiser, built like a scrappy Lisbon streetfighter, and heading into their Round 3 matchup, the assembled crowd made their allegiance clear, a deafening roar swallowing Vasco whole as he trotted through the enormous local pack.

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John's spin in the wind. Photo by Alan Van Gysen

John started the heat with a warning shot across Vasco’s bow, sliding into a solid, albeit shallow left-hand pit, before punting a massive backside full rote, the stiff breeze holding him up and sending him into the flats, buckling him at the knees.

After watching John lock in a back up score, Vasco returned volley with a 7.8, threading a tricky forehand pit, the wind turning slightly sideshore and challenging chandeliers falling on the rights. Slipping through a narrow exit, Vasco closed down the wave with a slick little hack, the crowd going absolutely mad, only to watch John quickly pick off the wave of the heat. It really is remarkable to see John read a shifty, foreign lineup. When read over the loudspeaker, Vasco’s backup 5.9 drew a collective boooooo from the local crowd (and probably deserved another half-point or so), but there was no doubt when the horn blew who had surfed a better heat. While Vasco can be damn proud of his efforts, to watch John shuck and jive through the swirling rips, I’m hard pressed to think of a more brilliant beachbreak mind.

Still wet from the win, John got to dry off while a newly liberated Josh Kerr did some of the season’s last heavy lifting for him.

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Kerrzy never meant to hurt Jordy. He never meant to make him cry. Photo by Alan Van Gysen

After announcing he was most likely walking way from The Singlet Life at the end of the year, Kerrzy paddled out against Jordy—two very good friends, one with nothing to lose, the other with everything on the line. As Josh was holding a low-7 and a 1.5 through the last ten minutes of the heat, it was Jordy’s heat (and Title) to lose. As the clock ran down into the heat’s dying minutes, needing only a 4.5, Jordy couldn’t find an opening and left the water fully aware that, short a fourth-round miracle and some very, very unlikely occurrences in Hawaii, the Title ain’t coming back to Durban this year.

As the sun sets and the cold wind clears out the contest scene, tomorrow’s call is probably 50/50. But one thing is for certain: if John wins this event, the Title’s his. With Gabby on the opposite side of the draw and looking absolutely fired up, it's likely we could see a Gabby/John final. We've also heard Pat O’, Ross, and John’s whole posse are flying in; it’s going to be an interesting last few days in Europe. 


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