Title race tight for Rip Curl Pro Portugal

The forecast for the Rip Curl Pro Portugal is calling for surf at Supertubos right out of the gates. Which means we probably won't be waiting around long to see how the continuing world title race plays out. After a win in France, the advantage has shifted in Mick Fanning's favor. Statistically speaking, he could conceivably clinch the title, but it's a long shot. Slater is still well within striking distance and with two barrel-riding events left on the schedule anything can happen.

There are a number of scenarios that could play out in Peniche, Portugal. Essentially, Slater needs to finish equal to 9th or better to take the race to Hawaii. That said, should Fanning win, Slater would need to finish third or better to stay in the race. Taj Burrow, Joel Parkinson and Jordy Smith would be eliminated. If Fanning gets 5th or worse the title will be decided at the Billabong Pipeline Pro no matter what. Burrow, Parkinson and Smith have a lot of ground to make up, but numerically they still have a shot.

The beach break at Peniche should offer an ideal forum for them to sort things out. Very hollow and powerful, the wave at Supertubos lives up to its name. While tube-riding will be a key component, because of drastic tidal shifts, the conditions change dramatically throughout the day. So the judges will also have to figure out how to find a balance between the air game and tube rides.

At A Glance: Rip Curl Pro Portugal

According to Surfline.com's contest forecast there's a bit of swell at the start of the waiting period with a more promising bump towards the end.

According to the Surfline report, clean, mid-size WNW swell will prevail for the first day of the waiting period, Wednesday, Oct. 9. The surf will drop off for the second half of the week and remain small for the weekend. Surfline says it's watching for a new bump of WNW swell on Monday, Oct.14, although confidence is fairly low on the size of that swell. Long range charts and models point to a larger run of WNW swell from Oct. 16 - 19

While all the attention and pressure is on Fanning, Slater and the other contenders, there's a crew of very hungry, very determined guys clawing themselves up the ratings. Julian Wilson and Gabriel Medina met in the final in Portugal last year in a highly competitive and controversial battle. Wilson ultimately got the nod to win his first ASP World Tour event. Both are now coming off good results in France and look to be in top form. They have the skill and mindset to upset any of the title contenders and could be the spoilers of the event.

Filipe Toledo has been on roll as well. With an equal 3rd in France, he will be brimming with confidence. Toledo has proven himself worthy of being on the tour and has performed well in all conditions. When he takes his act to the air he is one of the best in the world. Toledo mixes his air game with fast carves and snaps, showing the judges a full range of talent, which makes his airs even more spectacular when he busts one out. He is a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year when it comes time to cast those ballots.

And anytime the waves are barreling you have to talk about John Florence. He is quite possibly the best tube rider in the world besides Slater and he could definitely pose a huge threat to the Top 5. If the wind clocks around onshore, he will be the first one to shift to the progressive side of things and take to the air, which makes him completely versatile in the powerful beach break.

Kai Otton has been having one of the best year's of his career and is fired up to get the first win of his career. He surfed really well in Peniche in the past and if the waves are barreling he stands a good chance at doing well. At the end of the day everyone has the skill to do well, and aside from the title race there are many other important scenarios for the guys who are hanging on to the dream and desperately need a result to have a chance of making the tour for the 2014 season. 

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