March 14 (Reuters) – Brazil’s Joao Chianca and American rookie Caitlin Simmers survived the slamming beachbreak barrels of Supertubos in Portugal to claim their first wins on surfing’s world championship tour on Tuesday.
The 17-year-old Simmers was on the backfoot early in her final match-up against fellow Californian Courtney Conlogue, the veteran scoring a near-perfect 9 points out of 10 for a deep tube and critical turn on her first wave.
But Conlogue failed to get a decent second wave, allowing Simmers to get in front with her two best scoring rides and secure the win in just her third championship tour event.
“That thing is heavy,” Simmers said after struggling to lift the giant trophy. “Yeah, I don’t know, I’m just really grateful for everyone here, and Portugal is really cool. I’m just really grateful for surfing. I don’t know what else to say. Thank you!”
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Simmers turned down a spot on the world tour last year, despite qualifying, as she looked to build her experience. She requalified with ease for the 2023 tour and showcased the benefits of building her competitive skills with some clutch last-minute heat wins on her way to the final at Supertubos.
While not as big as the recording-breaking peaks of Nazare a few miles up the coast, the waves near the fishing town of Peniche still pack plenty of punch, exploding onto the shallow sandbank and creating heavy, hollow barrels that tested the skills of the world’s best.
In the men’s final, Chianca defied the odds and seemingly at times the laws of physics as he threaded tube after tube to get the better of Australian Jack Robinson, a renowned tube maestro in his own right.
The 22-year-old Brazilian was knocked off the world tour in his rookie year last year, and like Simmers was forced to requalify through the second tier Challenger series.
“If someone four years ago had told me, ‘Hey, you’re going to qualify, then you’re going to fall off and you’re going to requalify and have a crazy run and end up winning your first event in two months’… Well that’s it! Obrigado Portugal!” an elated Chianca said.
The win, after semi-final finishes in the first two events, puts Chianca second behind Robinson on the 2023 rankings as the tour heads to Australia for a two-event leg, after which both the men’s and women’s field will be cut by a third.
Simmers is ranked second-equal with Hawaii’s five-time world champ and Olympic gold medallist Carissa Moore, with Australia’s Molly Picklum on top.
The top five men and top five women at the end of the 10-stop tour will battle for a world title in a one-day contest in California in September.
Surfers are also fighting for spots at the 2024 Paris Olympics, being held at the legendary reefbreak of Teahupo’o in Tahiti.
Reporting by Lincoln Feast in Sydney; Editing by Sonali Paul
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A 23-year veteran at Reuters, Lincoln has worked in a wide range of reporting and editing roles on three continents. A former Australia & NZ bureau chief, he is now an editor on the Global News Desk, working with reporters on stories from China and the Korean peninsula to the South Pacific. Lincoln is a volunteer firefighter and a keen surfer, which he also reports on for Reuters. Contact: 61478320778