New era defined

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7

The Rip Curl Pro Portugal has two official sites. Both are completely different beachbreaks. Supertubos lives up to its name with amazing sand-bottom tubes, while Belgas is a small-wave spot with lots of peaks shifting around with the tides. Both sites have produced incredible surfing over the last few days, but I'd venture to say that the results from a number of heats might have been very different if they'd been run in reverse. Would Dane Reynolds have lost if he'd had the ramps of Belgas? Would Bobby Martinez have lost if he'd had the left-hand barrels of Supertubos?

It's all conjecture now, but it does seem that one site favors a certain type of surfer over another. True, it is the World Tour and these are the best surfers in the world, but the World Tour is changing thanks to the likes of Owen Wright, Jordy Smith and Dane Reynolds. If you can't get in the air nowadays you'd better learn fast, otherwise back your bags. Yesterday there was a perfect 10 point score for Owen Wright's one air maneuver, a 9.93 point score today for a one-move wave by Jordy Smith.

A lot of surfers are still trying to work out their strategy for the new format. In Round 4 now nobody loses and some guys haven't quite worked out how to adjust their surfing. "I didn't know how to approach it," told Pat Gudauskas after surfing the new three-man round for the first time. "I didn't know whether to start slow and build momentum or just go for it from the start. Jeremy (Flores) got a good start and then I couldn't catch him so I'm glad I get to surf again tomorrow."

Jordy Smith had it figured out. He's been looking uptight and a bit sluggish in a lot of his heats the past few months, but today the old Jordy was back and he stamped his foot down hard. Round 4, Heat 4 had three of the "new school" guys going head to head. Jadson Andre can get air off of anything and loves a beachie. Owen, who reported in sick this morning and didn't really want to surf, can have days like yesterday when he can turn nothing into a 10-point ride. And then Jordy, probably the biggest guy on tour, could double for a contortionist when he punts his airs.

Today at Belgas, in that heavy Round 4/Heat 4 trio, the opening scoring waves were all airs, Jadson a 7.5, Owen a 5.5 and Jordy a 9.93. Then the whole heat became an air show, and Jordy let loose. When I talked to him later I suggested it was the best I'd seen him surf for a long time. He shrugged and then began to give me a reason saying, " I knew it was going to be a tough heat against those guys, and there was a lot of other pressure on me to surf well too. I guess with the new system I knew in the back of my head that I had that little safety net there [nobody loses in Round 4 now] so I guess I just kind of went for it."

It's not going to get any easier for Jordy. Kelly Slater is circling, but the pressure is getting to him too. He was late getting to the beach today for his heat and he's been "keeping busy" in his heats, catching lots of waves -- and not all of them good ones.

"I hope I get more tough heats," was Jordy's final comment of the conversation. I'm sure he'll get his wish, we might be back at Supertubos for the final day tomorrow.

Heat 1: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 14.77, Michel Bourez (PYF) 9.03, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 5.50
Heat 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 13.60, Damien Hobgood (USA) 10.83, Chris Davidson (AUS) 6.08
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.07, Travis Logie (ZAF) 13.73, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 10.17
Heat 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 17.16, Jadson Andre (BRA) 13.57, Owen Wright (AUS) 12.07

Heat 1: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Chris Davidson (AUS)
Heat 2: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 3: Travis Logie (ZAF) vs. Owen Wright (AUS)
Heat 4: Jadson Andre (BRA) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)