The final draw for the Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal is set, with the two wildcard spots awarded to trials winner Nic von Rupp of Portugal and Jacob Willcox (AUS), who will be competing in his second World Championship Tour (WCT) event of the 2014 season.
Willcox has been on the rise all season. Currently No. 2 on the Australasia Junior rankings, the young Margaret River local has already notched two event titles on the ASP Australasia Junior Qualifying Series. He's also won a gold metal at the ISA Juniors, which isn't to say that Willcox lacks experience in the professional ranks.
The 2014 Moche Rip Curl Pro will be the fourth WCT event for Willcox, having received the Portugal wildcard twice, in addition to back-to-back appearances at Bells Beach. At this year's event in Oz, Willcox was just four-hundredths of a point away from a win over Josh Kerr (AUS) in Round 2. Wilcox's real shining moment was at last year's event in Portugal when, at 16, he defeated 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) in Round 2.
"I've been asked plenty of questions about this so I've spent a lot of time thinking about this," Willcox said in an interview with ASP earlier this year. "It's not the kind of thing that happens everyday, a 16-year-old beating Slater. He's the best surfer in the world and there was a lot of luck involved, but it taught me to make the most of what comes at you." (Read the full Q&A with Willcox)
Willcox's first-round matchup includes fellow Aussie Kai Otton and World No. 1 Gabriel Medina (BRA), who could potentially win the World Title with a good result at Peniche. If the wildcard pulls off the same stunt he did last year at Supertubos, it could have massive implications on the Title race, at the very least ensuring no champion will be crowned until the final event of the season.