Barra da Tijuca today delivered clean four-to-six foot (1 – 1.5 metre) waves for the opening rounds of competition at the Oi Rio Pro.
The fourth stop on the 2015 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour, the Oi Rio Pro is the sole Championship Tour event on South American soil and the rising power of Brazil dominated the day’s affairs.
Gabriel Medina (BRA), reigning WSL Champion, rebounded from an uncharacteristic early exit in Margaret River with a hard-fought Round 1 win this morning over Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) and Alejo Muniz (BRA). The young Brazilian drew a crowd of hundreds on the beach cheering for him as he advanced directly into Round 3.
“I’m feeling good to get that one,” said Medina. “The waves are kinda hard but I got that 7 and a 5 I think and the heat was pretty slow after that. Alejo (Muniz) and Freddy (Patacchia) couldn’t get another score so I was lucky to get through. I cope pretty well with pressure and it’s good to have people cheering for you. It’s a lot of people but I’m here at home so there’s no reason to feel pressure.”
Following Medina’s heat, the crowd reached a fever pitch for current frontrunner on the Jeep Leaderboard Adriano de Souza (BRA). De Souza, a former event winner, exhibited an impressive command of the lineup netting a 17.90 out of a possible 20 to advance directly through to Round 3.
“There’s a lot of pressure for me right now so it’s difficult,” said De Souza. “I have to remember that the contest has just started and there’s a lot of people that have come out to watch. My strategy out there was to win my first Round 1 heat of the year and I can’t pick a better spot than here to do this. I’m really proud of myself for making my first heat and I want to keep the momentum alive going into the next Round. The Margaret River contest was so special for me, I really wanted to win an event this year and I did.”
The “Brazilian Storm” had a sensational outing in Round 1 with Filipe Toledo (BRA), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Italo Ferreira (BRA) and Jadson Andre (BRA) all winning through their opening heats to advance directly to Round 3.
Kelly Slater (USA), 11-time World Champion and current WSL No. 9, was in unparalleled rhythm in the shifting beachbreaks, threading barrels on both his forehand and backhand to collect the day’s high heat total of a 19.27 out of a possible 20.
“It was a good start and it was a lot of fun,” Slater said. “I feel good, the waves are super fun and I watched for about an hour this morning from my hotel to try and line up where I’d sit. I felt really calm out there and in waves like that you just trust your instincts.”
The round was punctuated by impressive showings from Australians Bede Durbidge (AUS) and Matt Wilkinson (AUS), both taking heat wins to advance directly into Round 3.
Following the completion of men’s Round 1, the world’s best female surfers hit the water for Round 1 of the Oi Rio Women’s Pro.
Looking strong on her forehand Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) posted a heat total of 12.00 (out of a possible 20) to dispatch Lakey Peterson (USA) and Alessa Quizon (HAW) and earn her place in Round 3.
“I’ve been watching the boys since this morning and they seem to have been struggling,” Buitendag said. “I expected it to be tough when I paddled out so I was prepared for those conditions.”
Defending two-time event winner Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) looked confident out in the tricky lineup and quickly claimed a seven-point ride, the highest score of the heat, to take the win over her opponents Johanne Defay (FRA) and Laura Enever (AUS).
“I love coming here, it’s been kind to me over the years and I’ve had some good results,” Fitzgibbons said. “I’m chasing that winning feeling again. It was very tricky out there in that heat though, but I’ll take the win.”
Injury wildcard Keely Andrew (AUS) came out firing in her Round 1 heat against current WSL No. 4 Tyler Wright (AUS) and Coco Ho (HAW), posting a solid 6.50 on her opening ride. Andrew was able to hold onto her lead with a modest back-up score and takes the win in the second CT appearance of her career.
“Steph (Gilmore) is one of my favorite surfers so to get this opportunity to surf for her is pretty amazing,” said Andrew. “I just want to make the most of this event, do as well as I can and make as many heats as possible. Making the Quarters would be an absolute dream.”
Americans Courtney Conlogue (USA) and Sage Erickson (USA) were neck-and-neck through their Round 1 heat, but fresh from a win in Margaret River the World No. 2 found a 6.50 in the final moments to take the win. Brazilian Silvana Lima (BRA) struggled to find any scores of consequence, posting only 3.13, and will surf again in Round 2.
“The conditions right now are so tough,” said Conlogue. “I was really happy to get through that first Round because sudden-death Round 2 is going to be hard, there’s so many great athletes. I’m really looking forward to Round 3.”
Oi Rio Men’s Pro Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.17, Brett Simpson (USA) 12.07, Taj Burrow (AUS) 6.30
Heat 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.27, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 12.06, Ricardo Christie (NZL) 11.76
Heat 3: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 15.97, John John Florence (HAW) 10.66, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 9.94
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.33, Freddy Patacchia Jr. (HAW) 7.77, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 4.90
Heat 5: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.07, Mick Fanning (AUS) 9.33, Alex Ribeiro (BRA) 2.47
Heat 6: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 17.90, Kai Otton (AUS) 11.60, David do Carmo (BRA) 5.67
Heat 7: Jadson Andre (BRA) 14.04, Josh Kerr (AUS) 11.97, Dusty Payne (HAW) 10.03
Heat 8: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.06, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 10.67, Keanu Asing (HAW) 10.60
Heat 9: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 14.84, Glenn Hall (IRL) 11.94, Nat Young (USA) 6.17
Heat 10: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 16.27, Kolohe Andino (USA) 11.93, Adam Melling (AUS) 8.40
Heat 11: Matt Banting (AUS) 9.76, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 9.26, Julian Wilson (AUS) 9.10
Heat 12: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.96, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.47, Owen Wright (AUS) 10.34
Oi Rio Men’s Pro Round 2 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. David do Carmo (BRA)
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Alex Ribeiro (BRA)
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Alejo Muniz (BRA)
Heat 4: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. C.J. Hobgood (USA)
Heat 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Ricardo Christie (NZL)
Heat 6: Nat Young (USA) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 7: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Keanu Asing (HAW)
Heat 9: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Glenn Hall (IRL)
Heat 10: Miguel Pupo (BRA) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 11: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 12: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)
Oi Rio Women’s Pro Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 12.00, Lakey Peterson (USA) 10.20, Alessa Quizon (HAW) 8.50
Heat 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 11.73, Johanne Defay (FRA) 8.00, Laura Enever (AUS) 4.67
Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 9.50, Dimity Stoyle (AUS) 3.40, Luana Coutinho (BRA) 0.50
Heat 4: Keely Andrew (AUS) 11.07, Tyler Wright (AUS) 9.83, Coco Ho (HAW) 8.53
Heat 5: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 13.33, Sage Erickson (USA) 10.00, Silvana Lima (BRA) 3.13
Heat 6: Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 11.43, Malia Manuel (HAW) 10.96, Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 10.36
Oi Rio Women’s Pro Round 2 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Silvana Lima (BRA) vs. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS)
Heat 2: Johanne Defay (FRA) vs. Alessa Quizon (HAW)
Heat 3: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Luana Coutinho (BRA)
Heat 4: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Sage Erickson (USA)
Heat 5: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Laura Enever (AUS)
Heat 6: Coco Ho (HAW) vs. Dimity Stoyle (AUS)