Rio de Janeiro/Brazil (Monday, May 14, 2018) – The Oi Rio Men’s Pro kicked off today in four-to-six foot (1.2 – 1.8 metre) waves at Barrinha, the event’s backup location famous for its hollow tubes and powerful waves.
The fourth stop on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the Oi Rio Pro, witnessed a strong showing from the Brazilians in men’s Round 1. Out of the 14 Brazilian men in the draw today, seven will advance to Round 3 after the completion of Round 1 and the first six heats of Round 2.
Jeep Frontrunners Italo Ferreira (BRA) and Julian Wilson (AUS) both advanced to Round 3 after winning their opening heats. The two competitors, who are equally ranked World No. 1 on the Jeep Leaderboard, earned just enough to progress, with Wilson capturing a 12.93 (out of a possible 10) and Ferreria a 10.64.
Each surfer will await the remaining six Round 2 heats before they know who they will match-up against in elimination Round 3.
“I feel so good and confident, especially here in Brazil,” said Ferreira. “I missed this event last year because I was injured, but now I am just enjoying all the fans and my home. The fans in Brazil are the best part. I am just trying to feel this feeling and leave the pressure in the water.”
“There is so much excitement from the local people and it is hard to not get caught up in all of that,” said Wilson. “We’ve been waiting a few days, so that energy also builds up. I think WSL made a great decision to come up to this end of the beach. There are a lot of quality waves here and it is exciting.”
In a major upset, Adriano de Souza (BRA), the defending event winner and 2015 WSL Champion, was eliminated by CT sophomore Ian Gouveia (BRA) in Round 2 Heat 4. Gouveia left no room for the CT veteran by earning the highest two-wave total of the men’s event so far, a commanding 15.53 (out of a possible 20). Gouveia’s victory marks his first heat win of the 2018 season, and De Souza’s first 25th-place result since Trestles in 2016.
“I am stoked, but at the same time I am kind of bummed,” said Gouveia. “We’ve been competing on only right-handers and this morning I was really bummed because I want to surf lefts too. I thought we could be at Itaúna. We had three events right and the next two events are rights. I did not want to surf right again. This morning my mind wasn’t there, but this got me fired up. It is really good to have everyone here, all the family and friends. Just yeah, sometimes we want to go left.”
“I think I did well out there,” said De Souza. “Ian (Gouveia) chose the right waves and surfed amazing. Also, I fell off a couple of waves. Could have been a good chance for me to be in the lead, but now I am going to go back home and get some energy, and straight to Bali for two events. I am happy for Ian, and good luck to the other Brazilians.”
Reigning WSL Champion John John Florence (HAW) looked in incredible form to take his second heat win of the season but was stopped by injury replacement Mikey Wright (AUS). The two-time WSL Champion charged out of a huge barrel and hit an unruly closeout section, landing miraculously on his feet for a 9.10 (out of a possible 10). Despite being awarded the near-perfect score, Florence could not find a second wave to defeat Wright.
“This definitely makes me want to be on the tour more,” said Wright. “This makes me want to keep doing and getting results on the QS, and getting these spots as a replacement. I am trying to make the most out of these opportunities.”
Florence was forced to surf again in elimination Round 2 against event wildcard Deivid Silva (BRA). The 2016 event winner was on the ropes toward the end of the heat but surpassed the needed score with a 5.07 on his final ride.
“I was stoked to get through that heat,” said Florence. “The waves are really fun, but it is definitely difficult. It is just a matter of being in the right spot. Everyone keeps saying that I’ve had a super slow start, but I feel really good. I’ve only lost two events, and they canceled Margarets, so I am where I was at any other year. I’ve lost two events every year so I feel good. Hopefully, I can do the same that I did in 2016 and win here and be back in the World Title race.”
Filipe Toledo (BRA) earned the day’s first win for the Brazilian Storm in the opening heat of Round 1. Toledo’s powerful carves landed him a 13.70 combined score, just a 0.83 lead overKanoa Igarashi (JPN).
The all-Brazilian matchup in Round 1 Heat 5 saw 2014 WSL Champion Gabriel Medina take the win over rookie Jesse Mendes and injury replacement Alejo Muniz. The entire battle had the crowd to their feet, but Medina delivered the heat’s most exciting performances with a 7.10 and 7.07. The Brazilian superstar now advances straight to Round 3.
“Jesse (Mendes) and Alejo (Muniz) are gnarly,” said Medina. “I used to compete a lot with them in the past and I knew that was going to be a tough heat. I just tried to surf and find my waves. I just thank God that the heat came on my side. I just want to do good here and hopefully get into the Finals and win this thing. Hopefully, we can get some lefts.”
Muniz, who was relegated to elimination Round 2 after failing to overcome Medina, was paired with Owen Wright (AUS), current World No. 4. Knowing that this heat was his only opportunity to continue through the event, Muniz took an aggressive approach to oust the top seed by 0.17 points. Wright now leaves with his first 25th place result of the year.
Miguel Pupo (BRA), injury replacement for Caio Ibelli (BRA), will also advance after defeatingJordy Smith (ZAF) and Tomas Hermes (BRA) in Round 1 Heat 2.
The 2018 CT Rookie class delivered strong performances today with wins by Griffin Colapinto (USA), Yago Dora (BRA), Wade Carmichael (AUS), and Willian Cardoso (BRA).
At Margaret River, Colapinto was eliminated in last place, but his aerial rotation today made it clear that he is back in business and ready to go big at this event. The 19-year-old explained that he did not feel confident in the heat but was able to reach into his progressive repertoire to take down the defending event winner De Souza and fellow rookie Michael February (ZAF).
“I know Adriano (de Souza) has huge fan support in Brazil, and I just knew that our heat was probably going to have a lot of people on the beach and it did,” said Colapinto. “I surfed that heat pretty poorly; I was scrambling all over the place and never really got a set wave. That air really did it for me, and I just safety surfed it so hard, but I got the score and I am stoked to make it.”
Dora, who was the 2017 event stand out, made his intentions clear with his early win againstMichel Bourez (PYF) and Conner Coffin (USA). Later in the afternoon, Bourez was eliminated byKeanu Asing (HAW) in Round 2 Heat 5. Coffin will face rookie Hermes in the upcoming Round 2 Heat 11.
Smith survived his Round 2 heat against Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), in addition to 2017 event runner-up Adrian Buchan (AUS) who dispatched February.
The WSL Commissioner’s Office will reconvene tomorrow morning at 6:45 a.m. local time to assess the conditions and make the next call for a potential 7:00 a.m. start at Barrinha.
The Oi Rio Pro will be broadcast LIVE on the WSL’s Facebook page, WorldSurfLeague.com, and the WSL app. Also, check local listings for coverage from the WSL’s broadcast partners.
Sources: World Surf League Image: Ian Gouveia (BRA) eliminated defending event winner Adriano de Souza (BRA) today in Round 2 of the Oi Rio Pro. Credit: © WSL / Poullenot