Moore, Wright, Fitzgibbons heat up at Rio Pro
Three different women have won the Rio Pro in the last three years: Carissa Moore in 2011, Sally Fitzgibbons in 2012 and Tyler Wright in 2013. That sounds a lot like the ASP Women's World Title race of 2014. And as things stand after three rounds, they've all asserted themselves as the frontrunners at the colorful beachbreak of Barra da Tijuca.
As the women's tour approaches the midway point in the season it's Moore leading the title chase with two event wins to her credit, but ask any of the ladies and they're quick to shrug off any semblance of a rivalry.
"I'm looking forward to returning to Brazil and surfing in some warm water," Wright said prior to the event. "Rio is a fun place with great food, heaps of beach activities, and some great people watching. We have a longer waiting period, so hopefully this means we'll have some great waves and we can all get our Brazilian cha-cha-cha on!"
What? Where's the competitive fire burning hotter than a Rio nightclub? Moore politely handed Wright back-to-back runner-up finishes during the Australian leg and she's excited about "beach activities"?
Moore, Wright and Fitzgibbons are already into the quarterfinals and looking strong. For Moore's part in it she's been smiling and arguably surfing better than anybody. Winning her Round 1 and Round 3 heats with ease, she's already deep into the event without having to exert much effort.
"They're surfing so good, and it's so fun to have them pushing all the women on tour," said Moore.
Her body language would indicate otherwise. Breezing through the stoked crowd on the beach after her wins, she's kept her head down and appears to have business on the brain. With her complete bag of tricks, including reverses, fin-blows and airs, Moore has the arsenal to win in the fickle breachbreak, and it appears the motivation is there too. A win in Brazil makes it three in a row for the Hawaiian world champ, and that puts every other lady on tour in a very tough spot.
But as we've come to learn, it's a long season and a lot can happen. Courtney Conlogue skipped the Rio Pro after an ankle injury she sustained at Bells, but for the first time in a long time, the Rio Pro is the fourth of 10 stops on the circuit and the women each get two throwaway results instead of the usual one.
"I'm not giving up," Conlogue said. "I'm just going to keep fighting and do what I have to in the rehab. I never give up and I never back down."
And another dark horse contender, Lakey Peterson is also into the quarterfinals after posting the highest heat score of the event thus far. She locked in an equal fifth at last year's Rio Pro and a ninth the year before.
"I would love to try and get the air game going a little bit. It's a perfect wave for it," said Peterson.
Whatever happens, the Rio Pro is further proof positive that the women of the ASP World Tour are pushing the boundaries of progressive surfing ... and whoever pushes the hardest will have a very real chance at turning the world title race in their favor.