With a win at the Rip Curl Pro, Adriano De Souza has emphatically proved he considers himself a contender in 2013. De Souza showed impeccable wave selection through out the entire event, surfing under the radar and razor sharp. By the time a dark, stormy front showed on the horizon and the final rolled around, there was a lot of history on the line.
On the other side of the draw was Santa Cruz-bred Nat Young -- an unlikely, goofy-footed rookie who adapted quickly to Bells Beach's inclement conditions. As the horn to start the final sounded, the wind turned onshore and the surfers' respective game plans shifted immediately. De Souza struck first with two mid range seven-point rides. Young fired back with an 8.33 to put him back in the heat, but another high scoring wave eluded him. In the dying minutes of the heat, the set of the day steamed through, washing both De Souza and Young out of the lineup. With no time left on the clock Young paddled for his life to get into a final wave, but couldn't get into it. And like that De Souza logged career victory number four, becoming the first Brazilian to win at Bells in the event's 52-year history. More importantly, it puts him the world title hunt as the tour heads to Brazil.
On the podium a gassed De Souza stammered, "I can't describe now what I'm feeling. No one believed me, everywhere I go, I'm really proud of myself. Right now I'm standing here with this young man who surfed unbelievable through the event. I want to say thank you to a lot of people, but right now I just want to ring the bell."
For Nat Young's part in it all he demonstrated competitive savvy well beyond his years. His come-from-behind victory against Taj Burrow in the semifinals was proof that, while he may only have surfed in two world tour events, he is a seasoned competitor and this result makes him the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year.
"I'm so excited! I've been practicing out here every morning at dark and I think it really paid off," said Young, who would have been the first goofy-footer to win at Bells since Mark Occhilupo in 1998.
With Kelly Slater and Joel Parkinson out of the contest early, Mick Fanning and Taj Burrow were unable to take advantage. Fanning lost to De Souza in the last minute of the quarters, while Burrow fell to Young in the semis.
And what will it take for the ASP judges to give Jordy Smith the benefit of the doubt? Throughout the entire event he was hands down the best surfer out there, and it was no different in his semifinal against De Souza. Smith laid down massive carving turns while demonstrating perfect technique and flow. These days on tour, you have to split hairs because everyone is so good, but in the last year and a half, Smith has lost every hair-splitting decision by hundredths of a point. De Souza surfed well, but when directly compared to Smith, his turns looked a bit flatter and his overall performance looked less polished.
Smith accepted the loss like a champ stating, "It's a bummer, but the best thing for me is I'm back! I feel good and I'm happy with my performance!"
The 2013 Rip Curl Pro was action packed with its fair share of drama, and it has set the stage for an incredibly tight world title race. The surfers on the world tour have about a month to prepare for the tricky beachbreaks of Brazil and I can guarantee the hometown contingency will be ready and waiting.
RIP CURL PRO BELLS BEACH FINAL RESULTS:
1. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 16.26
2. Nat Young (USA) 15.83
RIP CURL PRO BELLS BEACH SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
SF 1: Nat Young (USA) 15.10 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.43
SF 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 18.44 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 18.40
RIP CURL PRO BELLS BEACH QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.50 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 14.50
QF 2: Nat Young (USA) 17.27 def. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 14.83
QF 3: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.33 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.76
QF 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.77 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 13.20
CURRENT ASP WCT TOP 5 (Following Completion of Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach):
1. Kelly Slater (USA) 11,750 pts
2. Mick Fanning (AUS) 11,700 pts
2. Taj Burrow (AUS) 11,700 pts
4. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10,500 pts
5. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 9,750 pts
6. Nat Young (USA) 9,750 pts