There are two types of water in Rio de Janeiro. The first kind is fresh and you probably shouldn't drink it. The second kind is salt and you most definitely should bask in it. Fresh from the salt water, genetically freakish (gifted) surfers consume açaí and consort with gorgeous, carefree women. Sometimes, the prodigy and the pretty are one in the same -- especially this time of year, when the Top 17 rolls into town.
Wondering what the heck the Colgate Plax Girls' Rio Pro is? Yeah, so were we. It turns out that the license for the Rio WCT events does not actually belong to Billabong; it belongs to an individual. ASP VP of Communications Dave Prodan explains that this individual, in turn, brings sponsors (like Billabong) into the mix. This year, Colgate stepped up to support the ladies and their impeccable smiles.
The Colgate Plax Girls' Rio Pro (the sole South American Tour stop) is the fifth on the women's circuit, but the title race still kind of looks like that disorderly jumble at the start of a marathon. No one really has a clear hold on the lead, which sounds like a snooze-fest, but in fact, it's quite exciting.
Carissa Moore is the current front-runner. She's coming off an equal fifth in Taranaki and back-to-back wins before that. Moore won the Rio Pro in 2011 and went on to win the World Title. Tyler Wright is a mere 1,700 points behind her, and then you've got Courtney Conlogue and Sally Fitzgibbons, who are essentially tied in third -- they're that close. Fitzgibbons, who won the comp in 2012, will be hoping to emerge victorious from her third Rio final in as many years. Conlogue took out the Dow AgroSciences Pro in New Zealand last month. Number five, Steph Gilmore, actually won't be surfing in Rio this year.
The collision at Bells was almost imperceptible, but the effects of the brief impact linger with Gilmore. She surfed through the pain of a fractured foot and finished equal fifth in Torquay, then followed up with a third-place result in New Zealand. Nearly a month has passed since then, but the five-time world champion withdrew from the Rio event because she's still not fully recovered. Alize Arnaud, from Capbreton, France, will take her spot in the draw. Arnaud is regular-footer who's spent the winter shredding Euro beach breaks and shedding the thick wetties will only make her faster and more dangerous.
The one to two-foot dribble last year's competitors contended with made a particularly good case against a World Tour stop in Rio. This year, forecasters expect some solid south swell to fill in at Barra da Tijuca, the primary contest site, over the first few days of the waiting period. The winds should remain light and, occasionally, even swing offshore. The swell is meant to fall apart after the fourth day, however, which means that we could see a sprint to finish à la Bells or New Zealand. We could also end up with a long string of lay days, clinging to the hope of fresh swell at the end of the window. The alternative comp site is Arpoador, which is sandwiched between the city's most famous beaches, Copacabana and Ipanema. It's where surfing began in Brazil. Both spots are beach breaks with potential for rights and lefts.
All of the women with a shot at the title boast hyper progressive repertoires. Between the intense spectator energy and waves that have yielded several of the best aerialists on Tour, Rio is the perfect place for them to crank things up. It is, after all, the rightful home of the claim.
The waiting period for the Colgate Plax Girls' Rio Pro begins May 8.
COLGATE PLAX GIRLS RIO PRO ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS: Heat 1: Lakey Peterson (USA), Bianca Buitendag (ZAF), Rebecca Woods (AUS) Heat 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Paige Hareb (NZL), Sage Erickson (USA) Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW), Silvana Lima (BRA), TBD Heat 4: Tyler Wright (AUS), Malia Manuel (HAW), Phillipa Anderson (AUS) Heat 5: Courtney Conlogue (USA), Laura Enever (AUS), Alize Arnaud (FRA) Heat 6: Coco Ho (HAW), Alana Blanchard (HAW), Pauline Ado (FRA)