For the last seven days, Kelly Slater and everybody else on tour has had to find something to do in Rio while their friends are all getting the barrels of their lives over in Tahiti. Wildcard Ricardo Dos Santos was the only one to make the strike mission: He was there and back in 24 hours and scored a bomb for himself.
But after a week of waiting, the second round of the Billabong Rio Pro finally got underway today in absolutely horrible conditions. There's no other way to describe it; the surf was just plain bad -- blown out, chopped up and bad. The second round of an ASP event is crucial. Failure to get through means a 25th place finish and very few ratings points. Even with this weekend being the only days remaining in the waiting period, it's really surprising the surfers agreed to put their careers on the line in such high-risk, undependable conditions.
But the cream will rise to the top, and that is exactly what happened as the top seeds dominated the washy and disorganized conditions. Josh Kerr led the way with a huge frontside air, earning him a 9.77 and the highest heat total of the round at 17.94.
"It feels good to get that heat win after all of those days off," said Kerr. "I was lucky to find those two good ones and I waited forever to get that second good one after that first nine [point score]."
Taj Burrow also surfed well, throwing down a huge layback snap to earn big points and advance to the third round. Burrow has historically done well in Brazil and his heat win today will serve as a big confidence booster.
"Even though it's howling onshore, it's fun to finally have some waves," said Burrow. "That little section on the layback was a fun one to hit and I was hoping the judges would throw me a good score for the one maneuver."
CJ Hobgood put on a solid performance, using his Florida experience to pick apart the stormy lineup and make the tricky conditions look easy. Personally, I thought Hobgood put on one of the best performances of the day and definitely should have had another couple points on his heat total. But a win is a win, and, like Burrow, this will only add to his confidence as he heads into round three.
The young Brazilian rookie Felipe Toledo continued his roll by taking out Matt Wilkinson in the last heat of the day, stomping a nice frontside air reverse. Toledo is really creating some momentum this year and could prove hard to beat in the punchy Rio beachbreak this weekend.
"It was a really hard heat with the conditions, but that air at the end was a good one," said Toledo. "I just had two small turns on the outside and knew I had to go for an air. I'm just really stoked to make that heat, especially here at home in Brazil."
On the plus side, it's not flat anymore. The swell has arrived and hopefully the conditions will improve for round three and the rest of the event, giving more opportunity to the surfers to really perform.
BILLABONG RIO PRO ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 11.34 def. Gustavo Fernandes (BRA) 10.70
Heat 2: Josh Kerr (AUS) 17.94 def. Messias Felix (BRA) 5.07
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.56 def. Jack Freestone (AUS) 9.60
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.50 def. Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) 7.47
Heat 5: Michel Bourez (PYF) 10.16 def. Yadin Nicol (AUS) 8.67
Heat 6: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 13.17 def. Dusty Payne (HAW) 8.10
Heat 7: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 14.93 def. Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 14.33
Heat 8: Kai Otton (AUS) 12.24 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 12.20
Heat 9: Brett Simpson (USA) 15.10 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 15.04
Heat 10: Travis Logie (ZAF) 11.40 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 10.76
Heat 11: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 12.23 def. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 10.50
Heat 12: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 10.70 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 4.93
BILLABONG RIO PRO ROUND 3 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)
Heat 2: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Nat Young (USA)
Heat 3: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 5: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 7: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Glenn Hall (IRL)
Heat 8: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Heat 9: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
Heat 10: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Filipe Toledo (BRA)
Heat 11: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 12: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)