After a month-long hiatus, the world tour picked back up again today as the Billabong Rio Pro got underway today in challenging conditions at Barra de Tijuca. The waves were solid, dumpy and very tricky. It's no coincidence that the best surfers in the world have the best wave savvy, which was well illustrated as Kelly Slater, Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning picked apart the shifting peaks to easily advance into round three. All three surfers dominated their heats by hunting for the barrels, and if the conditions remain the same, count on these guys being in the final heats of the event.
"Based on the years prior, I thought last year was going to be turns and maneuvers and there were a lot of barrels," said Slater, who skipped the contest last year. "I had stitches in my heel last season and could probably have attended if it was just barrels, but I couldn't really do turns with the stitches in my heel. Lesson learned and I'm here this year."
Brazilian hero Adriano de Souza picked up where he left off at Bells, steamrolling through his heat with all the confidence in the world.
"Winning Bells was a huge confidence for me -- to be the first Brazilian male to win it. I came home and then went to the Mentawais after and have been training very hard for this event," said De Souza. "The world title is the goal and hopefully I can bring one home to Brazil."
Gabriel Medina also put on an incredible performance, posting the highest heat total of the round with 18 points. "After Bells Beach, I came home and worked with lots of doctors and rested for this event," said Medina, who suffered an ankle injury at the Quiksilver Pro in March.
This is a massive event for the Brazilian contingency, and like I said in my preview, I wouldn't be surprised to see an all-Brazilian final. De Souza could get himself into the world title hunt with a big result, Medina could break out, and then there's all the other guys nipping at their heels.
Also riding a surge of momentum, the rookie contingent had a massive day with four out of five of them advancing to round three. It started with Sebastian Zietz posting a 15.66 total to take out world number two, Taj Burrow. Glenn Hall quickly followed by beating Julian Wilson with superb wave selection. Nat Young continued his roll and advanced past Jeremy Flores and Raoni Monteiro.
Sophomore Kolohe Andino is also looking to jump start his season with a big finish in Brazil. For the first time in his short career he's now won consecutive round one heats. After handling veterans CJ Hobgood and Ace Buchan, he noted, "I've been surfing so much, I'm just trying not to get surfed out."
Staying in a house with Young and Pat Gudauskas, who were also winners on the day, Andino appears to be getting more and more comfortable in his world tour surroundings. And that could be dangerous.
BILLABONG RIO PRO ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 11.50, Josh Kerr (AUS) 10.27, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 1.40
Heat 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.07, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 7.56, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 1.83
Heat 3: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 15.66, Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) 8.93, Taj Burrow (AUS) 8.67
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.20, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 8.27, Jack Freestone (AUS) 7.96
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.34, Messias Felix (BRA) 9.83, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 2.47
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.30, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 4.63, Gustavo Fernandes (BRA) 1.46
Heat 7: Glenn Hall (IRL) 15.46, Travis Logie (ZAF) 10.00, Julian Wilson (AUS) 1.46
Heat 8: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 18.00, Dusty Payne (HAW) 7.26, Damien Hobgood (USA) 4.04
Heat 9: Nat Young (USA) 11.46, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 9.74, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 9.37
Heat 10: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.94, Adam Melling (AUS) 12.44, Kai Otton (AUS) 5.53
Heat 11: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 11.27, Michel Bourez (PYF) 9.77, Brett Simpson (USA) 9.27
Heat 12: Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.43, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 8.56, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 7.43
BILLABONG RIO PRO ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Gustavo Fernandes (BRA)
Heat 2: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Messias Felix (BRA)
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (BRA) vs. Ricardo dos Santos (BRA)
Heat 5: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Yadin Nicol (AUS)
Heat 6: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 7: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 8: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 9: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 10: Travis Logie (ZAF) vs. Kieren Perrow (AUS)
Heat 11: Alejo Muniz (BRA) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 12: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Filipe Toledo (BRA)