In a back-and-forth final, Jordy Smith outlasted Adriano de Souza to win the Billabong Rio Pro.
"It's a dream come true to me," said Smith, who is coming off of an X Games Real Surf win in the popular vote, but has not won an ASP World Tour event since 2011. "I didn't think I'd ever win another contest. This feels amazing. Good job to Adriano -- he's been ripping all week."
"I did my best out there and thanks to the crowd for being behind me 100 percent," De Souza said. "Congrats to Jordy (Smith). He beat me in the final from start to finish. I'm so happy to be here representing Brazil. Jordy was the best out there today and congrats to him."
For his part in it, de Souza appeared to have a full head of steam going into the final. Looking to win his second event in as many tries, in the first heat of the day de Souza knocked Kelly Slater out of the contest. Then he took out X Games Real Surf winner Gabriel Medina in the semifinals. Coming off of an ankle injury, Medina's result demonstrated that he's very much back in form.
"It's so hard to get that close to the final and lose, but it was a good event for me," Medina said. "My ankle injury has finally healed, so that's good progress for my season, and congratulations to Adriano on the heat win. Hopefully I can do better in Fiji."
With the hometown Rio crowd behind him, de Souza went into the final carrying all of the momentum. He opened against Smith with a couple of moderate-scoring waves, but it was not to be.
Smith, who's been surfing with newfound energy all season, sat patiently, waiting for a wave the held more scoring opportunities. It paid off. Blending both power and progressive styles, the heavy-footed South African went on a roll, tallying an eight-point ride, then following it up with a nine-point ride. He would never look back.
"I knew it was going to be tough; I was really nervous coming into the final day. It was a really hard heat, but I'm really glad I got a couple good scores and made it," said Smith.
After finishing outside of the top 10 last year, this result slingshots Smith into second in the world, while de Souza takes the pole position. The ASP World Title ratings remain tight. De Souza fronts the pack, but with Slater at 1,500 the race remains very much wide open. The Tour will now turn its attention to the South Pacific and the Volcom Fiji Pro this June.
BILLABONG RIO PRO FINAL RESULTS:
1. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 17.80 2. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 16.34
BILLABONG RIO PRO SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
SF 1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 17.64 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.50
SF 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.83 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 8.26
BILLABONG RIO PRO QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 15.33 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 12.30
QF 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.43 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 14.93
QF 3: Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.50 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.37
QF 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 17.76 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.07
ASP WCT TOP 5 SURFERS (following Billabong Rio Pro):
1. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 18,500 pts
2. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 18,250 pts
3. Mick Fanning (AUS) 18,200 pts
4. Kelly Slater (USA) 16,950 pts
5. Taj Burrow (AUS) 15,700 pts