There are a lot of questions that remained unanswered today following the first round of men's action at the Billabong Pro Rio. As mentioned in our event preview, this contest was supposed to serve our curiosity as to the state of pro surfing. And while there were some high points, we're still a little fuzzy on most things.
The first question was whether the Brazilians were in the midst of overthrowing the establishment and taking over the ASP World Tour. Jadson Andre looked wild-eyed in Heat 7, finding a wide-open barrel to stamp out Gabe Kling and Bede Durbidge. He used local knowledge, catching whitewater off the bluff as a stepladder to find the best lefts of the heat. But he was the only Brazilian (out of nine in the event) to win his heat today and go directly to Round 3.
"I know everyone says I should feel pressure as defending champion, but I'm not worried about it," Andre said. "I'm just thinking about the next heat. That's what I did last year."
So, the Brazilian thing is still kind of inconclusive.
The second question was if the new city-based venues would turn the "Dream Tour" into a "Dream Bore." After the women competed in some take-it-or-leave-it beachbreak, the men enjoyed a little more chunk. The sets pushed up to 5 feet, with onshore winds and far more fighting to find the right section than setting up that perfect ramp. Patrick Gudauskas won his heat over Jordy Smith and Igor Morais with an 8.13 heat total. Each surfer caught eight waves, but none could muster more than Smith's 4.57.
But then again, there was the time that Billabong had to run the Pipe Masters final in 3-foot Off-the-Wall. Kelly Slater notched a 9 today with a pair of textbook backside gaffs, and Andre came through a stand up draining tube. Was it as exciting as G-Land? You tell me.
The third point has been answered but opens a box of entirely new questions. Apparently, Dane Reynolds' knees are not made of rubber. Fair enough. But where the hell was he? The Reynolds camp made a very explicit statement prior to the Rip Curl Pro at Bells that he was withdrawing. He's not in Brazil, and it's still a mystery to most.
So, just what was apparent today? Well, in tricky conditions, experience is key. The standouts were all fellas who know how to make lemonade, how to get a perfect slice on an imperfect wall, how to finish that move when the last section is dumping and how to keep rails from catching on pieces of chop. In addition to Slater, warhorses such as Taj Burrow, Mick Fanning, Damien Hobgood, Taylor Knox and even Cory Lopez, a veteran in his own right, will go straight to the third round.
If the conditions continue, they will favor forehand surfing.
"A little left like this is going to play well for goofy footers," Slater said. "Owen [Wright] and Jadson are probably frothing on it and licking their chops, ready to go. We [natural footers] have been on our frontside at Snapper and Bells and now it's their turn. We've just got to try and be smart. Mick [Fanning] looked good and there are waves out there to do it, you've just got to be smart."
Round 2 will likely continue tomorrow, as the biggest swell of the waiting period is forecasted to arrive with light, variable winds.
Billabong Rio Pro Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 13.60, Heitor Alves (BRA) 7.67, Bobby Martinez (USA) 7.47
Heat 2: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.84, Adam Melling (AUS) 11.16, Kai Otton (AUS) 7.90
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.33, Ricardo Santos (BRA) 11.17, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 10.60
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.07, Simao Romao (BRA) 12.36, Dusty Payne (HAW) 11.66
Heat 5: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 8.13, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 8.07, Igor Morais (BRA) 6.34
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.17, Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.37, Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 3.84
Heat 7: Jadson Andre (BRA) 14.33, Gabe Kling (USA) 10.66, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 7.90
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.56, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 10.80, Josh Kerr (AUS) 7.43
Heat 9: Damien Hobgood (USA) 12.00, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 11.10, Tiago Pires (PRT) 10.93
Heat 10: Cory Lopez (USA) 11.54, Chris Davidson (AUS) 10.00, Michel Bourez (PYF) 8.57
Heat 11: Daniel Ross (AUS) 14.90, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.67, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 8.96
Heat 12: Taylor Knox (USA) 15.03, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.70, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 8.34