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Leo Fioravanti tests Saquarema's newly coined "undulating lip". Photo: WSL/Diz

Death, Taxes, and Backwash

Waves going the wrong way are a certainty in Saquarema.

news // Jun 23, 2023
Words by Pedro Ramos
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Missing the embrace of Christ the Redeemer by about 70 km, Saquarema is yet again playing host to the recently sheared tour, following the shortest break between venues (excluding the cyclable stretch between Pipeline and Sunset) in this year’s dragging schedule.

Given the numerous unfavorable contest days during Jessi-Miley Dyer’s tenure as the WSL’s Chief of Sport, one can’t help but wonder what kind of reactions she’d elicit while attempting to hype up the group chat for a trip to the Ments. Whatever notes she sent to the surfers pre-Brazil weren’t enough to sway Kelly Slater, who has surfed this event just once in the last seven years, and claimed to have contracted five of the most searched symptoms on WebMD before pulling out officially. His spot was gifted to Jadson Andre, which feels fitting on multiple levels.

Utilizing the first and possibly best day of the waiting period to get this thing going, JMD called it “really fun” and “really consistent” this morning, while Mitchell Salazar described the beach break at Itaúna as “world class” and “one of the heaviest in the Southern Hemisphere”. 

Even if a bit wobbly on the higher tide, the waves did look fun out there. Fun for a quick, pre-work type of surf, but maybe not fun enough to watch it being surfed. Still, ever optimistic Joe Turpel sent a shout-out to what is fast becoming Saquarema’s number one attraction: “There’s the backwash, famous here in Saquarema!”

One way to deal with backwash. Photo: WSL/Smorigo

TLDR

– Airs get scores
– Favorites advance
– Griff slips
– Steph dips out
– There’s a new term for ‘backwash’

Women’s Opening Round

No matter where on this planet, and regardless of creed, color, or religion, there’s always a person ready to fill a conversational pause by strumming a chord on their acoustic guitar. The WSL willingly welcomed an awkward rendition of the Brazilian national anthem to occupy the minds of the first trio of surfers paddling out today. 

The morning’s inaugural heat began with a tight battle for a coveted bye into the bracket stage. Regular footers Molly Picklum, Gabriela Bryan, and Stephanie Gilmore chose mostly lefts, with Gabby taking a convincing win over the Australians. 

Beautiful, but it wasn’t enough. Photo: WSL/Smorigo

Prior to the contest, we’d heard from WSL Latin America’s president Ivan Martinho that 40,000 people were expected to take up space on the sand at Itaúna…daily. WSL’s new face, and supporting Stab In The Dark cast member, Rachel Apollonio, made sure to relay this information during her debut CT webcast appearance. 

The presence of the early-rising local crowd was audible whenever Silvana Lima got to her feet, during a slow heat against Carissa Moore and Lakey Peterson. With 30 seconds to go and needing a 3.17 to first, Silvana had a solid chance on a left that was clumsily wasted. Maybe not much of a morning person. Good for Lakey who advanced with a solid backhand performance.

Awarded a disputed 7.17 for a stock bachand turn and a wonky closeout floater, Tyler Wright advanced against Caity Simers and Johanne Defay. Caity’s last attempt to fight back with a single technical, powerful reentry on a right was insufficient to turn the heat around.

An energized and restless Tatiana Weston-Webb seemed dominant throughout most of her heat against Caroline Marks and Bettylou Sakura Johnson, but a left surfed by Caroline with 4 minutes left gave the Floridian the win. “Wham, bam, thank you, Caroluppo!”, riffed Strider.

Stacey G said Caroline was going back to back. She’s just three wins away from proving him right. Photo: WSL/Smorigo.

Men’s Opening Round

It would be disingenuous to discount Ethan Ewing’s ability at anything other than clean righthand pointbreaks, but with plenty of hours spent at the northern end of Main Beach by Point Lookout, his muscle memory rapidly adjusted to Itaúna’s left-hand “undulating lip lines” and into an early lead. On the other hand, you’d be forgiven to think these conditions wouldn’t suit Bali’s Rio Waida who put up a progressive fight with a massive air reverse that garnered Filipe Toledo’s applause from the bleachers, and a no-grab, tweaked-out, straight air that saw him clear an entire section and stay on top of the heat…until Ewing’s clinical backhand approach took back the lead and the W.

Saquarema’s favorite son, João Chianca, had his heat win against Seth Moniz and Matthew McGillivray comfortably locked in by the time Filipe Toledo paddled out in his lucky brown boardshorts.

In true underdog fashion, Callum Robson started the heat trying to beat Toledo at his own game, landing a big air reverse for a 7.5. Filipe struggled to find his bearings and Robson increased his lead on the left. Then the wildcard Samuel Pupo landed a big no-hands full rotation reverse, inciting the crowd with successive claims for an 8. Toledo started gaining some rhythm on the left, making it clear how much faster he is than everyone else, wafting through seamless backside turns. Without leaving the wave face, Filipe took the lead toward the end of the heat and advanced to the Round of 16.

Today’s win brings Filipe’s Saquarema heat record to 19-1 all time He’s looking for his fourth consecutive victory in Saq-town this week. Photo: WSL/Diz

In typical SITD fashion, one of Jaddy’s favorite boards fell in the locker room breaking its nose. Riding an alternate board didn’t do wonders for his performance. Burleigh Boy Liam O’Brien chose to stay busy, and expedited his way into the next round with a 10.33 heat total in the day’s lulliest heat.

Erik Logan made an appearance in the booth during an all-Brazilian (kind of) match-up between Gabriel Medina, Yago Dora and Ian Gentil. Boasting about the MYC, the wave quality at Saquarema, and how the town currently hosts CT, Challenger Series, and QS5000 events, for a brief moment it appeared he was about to announce next year’s finals day here. 

Dora, who’s been a clear standout in free surf sessions over the last few days, showed the same caliber in competition, becoming a more convincing Top 5 threat each event. 

Medina carries an unprecedented, true “celebrity” status as far as professional surfers go. The roar of the fans at the beach is deafening whenever he’s on a wave — significantly more than any other Brazilian surfer. Interesting, considering he’s one of three Brazilian world champs in this event — and he’s never actually won a CT on home turf.  

With few opportunities to go left on this tour, Gabriel fired back at Jordy Smith’s HSGP comments with powerful and precise forehand rail gouges. His avoidance of the Elimination Round seemed certain but Dora refused to concede, and his backside inverted full-rotation punt sent Gab and Gentil to the Elimination Round.

Is it us or has Gab gotten…hotter? Photo: WSL/Diz

Ryan Callinan made the most of the lefts on offer, comfortably advancing against Jack Robinson and Barron Mamiya, who was looking particularly out of sync in the fickle lineup.

With a fading swell and the early afternoon low tide, there was hardly any meat left on Itaúna’s bones for the tallest heat of the day — Jordy Smith (6’3) vs. Connor O’Leary (6’1) vs. John John Florence 6’1.5) — whose performances were undoubtedly affected by the meager surf. That is until John turned the heat around with a pair of airs on the right, including the day’s highest wave score, a 9 for a single alley-oop. 

Kaipo, who thankfully didn’t go near a ladder today, shared some compelling stats with the audience. Today we learned that John has amassed an astounding 358 excellent waves in 11 years of competition. Which means Ian Gentil has 10.2 years to get 357 eights or better.  

Italo Ferreira was oozing confidence and clearly dominated his heat against childhood friends Kanoa Igarashi and Leonardo Fioravanti, the latter deserving a mention for surfing with the demeanor of a Top 5 contender (for most of the season).

Spinning to win is still very much a thing in Brazil. Photo: WSL/Diz

Women’s Elimination Round

Carissa Moore narrowly avoided an early upset against wildcard Silvana Lima in the first consequential heat of the event. Bettylou Sakura Johnson turned her heat against Stephanie Gilmore around, pushing the reigning world champ against the ropes until the sound of the horn, for the day’s biggest upset. 

With the current world number 5 out of competition, the door into the Top 5 is left ajar, which adds extra implications to the upcoming tête-à-tête between Tatiana Weston-Webb (T5) and Caity Simmers (7).   

Jessi pulled the plug mid Elimination Round as the tide threatened to swamp what remained of the waves. Competition will likely resume tomorrow. 

Got her GOAT. Photo: WSL/Smorigo

Come-ups 

Peak performance: Gabriel Medina, even though he lost.

Hit replay: Yago Dora (15.53) vs. Gabriel Medina (15.17) vs. Ian Gentil (8.40), Men’s Round 1, Heat 5

One-liners: “You can tell Yago listens to punk rock music!” He appears to surf that way indeed, Joe.

It was refreshing to see the goofy-footers given an opportunity to surf on their forehand, even if conditions were sub-par. With that in mind, let us collectively yearn for a tour where bathymetric discrimination becomes a thing of the past. 

Let-downs

Caught behind: Barron Mamiya’s 6.26 heat total

Blind mice: Tyler Wright’s 7.17

Say what?: “The lip line out there is so hard to get involved with, it’s so undulating!” – Strider proposes a nomenclature update for the term ‘backwash’ 

Perhaps to compensate for the unlikely chance waves actually turn on at certain locations, megalomaniac festival-like structures, with brand activation areas, merch tents, and other gimmicks might be used as diversions from what a surf contest should actually be about. Beware, as the bigger the contest structure, the shittier the surf it’s trying to conceal.

It’s like a city. Photo: WSL/Diz

Gamble ramble

Men’s R1

Mikey C won just 4 of his 12 heats today but came out well in the black, thanks to the .03 points that separated Filipe Toledo and Sammy Pupo. Had it gone the other way, well…let’s not talk about that.   

$30 on Rio Waida at +225 to win $68 LOST
$30 on Matt McGillivray at +250 to win $75 LOST
$500 on Filipe Toledo at -250 to win $200 WON
$20 on Sammy Pupo at +200 to win $60 LOST
$30 on Yago Dora at +250 to win $75 WON
$30 on Ryan Callinan at +300 to win $90 WON

$30 on Leo Fioravanti at +400 to win $120 LOST
$30 on Connor O’Leary at +275 to win $83 LOST

Women’s R1

$30 on Silvana Lima at +400 to win $120 LOST
$30 on Molly Picklum at +125 to win $38 LOST

$30 on Caity Simmers at +225 to win $68 LOST
$30 on Caroline Marks at +115 to win $35 WON

Day 1 earnings: $160
Event earnings: $160

Place your bets on Betonline.ag.

The best wave of the day. Photo: Smorigo/WSL

Results

VIVO Rio Pro Presented by Corona Women’s Opening Round Results:

HEAT 1: Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 12.13 DEF. Molly Picklum (AUS) 11.94, Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 11.06

HEAT 2: Lakey Peterson (USA) 9.00 DEF. Carissa Moore (HAW) 8.14, Silvana Lima (BRA) 7.43

HEAT 3: Tyler Wright (AUS) 11.17 DEF. Johanne Defay (FRA) 10.26, Caitlin Simmers (USA) 10.07

HEAT 4: Caroline Marks (USA) 12.50 DEF. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 10.90, Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 10.27

VIVO Rio Pro Presented by Corona Women’s Elimination Round Results (Heats 1 – 2):

HEAT 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) 10.50 DEF. Silvana Lima (BRA) 10.00

HEAT 2: Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) 11.54 DEF. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 11.17

VIVO Rio Pro Presented by Corona Women’s Elimination Round Matchups (Heats 3 – 4):

HEAT 3: Molly Picklum (AUS) vs. Johanne Defay (FRA)

HEAT 4: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) vs. Caitlin Simmers (USA)

VIVO Rio Pro Presented by Corona Men’s Opening Round Results:

HEAT 1: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 14.20 DEF. Rio Waida (INA) 14.13, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 12.47

HEAT 2: Joao Chianca (BRA) 14.83 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 10.20, Matthew McGillivray (RSA) 8.96

HEAT 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.53 DEF. Samuel Pupo (BRA) 14.50, Callum Robson (AUS) 13.83

HEAT 4: Liam O’Brien (AUS) 10.33 DEF. Jadson Andre (BRA) 8.24, Griffin Colapinto (USA) 6.73

HEAT 5: Yago Dora (BRA) 15.53 DEF. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.17, Ian Gentil (HAW) 8.40

HEAT 6: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 13.44 DEF. Jack Robinson (AUS) 10.20, Barron Mamiya (HAW) 6.26

HEAT 7: John John Florence (HAW) 15.67 DEF. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 10.83, Jordy Smith (RSA) 9.63

HEAT 8: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.00 DEF. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 11.40, Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 9.13

VIVO Rio Pro Presented by Corona Men’s Elimination Round Matchups:

HEAT 1: Griffin Colapinto (USA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)

HEAT 2: Connor O’Leary (AUS) vs. Ian Gentil (HAW)

HEAT 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Samuel Pupo (BRA)

HEAT 4: Caio Ibelli (BRA) vs. Barron Mamiya (HAW)

HEAT 5: Jack Robinson (AUS) vs. Seth Moniz (HAW)

HEAT 6: Matthew McGillivray (RSA) vs. Jordy Smith (RSA)

HEAT 7: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) vs. Rio Waida (INA)

HEAT 8: Callum Robson (AUS) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)

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