Like Eating A Lukewarm Acai Bowl: Day One In Brazil
Meager conditions breed meager surfing, unless you’re Yago Dora.
Day 1 of the 2019 Oi Rio Pro was more exciting than watching acai melt, but only just.
It’s an interesting problem the WSL faces. Brazil has the most male athletes on Tour—one of them being the current World Champion—and a fan base that lives and breathes for competitive surfing. As a result, the League is more or less obligated to grace Brazil with a CT event.
The problem, of course, is that the waves in Brazil aren’t typically of a Championship Tour caliber. Unless we’re talking about Noronha (which wouldn’t work as a financially viable CT venue) or some other secret haunts (that the Brazilians probably want to keep to themselves), we’re mostly looking at mediocre beach break conditions across the vast South American nation. And before you bring it up, last year was an exception, not the rule.
Surfline said today would be 5-7 feet at Praia de Ituana. I don’t even think Floridians would have the gall to call today’s conditions over four feet. It was also weak and backwashy, giving the competitors few opportunities to “open up” and display even half of their surfing ability. That is not what we want in a Tour stop. And when the waves aren’t up to snuff, boy do we like to bitch and moan!
Haters be damned—the women received today’s premiere conditions. I was asleep during those heats on account of Brazil basically being in Africa, time-zone wise, but here’s what I gleaned from the Analyzer.
Caroline Marks’ brutish if mistimed hacks got overscored against Macy Callahan’s clean, marginally safe swoops. Carissa Moore veteran-ed the fucked out of her heat, never looking like she could lose against Johanne Defay or Keely Andrew, the former of which gave the latter a deciding wave in the final seconds, relegating the Frenchwoman to the elimination round. Coco Ho beat Steph Gilmore again (see: Margie’s Round 1), and Tour Commissioner Renato Hickel tried to sneak another hush-hush child past us by adding an ‘n’ to the wildcard’s surname (Taina Hinckel, yeah right). Silvana Lima and Tati WW went blow-for-blow at their home event, but it was the true Brazilian who landed the knock-out punch. Bronte Macauley and Courtney Conlogue chose better waves than Malia Manuel, and that was that.
I woke up in the middle of Men’s R1H1, which saw a still-ridiculously-confident Kanoa Igarashi trouncing his competitors whose names I forget.
Gabriel Medina won his heat despite looking a bit square and sluggish.
In his post-heat interview, the 2018 Champ said he rode a longer board than usual because the waves are “so powerful” in Saquarema. Make of that what you will.
Adriano made his long-awaited return to competition, bringing great joy to the Brazilian people and sorrow to San Clementines. World number two Kolohe Andino traded lefts with Mineirinho, Brother surfing tight and whippy in the pocket while Adriano rounded out his turns. The judges went with ADS’ swooping approach—perhaps because of superior wave selection—sending Kolohe to look for solace on the beach.
All the while Yago Dora was surfing in his own, upside-down universe, tagging the seemingly immaculate left with carves, snaps, finners, airs, and dropping the best ride of the morning—a flat nine—for two vicious hacks in the pocket. In the first four events of the season, which were held at predominantly right-breaking points and reefs, Yago looked meek and out of place against the CT powerhouses. But at a chest high, beach break left? He’s a top-3 surfer every day of the week.
Despite his dad’s involvement in the sport, Yago didn’t start surfing until he was 11 years old (Leandro Dora is a former pro and has been a coach to Adriano and other top Brazilian talents for over a decade). Soccer was Yago’s childhood passion, and he also hated the ocean, so Leandro didn’t push him. Then Yago decided to paddle out one day, and the next, and by day three the preteen had full-rotations on lock. The rest is history—or, more likely, the future.
Filipe Toledo was the only surfer who came close to Yago today, looking spicier than a jalapeño kombucha on his colorful Sharp Eye blade. Like Yago, Filipe’s competitors were left to fight amongst themselves for second, with wildcard Frederico Morais getting a narrow win over new-daddy Sebastian Zietz.
Despite our recent Instagram post, Mateus Herdy injured his ankle on the day before the event, rendering him incapable of competing in his Round 1 heat (he might be back to surf the elimination heat, but if not, Krystian Kymerson will take his place). Sorry if we fucked your fantasy teams there.
That left Italo Ferreira and Deivid Silva to duel for the Round 1 heat win, which thanks to the new seeding system, does actually matter. Despite Deiv’s last-minute effort (that Yago Dora thought was enough to win), he couldn’t scrape past the incessant Italo.
Admittedly, I was worried for John John today. Weak, chest high lefts are his kryptonite conditions (see his semifinal loss to Keanu Asing in France, 2016, or his Round 4 loss in Brazil, last year) and Caio Ibelli is his kryptonite competitor. Recognizing these chinks in his armor, John went against the grain and stomped a hefty rotation over his nemesis and whatever wildcard Brazil provided this year.
Next, Jordy Smith lost and Julian Wilson won in the increasingly wonky conditions.
Meanwhile Kelly Slater, who hadn’t surfed in the Brazil event since 2015, took a chopper from Rio to Saquarema—a fact that caused him great pain when Strider brought it up.
“My friend insisted!” Slater offered in defense of his carbon-emitting blunder. Let’s see how the WSL will offset that.
While it was never officially revealed (to my knowledge) on the webcast, Kelly rode what looked like Slater Designs’ new No Brainer model—a small-wave performance board with remarkably low rocker. Slater surfed more erratically than ever, which was partially due to the lumpy, bumpy nature of the surf, but the board didn’t help much either.
Recognizing the mediocrity of his performance, Slater opted for the catch-everything-and-maybe-I’ll-get-a-score tactic, which proved successful on his final ride. He bested Conner Coffin and Griffin Colapinto with a pair of fives.
In the post-heat interview, Slater looked like he’d recently fallen into a pile of Brazilian marching powder—his answers even more energized and erratic than his surfing. His back-and-forth with Pete at the end was so awkward and strange!
Say what you will about Kelly, but he’s never not entertaining. And I feel like he’s turned everything up to 11 for his final year on Tour, but the question begs, can he crank it up to 12?
Seth Moniz got a seven for an actual chop-hop and Ryan Callinan looked as sharp as he has all season, the two top-10ers advancing in the golden afternoon light
The final heat of the day was an all-male, all-French affair, which sounds way kinkier than the reality. In the end it was Michel Bourez, the clear alpha of the group, who thrust his way to dominance over Joan Duru and Jeremy Flores.
“Jeremy wouldn’t be surfing if the waves looked like this at home,” noted one of the commentators. True!
Day one is dusted and no one lost but the viewers. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.
Oi Rio Pro Women’s Seeding Round (Round 1) Matchups:
Heat 1: Caroline Marks (USA), Nikki Van Dijk (AUS), Macy Callaghan (AUS)
Heat 2: Carissa Moore (HAW), Johanne Defay (FRA), Keely Andrew (AUS)
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Coco Ho (HAW), Taina Hinckel (BRA)
Heat 4: Lakey Peterson (USA), Brisa Hennessy (CRI), Paige Hareb (NZL)
Heat 5: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), Silvana Lima (BRA)
Heat 6: Courtney Conlogue (USA), Malia Manuel (HAW), Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Oi Rio Pro Men’s Seeding Round (Round 1) Matchups:
Heat 1: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN), Peterson Crisanto (BRA), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Soli Bailey (AUS)
Heat 3: Kolohe Andino (USA), Yago Dora (BRA), Adriano de Souza (BRA)
Heat 4: Filipe Toledo (BRA), Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Frederico Morais (PRT)
Heat 5: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Deivid Silva (BRA), Mateus Herdy (BRA)
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW), Caio Ibelli (BRA), Alex Ribeiro (BRA)
Heat 7: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Willian Cardoso (BRA), Ricardo Christie (NZL)
Heat 8: Julian Wilson (AUS), Michael Rodrigues (BRA), Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 9: Conner Coffin (USA), Kelly Slater (USA), Griffin Colapinto (USA)
Heat 10: Owen Wright (AUS), Seth Moniz (HAW), Jack Freestone (AUS)
Heat 11: Ryan Callinan (AUS), Wade Carmichael (AUS), Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 12: Jeremy Flores (FRA), Michel Bourez (FRA), Joan Duru (FRA)
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