In typical fashion, the Rio Pro remained utterly unpredictable to the end. The final day was packed with fluctuations in momentum, upsets, ugly closeouts, interference calls, and a staggering ten point ride, all culminating in the crowning of a Tahitian who has claimed two wins from four events.
The Spartan surprises
Michel's victory was not defined by any one jaw dropping moment, rather his success came through a consistent and fluid demolition job. The conditions fluctuated from thick, dredging barrels to shoulder-high windblown walls, and no one adapted to these changes better than the Tahitian. Years of experience surfing the junky closouts of Papara beach certainly did his campaign no harm. The world title race now takes on a markedly different appearance from the post-Bells scene. Bourez has two wins from four events, and though he has never had a result in the Pacific leg, he can no longer be considered an outsider in the race.
I've never had a result at Cloudbreak, never even made it past round 3. I'll just have to go to there and watch what Kelly is doing. Michel Bourez
“I still can't believe it. I didn't expect to win," said Michel. "It's such a hard event to win with the conditions changing so much. I'm always thinking about the world title, but Kelly, Parko and Medina are still there, so who knows what will happen. I didn't know what to do with Kolohe. He's just a grom who can do anything with those conditions. I've never had a result at Cloudbreak, never even made it past round 3. I'll just have to go to there and watch what Kelly is doing."
Prior to Slater paddling into a 10, backing it up, and paralysing Adriano, word had it that Kelly wasn’t digging Brazil. He hadn’t beaten the plucky Brazilian in years, and the old lion seemed to have lost his mojo along with that mountain and the wave sticker.
With 30 seconds remaining De Souza had scored no points. Nil pois. He appeared to be immobilised, waiting for a wave which never came. You were left feeling that perhaps he thought that if he stuck his head in the sand no one would see him out there.
“I owe that guy man he was killing me, 6 times in a row I think. I’ve had enough of that.” Said Kelly who had no qualms about brutal manner in which he pulled the thorn from his pad.
Successful campaigns are composed of a few key moments and that dredging below-sea-level barrel against Adriano looked like a gear change for Kelly. Despite losing to Andino in the semi-final, he is now top of the rankings and will soon head to Cloudbreak, a spot which might as well be called the love of his life.
Kolohe shakes off his demons
The young man from San Clemente has had more pressure piled on his shoulders than an Egyptian donkey carrying obese American tourists. This runner-up finish is the first time he's come close to the hype, and it was a pleasure to watch. Once past round 5 Kolohe was like a different creature. His backhand turns were loose and aggressive, and his rotations were faster than those in his freesurf edits. This was not a lucky run. He overcame Travis Logie in round 5, despite having an interference to his name, and stood firm against Slater, who has a 70% win ratio in semifinals.
"When you're losing a bunch of event it seems really hard, and when you're winning it seems easy," said Kolohe, clearly a man of few words. "I've always felt that I'm a rhythm surfer, and I'm definitely in a rhythm. I don't know what was different. I was just having fun."
It’s definitely not a spot you would come and surf, you just surf it because it’s there. As I was walking on the beach the thought came to me that my next heat would be at Cloudbreak, and that put a big smile on my face.Joel Parkinson
Most of the field aren't smiling.
The conditions for much of the day were only bordering on contestable, and while one solid wave per heat might bulk up the highlight reel, the majority of the competitors were left feeling cheated. This attitude was best summed up by Parko following his round 5 loss to Bourez.
"There's not much at all out there, apart from Kelly's wave, which threw a sideball for everyone. This wave is definitely not one you would come and surf, you just surf it because it's there. As I was walking on the beach the thought came to me that my next heat would be at Cloudbreak, and that put a big smile on my face."
Carissa isn't invinsible
Earlier in the year we suggested that women's surfing is no longer a one horse race, however, as Carissa Moore blasted her way once more to the final, it almost seemed as if the title would be decided then and there. Fortunately this was not the case.
As Tyler Wright faced up against Sally Fitzgibbons in the semifinals, Moore and Wright looked once again to be on inexorable trajectories towards the final. Sally Fitzgibbons happily deviated from the script. The shoulder high windy lefts on offer in the latter rounds were perfectly suited to the Fitzgibbons' backhand, and her victory over Moore in the final was emphatic.
"I'm comfortable here in Brazil,the spot is similar to a few waves back home," said Sally, beaming a smile of mild disbelief. "You just get that first hack off and you're on your way to a good score."
Moore remains the clear favourite to take the title, however, the glow of invincibility accrued by two wins on the trot has been somewhat lessened.
“I wish I had won here in Rio like I did three years ago,” said Carissa Moore. “You come so close and then you don’t get it so of course you’re upset. It’s okay - this is what happens in competition.”
A Footnote: Interferences are a low blow
Looking to inflict interferences as a deliberate heat tactic is low. Travis did it to Kolohe, dropping in and cutting back into him. It might be part of the game but it’s an ugly trick. Everyone should stop doing this right now. Fate agrees and Travis lost.
Billabong Rio Pro Final Result:
Michel Bourez (PYF) 13.84 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 6.43
Rio Women’s Pro Final Result:
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 16.27 def. Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.27
Billabong Rio Pro Semifinal Results:
Semifinal 1: Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.73 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 14.17
Semifinal 2: Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.30 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 12.33
Rio Women’s Pro Semifinal Results:
Semifinal 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) 17.97 def. Lakey Peterson (USA) 6.00
Semifinal 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.17 def. Tyler Wright (AUS) 9.80
Billabong Rio Pro Quarterfinal Results:
Quarterfinal 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.50 def. Nat Young (USA) 12.37
Quarterfinal 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.44 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 7.40
Quarterfinal 3: Michel Bourez (PYF) 16.83 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.67
Quarterfinal 4: Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.66 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 7.20
Rio Women’s Pro Quarterfinal Results:
Quarterfinal 1: Lakey Peterson (USA) 13.47 def. Pauline Ado (FRA) 13.26
Quarterfinal 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.50 def. Alessa Quizon (HAW) 7.00
Quarterfinal 3: Tyler Wright (AUS) 15.37 def. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 14.43
Quarterfinal 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.77 def. Coco Ho (HAW) 12.90
Billabong Rio Pro Round 5 Results:
Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.50 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 3.37
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 6.83 def. Travis Logie (ZAF) 8.17
Heat 3: Michel Bourez (PYF) 8.60 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 8.10
Heat 4: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 11.76 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 8.17