Brazil is the next stop for the Championship Tour and after the shark induced stoppage of the West Oz leg, the WSL are likely hoping for a bump free ride this time around.
Sure Rio's a mixed bag, not without its fair share of problems over the years but the elements sync up, there's some damn remarkable surfing on display. Let's run through the highs and lows of Brazil's CT event.
Kelly Slater's 10-point Pig-Dog
On the brighter side, a memory that refuses to go away is the ten-point ride Kelly Slater scored early one morning in 2014 against Brazilian stalwart Adriano de Souza.
While watching the waves with former head judge Richie Porta, there was nothing but closeouts pouring through on the low tide. Kelly’s first wave, a solid left, had close-out written all over it, but he pulled into a hands-free backhand barrel that was below sea level, rode the maelstrom and emerged from the doggy door for a ten-point ride in front of incredulous spectators.
ADS couldn’t buy a wave out there however, and ended up with a 3.73 score against Slater’s heat total of 15.50.
Gabriel Medina's 10-point Flip
It seems that 2016 was the dramatic year for the Championship Tour events in Rio, and while there were accusations of favouritism, 2014 World Champion Gabriel Medina rose above it to let his surfing do the talking.
In his round 2 heat against Alex Ribeiro, Medina executed a perfect forehand flip for the holy grail of ten points, in front of adoring and roaring crowds. His heat total was 19.40 against his opponents 7.90, making it pretty clear-cut. Medina went on the place third in the event, behind John John (1st) and Jack Freestone (2nd), tying with another Brazilian World Champion in Adriano De Souza.
The Site Got Destroyed
In 2016 the contest site at Postinho was totally destroyed by a storm, and pollution had all but made the surf unplayable. The primary contest site had to be moved to Grumari, and there were some surprisingly decent (and clean) waves at this nature reserve back-up location, 45 minutes west of Rio.
The logistics of moving a Championship Tour are extremely challenging, but the crew put their heads down and got it done so that the show could go on. Even Strider, as the rumours at the time went. Apparently he actually did help the massive move, during his first ever WSL commentating gig.
The Zika Virus
The Zika virus was all over the news in 2016, with an outbreak of the disease in Brazil prior to the event being run. Zika is transmitted by mosquitoes, which typically causes asymptomatic or mild infection in humans, and it may be associated with an increased incidence of microcephaly in babies born to mothers infected during pregnancy.
There were all sorts of travel warning issued, and the pro surfers were pretty antsy about the situation. Speaking before the event, Dave Prodan from the WSL said the organisation was keeping a close eye on the situation. There are no warnings thus far for 2018, but the memory does linger somewhat.
Shooting Witnessed by Carissa Moore and Connor Coffin
Talking about memories lingering, no one has forgotten about the shooting, especially not Connor Coffin and Carissa Moore, who were there when it happened. The shooting took place one road back from the contest site, and Rio has a checkered history of radical violence. Hopefully this was just a once off.
The Oi Rio Pro takes place from May 11-20 and the defending champion is Adriano De Souza, while the Women’s defending champion is Tyler Wright.