Billabong Rio Pro - Day 1

WHAT can you say about the first day of the Billabong Rio Pro? Desirable with shapes in all the right places, but shifty, and probably not something you'd want to wake up to every day. The best in the world can come out of anything makable, threading that fine line between closeout and runner and even they found it challenging.

It's tricky here, a competition of surfing ability combined with a test of nouse and heat intellect. Arguably just as an important skill in competitive surfing and one which annoys the hell out of the purists. Kelly has that cunning in spades, as does Glenn Hall, either sides of the bubble but equally dominant in their heats. As ever an unpredictable lineup is one that rewards the lucky and if you got stuck behind the eight ball (Taj/Seabass) you ended-up chasing shadows in the closeouts.

Rio is another combined event, the third of the year during which the men and women surf together. The women have a shorter window to complete the event so what is it with the women accepting that they will always be second best to the men, and if it's good the blokes go out? Why isn't it a rotating priority? So one set of good conditions go to the men, then second set go to the women? Note to all the marketers out there - if you always positon something as being of secondary value then it will remain so.

Kelly Slater returned to Rio de Janeiro today after a 2012's absence due to a foot injury, one that might have cost him the World Title. “Based on the years prior, I thought last year was going to be turns and maneuvers and there were a lot of barrels,” Slater said. “I had stitches in my heel last season and could probably have attended if it was just barrels, but I couldn’t really do turns with the stitches in my heel. Lesson learned and I’m here this year.”

The iconic natural-footer was completely dominant in his Round 1 bout, threading a number of impressive forehand barrels.

“I saw a bunch of good waves down the beach and just kept that to myself,” Slater said. “You can take off on that foam ball out the back on the reef and get one or two turns and you’ve already got as good a score as you can get on some of the ones on the right side of the scaffolding. Most of the waves this morning have been closeouts, but I figured at some point today it’s going to get good. There were some unbelievable barrels down the beach.”

Reigning ASP World Champion, Joel Parkinson said: “I’ve had a little time to reflect on the world title but it’s only a few months break and once this year started it was game on again,” Parkinson said. “I enjoyed it for sure. Nothing was going to wipe the smile off of my face. I just cruised it and didn’t surf for about three weeks. Once the bug came back though I was just pumped. It’s one thing to win your first one, it’s an entirely different beast to defend one. The fact that the performance level on tour has never been higher doesn’t make it any easier.”

Adriano de Souza, winner of the previous event at Bells Beach continued his 2013 momentum on home soil, netting a solid Round 1 win over Australians Matt Wilkinson and Yadin Nicol.

“I’m so happy to be back in Brazil and have all the support of my friends and family,” De Souza said. “The waves are challenging out here today but I’m fit and I’m motivated to do well. Winning Bells was a huge confidence for me – to be the first Brazilian male to win it. I came home and then went to the Mentawais after and have been training very hard for this event. The world title is the goal and hopefully I can bring one home to Brazil.”

Gabriel Medina, complimented De Souza’s win this morning with a Round 1 victory of his own, posting the day’s high heat-total. Following an injury at the opening event of the season on the Gold Coast and a less-than-successful run at Bells Beach, Medina now appears fit and focused at home in Brazil.

“After Bells Beach, I came home and worked with lots of doctors and rested for this event,” Medina said. “It’s home in Brazil for me and I want to do well in front of my family and friends. I’m feeling pretty good – getting stronger every day. Stoked to get a win in Round 1 and hope I can keep going throughout the event.”

Jordy Smith, long-heralded as one of the premiere surfers on the planet, has been in blistering form in 2013 and opened up his Billabong Rio Pro campaign with an impressive win.

“I just started the year off at home,” Smith said. “I wanted to let last year go. I have incredible people around me at the moment from my friends to my girlfriend. I also did a trip and I felt like I’d been behind the speed bump and couldn’t get past my injury. I was still feeling one step behind and then I went on a trip to Mozambique with my best friend and it changed everything for me. It got me over that hump and put a smile on my face again. It got me stoked again and I’m pumped.”

Keep up to date with the event here

And the forecast here

Heat 1: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 11.50, Josh Kerr (AUS) 10.27, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 1.40
Heat 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.07, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 7.56, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 1.83
Heat 3: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 15.66, Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) 8.93, Taj Burrow (AUS) 8.67
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.20, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 8.27, Jack Freestone (AUS) 7.96
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.34, Messias Felix (BRA) 9.83, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 2.47
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.30, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 4.63, Gustavo Fernandes (BRA) 1.46
Heat 7: Glenn Hall (IRL) 15.46, Travis Logie (ZAF) 10.00, Julian Wilson (AUS) 1.46
Heat 8: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 18.00, Dusty Payne (HAW) 7.26, Damien Hobgood (USA) 4.04
Heat 9: Nat Young (USA) 11.46, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 9.74, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 9.37
Heat 10: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.94, Adam Melling (AUS) 12.44, Kai Otton (AUS) 5.53
Heat 11: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 11.27, Michel Bourez (PYF) 9.77, Brett Simpson (USA) 9.27
Heat 12: Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.43, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 8.56, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 7.43

Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Gustavo Fernandes (BRA)
Heat 2: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Messias Felix (BRA)
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (BRA) vs. Ricardo dos Santos (BRA)
Heat 5: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Yadin Nicol (AUS)
Heat 6: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 7: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 8: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 9: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 10: Travis Logie (ZAF) vs. Kieren Perrow (AUS)
Heat 11: Alejo Muniz (BRA) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 12: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Filipe Toledo (BRA)

Ed Temperley

MSW editor. Instagram @edtemperley