The opening day of the Oi Rio Pro saw the world’s best surfers greeted by thousands of cheering fans on the beach during the opening Seeding Rounds in three-to-five foot (0.9 – 1.5 metre) waves at Itaúna. The Oi Rio Pro is the fifth stop on the 2019 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) and today’s opening heats will play an important role in the athlete’s seedings as they move into the elimination rounds.
The Brazilians competing at the Oi Rio Pro make up one-third of the represented athletes and the largest national contingent in this event. Today marked a strong start for the Brazilians in their home country with 13 out of 17 competitors advancing to Round 3. Silvana Lima, Tatiana Weston-Webb, Gabriel Medina, Yago Dora, Jadson Andre, Adriano de Souza, Filipe Toledo, Italo Ferreira, Deivid Silva, Caio Ibelli, Willian Cardoso, Michael Rodrigues, and Jesse Mendes will all advance to Round 3. Peterson Crisanto, Mateus Herdy, Alex Ribeiro, and Taina Hinckel will have to battle out of the Elimination Round to avoid an early exit.
Brasilians Lima and Weston-Webb Though to Round of 16
Brazilian Silvana Lima and Tatiana Weston-Webb matched-up with Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) in their opening heat (Round 1, Heat 5). Fitzgibbons recently defeated Lima in the Quarterfinals at the Corona Bali Protected. Today, Lima got the edge over the Australian in Heat 5 of Round 1. Lima won the heat with a buzzer-beater 13.20 two-wave score (out of a possible 20) to Weston-Webb’s 13.10 and Fitzgibbons’ 9.93.
“There were a lot of nerves for me and I’m sure for everyone that was watching,” said Lima. “You get those butterflies in your stomach and you hear that voice in your head saying ‘Go Silvana.’ Everyone feels pressure, so it’s important to stay calm, focused, and when the opportunity shows up, you need to give it your all. I’m stoked to advance in first place and I’m thankful to everyone for all the energy and support.”
Carissa Moore Earns 250th Heat Win
Carissa Moore (HAW), three-time WSL Champion, celebrated her 250th heat win with a dominating performance against Keely Andrew (AUS) and Johanne Defay (FRA) with an excellent 8.00 (out of a possible 10) and a 7.50 in Heat 2 of the Seeding Round. The Itaúna beach break provided Moore an opportunity to showcase her backhand surfing. Moore and Andrew advance through to the Round of 16 (Round 3). Defay will surf again in the Elimination Round (Round 2) against Malia Manuel (HAW) and rookie Brisa Hennessy (CRI).
“It’s great to get that one out of the way, there are always some first-heat jitters, especially out here where the waves were breaking all over the place,” said Moore. “I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, but I’m happy everything worked out. It feels super good to get some good scores because I’ve actually struggled these past two years, so it was nice to start off really strong. I made a podium finish a while ago at Barra, so it would be great to make the Final here this year.”
World Champions Find Early Success, De Souza Returns from Injury
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) comes into the Oi Rio Pro ranked No. 1 in the world, as the defending event winner, and the reigning World Champion. With all of this momentum, Gilmore is undoubtedly an event favourite but fell just 1.6 points short of the win to good-friend Coco Ho (HAW) in Heat 3 of Round 1. Despite the second-place finish, Gilmore will still skip the Elimination Round and advance to Round 3 with Ho. Event wildcard Taina Hinckel (BRA) will be against Fitzgibbons and Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) in Heat 1 of the Elimination Round.
“I am stoked to get that one,” said Ho. “These rounds are to be able to feel your board and see how you are surfing and I knew I was surfing alright, so I just wanted to get a good wave and had to be calm. It feels good here in Saqurema. There is a lot of ocean and you can ride board, you know you can ride a round-tail, and feel really good. I love it here.”
Brasil’s World Champions Gabriel Medina (2014, 2018) and Adriano de Souza (2015) now advance into the Round of 32. Medina captured the win with a 12.10 heat total over rookie Soli Bailey (AUS) and veteran Adrian Buchan (AUS). In his first heat since October 2018, De Souza’s second-place finish felt like a win for him after returning from a sidelining knee injury. De Souza marches into the Round of 32 where his opponent will be determined following the men’s Elimination Round.
“It feels great to surf a left, just to break the monotony of only surfing rights on Tour,” said Medina. “We don’t really have any lefts, just Teahupo’o, but that’s a barreling wave, so as high-performance goes, it’s really only Saquarema. I love surfing when there are a lot of people watching. Surfing has grown so popular in our country these last few years and I feel blessed to have so much support and feel loved by so many fans. It’s so gratifying.”
Kelly Slater (USA), 11-time WSL Champion, returned to the Brasilian CT for the first time since 2015. The Brasilian crowd roared as Slater entered the water and even more so when he secured a come-from-behind victory in the dying minutes of the heat to take down rookie Griffin Colapinto (USA) and Conner Coffin (USA) in Heat 9. Slater will advance to Round 3, while Coffin is relegated to the Elimination Round (Round 2) for the first time this season.
“It is tough out there,” said Slater. “It is so bumpy and backwashy because the current is going one way and the chop is going the other way and there is a rip that’s going out to sea and the whole energy of the ocean is going down the beach, so it was tricky. You can’t take the first wave of the set and wait for the whitewash to clean up the set. It feels good to be back in Brasil, but it’s a little intimidating, there are some crazy crowds here, but I had some fun.”
Jeep Frontrunner John John Florence (HAW) will also advance straight to the Round of 32 after sending wildcard Alex Ribeiro (BRA) to the Elimination Round and beating injury replacement Caio Ibelli (BRA). Florence posted a 7.50 and a 6.17 and is off to a good start for a third event win in Brasil.
World Title Contenders Adance in Saquarema
Lakey Peterson (USA) earned a runner-up finish at this event last year in Saquarema but fell short to Gilmore for the win. After her big victory in Western Australia last month, Peterson has resurged her World Title campaign into 2019 and today’s early win keeps her on track.
Caroline Marks (USA), current World No. 2, will also advance to Round 3 after defeating rookie Macy Callaghan (AUS) in second and Van Dijk in third.
Filipe Toledo (BRA), defending event winner, had the chance to showcase his big backside carves in the beach break conditions. His efforts earned him an excellent 8.00 with a 5.97 back-up to advance ahead of injury replacement Frederico Morais (PRT) and World No. 31 Sebastian Zietz (HAW).
“While Brasil is where we most want to compete, it’s also where we have the most obligations out of the water,” Toledo said. “But that’s normal, we’re only here for one week out of the year and we want to give back as much as we can to our fans, the media and everything else. But we try to do everything before the event so we can be one-hundred percent focused during the competition.”
In a rare draw, the only three French male surfers on Tour – Jeremy Flores, Michel Bourez, and Joan Duru – were all seeded into the same heat to close out men’s Round 1. Bourez captured the win with Duru in second. Flores will face 2018 event runner-up Wade Carmichael (AUS) and Jack Freestone (AUS) in the next elimination round.
Kanoa Igarashi (JPN), current World No. 4, will also move into the Round of 32 after defeating Brasilians Jadson Andre and Peterson Crisanto in the opening heat of the the men’s Seeding Round. Current World No. 5 Jordy Smith (ZAF) will have an opportunity to battle back when he surfs again in the Elimination Round 2 (Heat 2) against Buchan and wildcard Herdy.
World No. 3 Italo Ferreira (BRA) also found his rhythm in his opening heat and will move into the Round of 32, but No. 2 Kolohe Andino (USA) will come up against Zietz and Ribeiro in Heat 1 of the Elimination Round after losing in Round 1.
Oi Rio Pro Women’s Seeding Round (Round 1) Results:
Heat 1: Caroline Marks (USA) 8.90 DEF. Macy Callaghan (AUS) 8.10, Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 6.17
Heat 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.50 DEF. Keely Andrew (AUS) 12.23, Johanne Defay (FRA) 10.20
Heat 3: Coco Ho (HAW) 11.60 DEF. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 10.00, Taina Hinckel (BRA) 8.63
Heat 4: Lakey Peterson (USA) 12.83 DEF. Paige Hareb (NZL) 8.87, Brisa Hennessy (CRI) 6.37
Heat 5: Silvana Lima (BRA) 13.20 DEF. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 13.10, Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 9.93
Heat 6: Courtney Conlogue (USA) 14.77 DEF. Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 12.40, Malia Manuel (HAW) 10.00
Oi Rio Pro Women’s Elimination Round (Round 2) Matchups:
Heat 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) vs. Taina Hinckel (BRA)
Heat 2: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Brisa Hennessy (CRI) vs. Johanne Defay (FRA)
Oi Rio Pro Men’s Seeding Round (Round 1) Results:
Heat 1: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 12.17 DEF. Jadson Andre (BRA) 10.60, Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 7.83
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.10 DEF. Soli Bailey (AUS) 8.40, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 6.93
Heat 3: Yago Dora (BRA) 16.33 DEF. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.27, Kolohe Andino (USA) 11.16
Heat 4: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 13.97 DEF. Frederico Morais (PRT) 9.60, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 9.30
Heat 5: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.17 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 11.07, Mateus Herdy (BRA)
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW) 13.67 DEF. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 10.53, Alex Ribeiro (BRA) 9.60
Heat 7: Willian Cardoso (BRA) 10.47 DEF. Ricardo Christie (NZL) 9.00, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 6.30
Heat 8: Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.67 DEF. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 9.06, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 6.00
Heat 9: Kelly Slater (USA) 10.87 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 10.80, Conner Coffin (USA) 9.93
Heat 10: Seth Moniz (HAW) 13.77 DEF. Owen Wright (AUS) 11.90, Jack Freestone (AUS) 7.43
Heat 11: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 13.17 DEF. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 11.53, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 9.74
Heat 12: Michel Bourez (FRA) 11.13 DEF. Joan Duru (FRA) 10.76, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 7.23
Oi Rio Pro Men’s Elimination Round (Round 2) Matchups:
Heat 1: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Alex Ribeiro (BRA)
Heat 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Mateus Herdy (BRA)
Heat 3: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Peterson Crisanto (BRA) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Wade Carmichael (AUS) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)