After seven days of soaking in the many extremes of one of Brazil's most populous cities, contest directors at the inaugural Billabong Pro Rio finally found a narrow window to complete the opening round of the event. With a week's worth of stormy closeouts behind them and only five days left in the holding period, the event relocated to a lefthand point named Arpoador that saw many of the World Tour's upper echelon skirt through the shifting and generally unappetizing conditions of Round One.
Jadson Andre, the defending event champion, scraped together every morsel he could find in his heat to take down Gabe Kling and Bede Durbidge. Jadson, who's coming off a fifth at Bells and a jaw-dropping performance at the 6.0 Lowers Pro, has spent a considerable amount of time at the peak in the past and utilized that knowledge to his benefit today.
"I've competed here several times before and have friends here. I know everyone says I should feel pressure as defending champion, but I'm not worried about it," Andre told the ASP. "I'm just thinking about the next heat. That's what I did last year."
Taj Burrow, who came into the event ranked seventh, has also found success in the Brazilian leg of the Tour in the past, where he's been crowned a champion three times. In his opening surf today, Taj looked in fine form and dropped the highest heat total of the day at 16.33 over Alejo Muniz and wildcard surfer Ricardo Santos. To boot, in a season marked by the Brazilian contingency asserting their aerial dominance, Taj stuck a stratospherically tweaked backside punt and reminded all the upstarts that he's had his wings since they were in diapers.
"I kind of forgot I was here for an event we've had so many lay days. But I've been keeping busy surfing a bunch and have actually had a few fun waves on our days off," said Taj after his heat win.
Rounding out the day's highlights, Kelly Slater showed that he still means business this year and posted the day's highest single heat score with a 9-point ride, the result of two massive backside hacks in his opening heat against Julian Wilson and Peterson Crisanto. Slater, the consummate professional, made an uncharacteristic mistake and missed the opening few minutes of his heat today.
"I went down to grab my jersey and there was some confusion. By the time I got out, the heat had already started and Julian got that first one. It wasn't a good start," Slater said. "I knew there were going to be some good ones and I just had to be patient." True to form, Slater held his composure and in typical fashion, found one of the most open canvases of the heat and dropped the aforementioned 9-point ride.
With just a handful of days left in the waiting period, you can rest assured that event officials in Rio will be eying any contestable conditions eagerly. Stay locked to Surfermag.com for more on the Billabong Pro Rio.
Round One Results:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 13.60, Heitor Alves (BRA) 7.67, Bobby Martinez (USA) 7.47
Heat 2: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.84, Adam Melling (AUS) 11.16, Kai Otton (AUS) 7.90
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.33, Ricardo Santos (BRA) 11.17, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 10.60
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.07, Simao Romao (BRA) 12.36, Dusty Payne (HAW) 11.66
Heat 5: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 8.13, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 8.07, Igor Morais (BRA) 6.34
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.17, Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.37, Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 3.84
Heat 7: Jadson Andre (BRA) 14.33, Gabe Kling (USA) 10.66, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 7.90
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.56, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 10.80, Josh Kerr (AUS) 7.43
Heat 9: Damien Hobgood (USA) 12.00, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 11.10, Tiago Pires (PRT) 10.93
Heat 10: Cory Lopez (USA) 11.54, Chris Davidson (AUS) 10.00, Michel Bourez (PYF) 8.57
Heat 11: Daniel Ross (AUS) 14.90, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.67, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 8.96
Heat 12: Taylor Knox (USA) 15.03, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.70, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 8.34