BARRA DA TIJUCA, Rio de Janeiro/Brazil (Thursday, May 19, 2011) - The Billabong Rio Pro returned to the beachbreak of Barra Da Tijuca after two days at the lefthander of Arpoador and saw massive upsets unfold among the event's highest scores in punchy four foot waves while completing Rounds 3 and 4 of competition.
Stop No. 3 of 11 on the ASP World Title Series, the Billabong Rio Pro not only plays a crucial role in surfers' campaigns for the ASP World Title, but also offers important points for competitors out to requalify at the halfway mark in the season.
Bobby Martinez (USA), 28, was responsible for the upset of the event when he defeated reigning 10-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA), 39, in a close heat of 14.50 to 14.10. The talented Californian unveiled a lightning-quick forehand attack and impressive backhand aerial game in his hard-fought heat to take the Round 3 win.
"There were some lefts and Kelly (Slater) went down to the rights and you're always worried that he sees something that you don't," Martinez said. "I just got lucky, things worked to my advantage. I got that one right under his priority and that's what he usually does. I thought I'd try and reverse the role. "
Martinez, who is currently sitting at No. 55 on the men's ASP World Ranking, knows that he is in need of results to try and improve his seed to remain on the elite ranks and hopes the victory over Slater will turn momentum in his favor.
"I hope this helps my seed, this is the best I've done in over a year," Martinez said. "Last year I struggled a lot and this year I have struggled. I've had some tough heats, but everything's tough these days. Sometimes the waves are tough and if the waves are good your competitor is tough. Nothing is easy, but I'm just trying my best."
Michel Bourez (PYF), 25, went absolutely mental in his Round 3 match-up to eliminate defending event winner Jadson Andre (BRA), 21, by belting a combination of furious backhand maneuvers to earn the second-highest single-wave score of the entire competition, a 9.70, and quickly followed up with a 9.40 (both out of 10). Both rides saw Bourez take the highest heat total of Billabong Rio Pro competition in his near-perfect performance of 19.10 out of 20.
"That heat started before the horn because me and Jadson (Andre) were paddling to get the inside ones," Bourez said. "The first one came and I knew I needed to get a good score and needed to get a good start. That's what happened, I got a 9.70. Just after that I tried and air and broke by board and thought 'oh no, it's not going to happen.' I got another right and got that 9.40 and after that my board was done, I couldn't surf, so I just took a couple of close outs."
Josh Kerr (AUS), 26, was also responsible for an upset of his own when he lofted a big frontside air on a wedging righthander in the final minutes of his Round 3 heat to eliminate Jordy Smith (ZAF), 23, in Round 3.
"I'm stoked, the whole game-plan was to go down there on those rights," Kerr said. "I saw Kelly down there and it looked like there were a couple of good ones. I saw Jordy (Smith) get those lefts, but luckily I got that right and went for the punt."
Kerr later went on to advance directly through to the Quarterfinals by winning his Round 4 bout.
Joel Parkinson (AUS), 30, continued his form after a standout performance in Round 2 and built momentum throughout the day to take his Round 3 heat and followed up with the highest single-wave score of the entire event, a 9.73 out of 10 to win his three-man Round 4 heat in the last seconds, advancing directly into the Quarterfinals.
"It's kind of one of those things where you're only as good as your last heat and once you have a shocker you don't want to have another one," Parkinson said. "It might have been a blessing in disguise (to lose in Round 1). I'm glad I got that one out of the way and my strategy is good and I feel good."
Parkinson's guaranteed 5th place result at the Billabong Rio Pro temporarily moves him to the No. 1 position on the ASP World Title Rankings after Slater's early elimination, but the stylish natural-footer was cautious in claiming his place as the new frontrunner for the ASP World Title.
"It's too early to think about this early in the year," Parkinson said. "It's only the third event of the year to start worrying about it (the ASP World Title). If it was later on in the season, then sure, but as of now, who knows what can happen."
Taj Burrow (AUS), 32, was one top seed to prevail among the day's upsets. The veteran campaigner not only took out his Round 3 victory, but also took a commanding win in Round 4 to ignite the day's second-highest heat-total of 18.40 out of 20.
"That felt good, I felt good out there for sure," Burrow said. "As long as I can get a wave with an open face I feel like I can get the job done, but that's the hard thing. Sometimes you just get on a roll and it has a lot to do with confidence. For me confidence is a big thing and it's a tough one for me. When it's high, I don't know what it is, it just does it. I feel like I've been on tour long enough to win heats."
Adriano de Souza (BRA), 24, was also impressive in Round 3 today and continued to use the support of his passionate Brazilian fans to lift his performance.
"I'm happy to move to Round 4," De Souza said. "I can't believe it, there is this massive crowd down on the beach and I wanted to go for it. I'm proud of myself for making that heat. C.J. (Hobgood) is a world champ and he's surfing amazing and he does so well in these conditions. It was an amazing feeling to get through and I'll see how I can do in this event."
De Souza will surf again in Round 5 of Billabong Rio Pro competition and can potentially overtake Parkinson for the No. 1 position on the ASP World Title race pending the final day's results.
Event organizers will return to Barra Da Tijuca tomorrow morning at 7am to assess conditions for a possible start to Round 5. To watch the Billabong Rio Pro LIVE log on to http://www.billabongpro.com
For additional ASP information log on to www.aspworldtour.com
Billabong Rio Pro Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 18.40, Damien Hobgood (USA) 14.60, Daniel Ross (AUS) 8.76
Heat 2: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.23, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.53, Bobby Martinez (USA) 10.73
Heat 3: Josh Kerr (AUS) 16.30, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.07, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 4.67
Heat 4: Owen Wright (AUS) 16.67, Michel Bourez (PYF) 11.20, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 9.26
Billabong Rio Pro Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.66 def. Cory Lopez (USA) 10.84
Heat 2: Damien Hobgood (USA) 11.33 def. Heitor Alves (BRA) 4.03
Heat 3: Dan Ross (AUS) 12.17 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 7.97
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.50 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 6.77
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.07 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 7.83
Heat 6: Bobby Martinez (USA) 14.50 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 14.10
Heat 7: Josh Kerr (AUS) 13.87 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.17
Heat 8: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 15.93 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 11.87
Heat 9: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.17 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 11.50
Heat 10: Owen Wright (AUS) 11.66 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 9.80
Heat 11: Michel Bourez (PYF) 19.10 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 6.83
Heat 12: Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 14.84 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.73