The Billabong Girls Pro Rio, the fourth stop on the ASP World Championship Tour, will kick off next week at Barra de Tijuca, Brazil. With the competitive furnace ablaze after the Rip Curl event in Hossegor, the Top 17 will soon be making their way to the Southern Hemisphere to test their skills on the shifty South American sandbars. Although Steph Gilmore has slipped into the top spot in the ratings after her Event Three win, runner-up Sofia and former world champ Layne Beachley are not far behind, and know that a good result in the Brazil event could be enough to take over the tour lead. "It feels great to go back to the comp mode," said former World Champion Sofia Mulanovich. "I think I was a little bit too excited and my nerves got in my way in France, but I'm stoked for all the girls that did good, they were ripping and it got all of us fired up for Brazil."
The Rio event marks the halfway point on the tour, and with the Sydney, Peru, Sunset Beach, and Honolua events to come, there's still plenty of time left for changes in the ratings, and the girls are warmed up and raring to kick off the rest of the season.
The trading is now open for the Women's Fantasy Surfer Rio event, so log on and pick the team best suited for the event. While filling your roster, here are some things to keep in mind:
The Winning Roll
There's nothing like an event win to offer the confidence boost needed to keep the roll going toward a title. After a disappointing result in the first event of the season at Snapper, Steph Gilmore has regained her footing, and looks to have the self-assurance and determination to win her way right through the season. "After the win at Bells, it would have been nice to go right into another event," said Steph. "I was feeling really confident and it would have been good to go strait into the next one." Now going into the Brazil event with a fresh win at Hossegor under her belt, Gilmore will likely be the hardest one to beat.
The other girls have taken notice of Silvana's peak level of fitness, and with the contest held in the beachbreaks in her own backyard, Silvana's looking to use this event to make her way out of her 6th-place spot in the ratings. "I think everyone feels the will to win when the championship is in their country," said Silvana. She's been surfing strong this year, and if she gets the right waves, she could easily take the crown. Karina Petroni agrees: "She is a crazy brazil nut and has the most innovative surfing of any girl on the tour—once she learns how to maintain that competitive surfing within heats, she will be unstoppable."
The Rise of the Veteran
Looking at the results from the first three events of the season, it's apparent that Layne Beachley is gaining momentum. If the next event follows in the upward trend of the last three (a 5th at Snapper, a 3rd at Bells, and a 2nd Hossegor), there's a good chance the seven-time World Champion could clinch the win in Brazil and possibly end the year with an eighth title.
"Size can come into account in certain conditions—it's easier for the lightweights to throw it around in the small stuff, same as for us taller girls when it gets bigger," says Nicola Atherton. As we've seen in small, beachbreak conditions in the past, the smaller surfers are able to make their way through weak sections and gain speed where the taller girls tend to lose power. "Being short gives you a solid center of gravity," admits Sofia, whose small stature seems to benefit her in all conditions. There's over a foot difference in height between the tallest and shortest surfers on tour (with Silvana at 4'9" and then Karina and Nicola at 5'11"), so if the waves end up being tiny, keep your eye out for little ones.
Watch Out for the Wildcard
As we've seen at all the events this year the Wildcards have the potential to knock out even the best competitors (think Carissa Moore outing Steph at Snapper and Lee Ann Curren beating Sofia in Hossegor). "The Wildcard usually does well, 'cause they have no pressure and usually they're there to make a statement," explains Sofia. This year's Wildcard, the winner of the WQS 4-Star event in Rio taking place this week, will join Steph Gilmore and Melanie Bartels for an early-round top-shelf battle.
Stats from the Top Contenders:
Best results this year: 1st Bells, 1st Hossegor
2007 Billabong Girls Pro Brazil result: 3rd
Best results this year: 2nd Snapper
2007 Billabong Girls Pro Brazil result: 1st
Best results this year: 2nd Hossegor
2007 Billabong Girls Pro Brazil result: 5th
Best result this year: 1st Snapper
2007 Billabong Girls Pro Brazil result: 5th
Best result this year: 3rd Hossegor
2007 Billabong Girls Pro Brazil result: 2nd