ARPOADOR, Rio de Janeiro/Brazil (Wednesday, May 9, 2012) – The 2012 Billabong Rio Pro, Stop No. 3 of 10 on the 2012 ASP World Championship Tour, kicked off competition at the secondary venue of Arpoador this morning and the event's top seeds dominated the clean two-to-four foot (1.5 metre) lefthanders on offer for Round 1.
Julian Wilson (AUS), 23, into his second year amongst the world's elite, was in solid form for his opening round bout this morning, posting the day's highest single-wave score of 9.27 out of 10 for committed backhand surfing en route to attaining the day's highest heat-total, 17.14 out of 20.
"I got kind of lucky there because Freddy (Patacchia) didn't go on that wave," Wilson said. "The set before that, Freddy went on the first wave and the one behind was better. I think he was worried about that happening again and when that second set came through, it lined up really well for me. I got to my feet straight away, but then saw that the section was still building and wasn't really there yet. I took my time and squared it up because I really wanted to get strong starts to those waves, keep it clean and not try to rush it."
Wilson, who suffered a surprise Round 1 elimination is last week's ASP Prime event at Lower Trestles, was relieved to have early success at this year's Billabong Rio Pro, and hopes to carry his newfound momentum through to the latter rounds.
"I think after that heat at Lowers where I had the interference today was a bit of redemption," Wilson said. "To come down here, I still had a bit of frustration and I just wanted to come out of the gates strong and get a good solid start. The waves were really fun in that heat, so it was exciting to do well."
Taj Burrow (AUS), 33, was another Australian natural-footer to dominate the lefthander of Arpoador today, netting a 16.16 heat total to advance directly through to Round 3 in convincing fashion.
"It's always good to get that first round out of the way," Burrow said. "Skipping the second round is a real treat. I hate that round and it was great to catch a couple of fun lefts. It was kind of inconsistent at the start. My board was brand new, so I was a bit nervous, but it went well."
Burrow, who opened his 2012 ASP World Title campaign with a win at Snapper Rocks, stumbled at Bells with a 13th place finish but is looking to realign his ASP World Title hopes at the Billabong Rio Pro.
"Bells was a shocker and they always hurt, especially after a win," Burrow said. "I was hungry and confident to back it up and had an absolute meltdown there. It happens, but I don't feel any pressure. I know exactly what I did wrong. I surf better when I'm relaxed and happy and want to have fun. I put pressure on myself down there, but that's not how I operate. Here, there's no pressure."
Adriano de Souza (BRA), 25, defending Billabong Rio Pro Champion, navigated his way through the Arpoador lineup this morning to take out a close Round 1 victory over Kai Otton (AUS), 32, and fellow countryman Willian Cardoso (BRA), 26.
"It feels good to be here at Arpoador," De Souza said. "I just love this place. I've been competing here since I was an amateur and I always love to come back. It's good to see the WCT here again and it's got me excited and motivated as well."
With the withdrawal of reigning 11-time ASP World Champion and current frontrunner Kelly Slater (USA), 40, from the Billabong Rio Pro, De Souza is one of many poised to take the lead in the race for 2012 crown. However, the young Brazilian admitted Slater's absence added additional pressure to perform.
"There's a lot of pressure being defending champion and with Kelly (Slater) not here," De Souza said. "I'm the second seed and could take the lead for the title if I do well here. It's still too early to really consider the title, but I know the crowd is behind me at this event."
Adrian Buchan (AUS), 29, was one of only three surfers to find success over the top seeds today, posting a Round 1 victory over in-form Brazilian Gabriel Medina (BRA), 18, compliments of a 9-point ride in the dying minutes of their heat.
"It was a slow heat and we almost had a restart," Buchan said. "I knew Gabriel (Medina) was going to go to work on those inside ones and my strategy was to wait for the bigger sets. I finally got my chance with about three minutes to go."
Buchan, who fell to Medina in the Semifinals of the ASP Prime event at Trestles, admitted a rivalry is developing between the two goofy-footers and the Australian veteran has the upmost respect for the young talent.
"There's a rivalry between Gabe (Medina) and I for sure," Buchan said. "He spanked me at Lowers five days ago. I didn't get going in that heat and I knew when the draw changed that there was going to be another match up. I was definitely fired up. Gabriel and I have a little rivalry going and I have a lot of respect for the kid. He's going to do some amazing things and I'm sure this week he's going to put in some big performances."
Buchan would be one of seven Australians taking out Round 1 wins today, joined by Josh Kerr (AUS), 26, Owen Wright (AUS), 22, Joel Parkinson (AUS), 31, Mick Fanning (AUS), 30, Burrow and Wilson. Rounding out today's Round 1 winners were Miguel Pupo (BRA), 20, Jeremy Flores (FRA), 24, Alejo Muniz (BRA), 22, and De Souza.
When men's competition resumes, up first will be Gabriel Medina (BRA), 18, against Peterson Crisanto (BRA), 20, in Heat 1 of the elimination Round 2.
While the men's opening round was dominated by top seeds, the Women's Billabong Rio Pro opening round saw a variety of results from the ASP Top 17.
Event wildcard Alessa Quizon (HAW), 18, was responsible for the upset of the day, relegating four-time ASP Women's World Champion and current ASP frontrunner Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 24, to Round 2 while California rookie Lakey Peterson (USA), 17, earned the day's highest score.
Quizon, who entered the Billabong Rio Pro via a trials victory, continued her form at Arpoador in the women's main event, carving through two lefthanders to advance directly to Round 3 of competition, narrowly edging out Gilmore in the process.
"It feels really good to beat Steph (Gilmore)," Quizon said. "I was so nervous before that heat. This morning, I wasn't even officially in the event, and this afternoon, I've beat the four-time world champ. It's hard to describe."
Gilmore remained characteristically gracious despite the narrow defeat, signing autographs for her scores of fans on the beach. The current frontrunner will face replacement surfer Melanie Bartels (HAW), 30, in Round 2 of competition.
Lakey Peterson took top honors in Round 1 of women's competition, earning the day's highest score of 9.77 out of 10 for several backhand blasts to take out an all-American affair over Courtney Conlogue (USA), 19, and Sage Erickson (USA), 20.
"It's tricky out there and the waves have been slowing down this afternoon," Peterson said. "It was a really exciting heat and Courtney (Conlogue) and Sage (Erickson) are amazing surfers and it went back and forth so many times. I had a slow start so I was really aggressive towards the back half of the heat. You really had to be selective and when the set came you had to be on it. It's always fun to be in heats like that. On my 9, it was just a really good wave and I scratched for position on it."
Carissa Moore (HAW), 19, Rebecca Woods (AUS), 27, Tyler Wright (AUS), 18, and Malia Manuel (HAW), 18, rounded out the field with opening round wins of their own.
When women's competition resumes, up first will be Paige Hareb (NZL), 21, and Pauline Ado (FRA), 21, in Round 1 of the elimination Round 2.
The event would like to apologize to all its fans for the technical difficulties that prevented a solid webcast from streaming for most of the morning. ASP technicians are working with event staff to enhance the production and ensure streaming is improved for the remainder of the event.
Highlights from today's Billabong Rio Pro will be available at www.billabongpro.com
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7am at Arpoador to assess conditions for a possible 7:30am start.
For additional ASP information log on to www.aspworldtour.com.
Visit the Press Room on www.aspworldtour.com for news, images, transcribed athlete interviews and more.
BILLABONG RIO PRO MEN'S ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Josh Kerr (AUS) 11.86, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 11.23, Jadson Andre (BRA) 9.56
Heat 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.57, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 13.24, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 11.53
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) 13.60, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 9.20, Taylor Knox (USA) 6.03
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.80, Kai Otton (AUS) 14.53, Willian Cardoso (BRA) 11.40
Heat 5: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.16, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 11.20, Tomas Hermes (BRA) 9.53
Heat 6: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 16.00, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 10.23, Peterson Crisanto (BRA)
Heat 7: Julian Wilson (AUS) 17.14, Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 13.74, Brett Simpson (USA) 11.56
Heat 8: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.00, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.24, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 11.30
Heat 9: Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.34, Travis Logie (ZAF), 13.87, Damien Hobgood (USA) 13.53
Heat 10: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 13.90, Tiago Pires (PRT) 13.17, Michel Bourez (PYF) 11.57
Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.84, Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.17, Heitor Alves (BRA) 9.37
Heat 12: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 14.93, Adam Melling (AUS) 12.57, John John Florence (HAW) 9.16
UPCOMING BILLABONG RIO PRO ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Peterson Crisanto (BRA)
Heat 2: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Tomas Hermes (BRA)
Heat 3: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 4: Heitor Alves (BRA) vs. Taylor Knox (USA)
Heat 5: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 6: Brett Simpson (USA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 7: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)
Heat 8: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Yadin Nicol (AUS)
Heat 9: Raoni Monteiro (BRA) vs. Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 10: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. Tiago Pires (PRT)
Heat 11: Kieren Perrow (AUS) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)
Heat 12: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
BILLABONG RIO PRO WOMEN'S ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Lakey Peterson (USA) 15.50, Sage Erickson (USA) 14.54, Courtney Conlogue (USA) 13.03
Heat 2: Tyler Wright (AUS) 13.77, Justine Dupont (FRA) 8.33, Paige Hareb (NZL) 8.27
Heat 3: Alessa Quizon (HAW) 13.10, Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 12.93, Sarah Mason (NZL) 9.27
Heat 4: Rebecca Woods (AUS) 14.17, Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.07, Melanie Bartels (HAW) 6.67
Heat 5: Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.63, Jacqueline Silva (BRA) 5.80, Coco Ho (HAW) 0.27
Heat 6: Malia Manuel (HAW) 11.66, Laura Enever (AUS) 11.10, Pauline Ado (FRA) 9.77
BILLABONG RIO PRO WOMEN'S ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Paige Hareb (NZL) vs. Pauline Ado (FRA)
Heat 2: Laura Enever (AUS) vs. Sage Erickson (USA)
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Melanie Bartels (HAW)
Heat 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Jacqueline Silva (BRA)
Heat 5: Courtney Conlogue (USA) vs. Justine Dupont (FRA)
Heat 6: Coco Ho (HAW) vs. Sarah Mason (NZL)