Breaking News: Primary Competition Site Moved to Grumari, Viewing Parties Still Slated for Postinho
After a heavy storm blew through Rio de Janeiro last week, eroding a good chunk of its famed beaches, World Surf League officials elected to move the Oi Rio Pro's primary competition site from Postinho to Grumari, about 45 minutes west. Grumari is a gorgeous beach located on the nearby nature preserve, and a go-to escape for CT surfers looking to score some quality waves on lay days. The punchy beachbreak supplies plenty of ramps and tubes, which is why it was tops on the list of backup spots. This will be the first time a WSL contest has ever run there.
While shuttle busses will be available to take hardcore fans to the pristine park, Postinho, with its easy access to public transportation, will still be where the bustling party crowd will be enjoying music, two huge screens streaming the live action, and the popular Corona-hosted beach bar.
Swapping the primary and secondary locations is never an easy feat, but it's exactly the kind of scenario events teams are trained for. The devil, as they say, in the details: From the big hurdles, like how the events and broadcast teams set up the satellite feed, down to the little things, like catering and clean-up.
"Surfing is unique, because in addition to normal live-event challenges, we're dealing with things like what we're doing now in Rio," said Megan Grant, General Manager of the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour. "We have to be prepared to move when the surf moves and sometimes that's at a moment's notice, sometimes we have a day heads-up, and sometimes we have two hours. It's essentially like moving a circus.
"Depending on what the set-up is -- you look at places the Gold Coast and Margaret River in Australia -- we can pre-cable cable to secondary sites, places that are close, like D-Bah and the Box. So we'll spend time and money on the front-end for the extra security to have that cable run so that if and when time comes to move, it saves countless hours."
Fortunately, Grumari already had a structure in place just in case the event went mobile. Instead of having to start from scratch, the local team added amenities to make it more comfortable, including a media area and athlete and guest area. "We use the same services for both locations," says Grant. "So there's no redundancy. From the back-end perspective, the whole host set will live in the primary site, and we move the whole edit bay.
"In some places, we can move just the judges or just some of the commentary team. The key is having all of that mapped out, so when it's time for your plan B to hit, it's just about pressing go and moving forward."
Of course, some are touting the benefits to shifting to Grumari as the primary site. From a surfing perspective, the spot is generally favored by locals as the best of Rio's options. When the swell is just right, Posthinho can be an incredible wave, but its location and banks make it a more fickle beast. According to Xandi Fontes, General Manager of WSL South America, Grumari is a more consistent wave and has the added benefit of a deeper trench and channel, allowing it to hold bigger swell, from any direction.
And then there's the plain-old fun-factor of a team effort to pull off a new plan. "I love the challenge," said Grant. "And if you walk into the room where the WSL South America team has been meeting and working together, everybody's tired and wide-eyed, but there's an energy that comes with this, too. Curveballs can be fun."
Catch the Oi Rio Pro live daily -- from Grumari, to start -- May 10-21 on the WSL website and app.
THE WAVE: At Postinho's slab there are two rocks that break the tide into three sections to the right on southwest swells. The first section of the slab starts to break with waves ranging from 4 to 5 feet. Below this size, the spot acts like a regular beachbreak, offering fast and hollow waves with good walls for every type of maneuver. Rides that start on the second section begin with a critical drop and connect to the final section, which offers a barrel or a large bowl.
TRAVEL TIPS: Pack a talisman if you're planning on renting a car, because the highways here are terrifying. If the thoughts of driving through one of the world's most hectic cities sounds daunting it's easy to taxi to your destination. If you're opting to travel by taxi, try to get an estimate of the fare before departing to avoid being charged an inflated rate.
PERILS: To say it's tough to get a wave here is an understatement. The Brazilians are fiery and determined, in and out of the water, and it's not a strange sight so see hoards of people paddle-battling for even the smallest of scraps.
APRES SURF: Going to Rio de Janeiro and not visiting some of the main tourist attractions -- the neighborhoods of Lapa, Urca or Zona Sul, Sugar Loaf and Christ the Redeemer -- would be a sin. In addition to those, one of the most astounding attractions is the hike to Pedra da Gávea, the largest seaside monolith in the world. The name "Gávea" -- given by the Portuguese upon arrival in Rio -- means main mast, as those who spotted the stone at a distance mistook it for a boat. Trails lead to waterfalls and up the mountain located between Barra and São Conrado, offering one of the most magnificent views the country has to offer.
EATS: Former Brazilian professional surfer Fabio Gouveia has long enjoyed traveling to Rio and frequents the Pe'Ahi restaurant. Owned by big wave riders Carlos Burle and Eraldo Gueiros, the restaurant is known for quality Japanese cuisine and Pe'ahi beer. There are also traditional pubs such as The 399, which brings together young and beautiful people for cold beer and enjoyable snacks such as cod dumplings and shrimp pies.
CHAMPIONSHIP TOUR HISTORY: One of the most iconic moments in contest history came from Slater's 1997 barrel at Barra da Tijuca. Slater disappeared behind the curtain and finished with an incredibly long floater to earn an unanimous 10. Thanks to his performance, the wave has earned the nickname "Barradoor."
The women's contest has been held sporadically from 1992 onward, but it is entering its sixth consecutive season of running concurrently with the men's elite Tour. Pauline Menczer dominated the event in the nineties with three consecutive victories. Sally Fitzgibbons has a chance to tie her with a win at this year's event.
NOTABLE: Falling towards the end of the Tour in past years, several World Champions have been crowned in Brazil: Andy Irons (HAW) in 2004, Slater in 2005 and 2006, and mighty Mick Fanning (AUS) claimed his first World Title in Brazil in 2007. But due to a more favorable season for swell, Brazil's waiting period shifted to early May.
Last year, event organizers brought in extra stadium seating for the thousands of fans that packed the beach to watch the Brazilian storm compete in the barrels and ramps on offer. When a Brazilian -- Filipe Toledo -- won the event, his jet ski had to circle the shoreline twice before finding a slice of beach without fans to dock.
EVENT WINDOW: May 10-21, 2016
TIME DIFFERENCE: GMT -3
COORDINATES: 22.9994° S, 43.3658° W
BAGGAGE CLAIM: Rio de Janeiro International, Rio de Janeiro (GIG)
PAST RIO PRO WINNERS
2015: Filipe Toledo (BRA)
2014: Michel Bourez (PYF)
2013: Jordy Smith (ZAF)
2012: John John Florence (HAW)
2011: Adriano de Souza (BRA)
2001: Trent Munro (AUS)
2000: Kalani Robb (HAW)
1999: Taj Burrow (AUS)
1998: Peterson Rosa (BRA)
1997: Kelly Slater (USA)
1996: Taylor Knox (USA)
1995: Barton Lynch (AUS)
1994: Shane Powell (AUS)
1993: Dave MacAulay (AUS)
1992: Damien Hardman (AUS)
PAST RIO WOMEN's PRO WINNERS
2015: Courtney Conlogue (USA)
2014: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
2013: Tyler Wright (AUS)
2012: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
2011: Carissa Moore (HAW)
2008: Melanie Bartels (HAW)
1999: Andrea Lopes (BRA)
1998: Pauline Menczer (AUS)
1997: Pauline Menczer (AUS)
1994: Pauline Menczer (AUS)
1993: Neridah Falconer (AUS)
1992: Wendy Botha (ZAF)