It was feast or famine at the Oi Rio Pro with a shifting lineup, some heavy closeouts and even what Joe Turpel called "a mutant of a wave" (which unfortunately broke on Adam Melling (AUS)). After the Brazilian Storm swept the field in Round 1, Round 2 saw the remaining titans of the Top 34 fighting to stay in the competition. Throughout the day they mostly scratched their way to build scorelines and hold on for Round 3, with a few moments of brilliance and shocking upsets along the way.
The battles began with Tour vet Mick Fanning (AUS) finding a few gems in the heavy beachbreak, showing off why he's won three World Titles. Wildcard David do Carmo (BRA), a gooftyfooter, made the most of the lefts, but didn't show the same kind of intuition as his opponent. Fanning found a solid tube for a 9.80 to cement his place in Round 3.
Like Fanning, John John Florence (HAW) faced a wildcard, Alex Ribeiro (BRA). Ribeiro, fresh off a first-place finish at the 10,000-point Qualifying Series event at Saquarema, had the support of a hometown crowd behind him. But Florence, groomed on the steep drops of Hawaii, found a solid, lefthand barrel and capped it off with a big air to get the fans cheering. The performance earned him an 8.67 to put him back in the game and defeat Ribeiro.
"I knew it was going to be a good wave, but it was gnarly," Florence said afterward. "It felt like Tahiti or something, with an air drop. It was scary."
Other surfers just squeaked by, and knew they had cheated sudden death.
"That was a horrible performance, really," Taj Burrow (AUS) said of his narrow win over injury wildcard Alejo Muniz (BRA). "I rode a brand-new board, and I never really do that. It took me a few waves to get used to it. I was just trying to get a few backside corners, that was my goal." Burrow defeated Muniz, who was a CT surfer in 2014, by just a fraction of a point.
And still other top seeds didn't get through at all. Perennial powerhouse Jordy Smith (ZAF) suffered a painful defeat at the hands of Tour rookie Ricardo Christie (NZL). Smith opened with an 8.40 -- among the high scores of the day -- and led for most of the heat. His victory seemed imminent until the last five minutes when, in a classic reversal of surfing fortune, the Kiwi found a deep tube to earn a 9.17 and snatch the win.
"The conditions are pretty tough, but there are some good waves coming through and I was lucky to find one at the end," Christie said in his post-heat interview. "It's almost like a Hawaii feel. It comes at you, and you just have to go. You don't know if it's going to be a good wave until you're on it, or going over the falls."
Joining Smith among the fallen giants were Joel Parkinson (AUS), who's biggest move was a head-first launch off of a bucking ski, and Julian Wilson (AUS), who was ousted by Hawaiian Dusty Payne in a low-scoring, see-saw battle.
Along with the disappointments, there were also some triumphs that got the beach crowd on their feet. After Fanning warmed things up with his 9.80, Owen Wright (AUS) got the fans cheering when he found a huge lefthander, took it to a big float and air-drop back to the flats. He scored an 8.77 and eliminated Glenn Hall (IRL).
As Ross Williams described it, "Welcome to Excellentville."
Tune in for the next call Friday, May 15 at 7:00 a.m. local time here or watch on the WSL App.