When the world's best arrived in Rio there was no sign that the deck-shuffling we've witnessed this season was about to subside. Let's face it, compared to years past the rankings are unrecognizable. There's a ton of new-guard chatter going on, and there's a certainly a case to be made there. But this early in the game it's still hard to know which way is up. Fortunately, Brazil's bouncy beachbreaks have a way of sorting things.
With just one round apiece having run for the men and women, the door is still wide open for more disruption: At the Oi Rio Pro our renowned replacements are being bolstered by a healthy influx of local talent, as well as wild cards. Mix in a few high-profile surfers returning from injury and the results on opening day look quite a bit different from what we've seen so far this year. Here are a few of today's major standouts.
Much of the speculation heading into the Oi Rio Pro focused on defending event champion Filipe Toledo, who is competing for the first time since his Gold Coast injury. Many wondered if he'd struggle to find form after just a few days in the water. They didn't have to wait long to find out.
While Filipe Toledo has been out, Italo Ferreira has been doing much of the heavy lifting on tour for the Brazilian contingent. Ferreira is already the highest-ranked Brazilian in just his second year on tour, and early indications are he's got no plans to stop. His gritty approach was a perfect match for Grumari.
The gladiator from Rome continued his winning ways in the punchy beachbreak, looking as strong as ever in the conditions. While Gabriel Medina and Stu Kennedy struggled to put together solid rides in the shifty conditions, Fioravanti was flowing between blows, looking as dangerous as ever.
Kanoa Igarashi had a tough job trying to keep up with Filipe Toledo in the first heat of the day, but the rookie put up a decent fight in his defeat. He'll be up against Michel Bourez in Round Two.
Italo's life has changed dramatically since in the past year. It was the Oi Rio Pro in 2015 that marked the beginning of his breakout, and the incredible run he's been on since is making him a hero at home. And he's not disappointing.
Davey Cathels had a rough slog through the Australian leg, but Grumari's beachbreak suits his rapid-fire style well. He scored his first Round One win of the season against powerhouse Julian Wilson and wild card Deivid Silva with some solid surfing that we expect to see much more of in 2016.
Lucas Silveira demonstrated why he was last year's World Junior Champion with a gutsy, last-minute win over Adriano de Souza and Keanu Asing. He's one more sign of the incredible depth on the Brazilian bench at this event.
As conditions got tricky in the afternoon heat winners were those who managed to grind it out in the tough conditions. Wind chop, backwash, and rip currents made even the easy stuff difficult. But Nat Young, Jordy Smith and
Trials winner Marco Fernandez was all smiles after his Round One win over Jadson Andre and the current World No. 1 ranked surfer, Matt Wilkinson. Fernandez surfed brilliantly with some big, backhand tags and nice, powerful hooks in a heat that offered a bounty of quick-running lefts.
Rookie Ryan Callinan finally got the Round One heat win that's been eluding him this year. Until today, Callinan had yet to advance out of a heat this year. Fans of his surfing are hoping his win against Kolohe Andino and Wiggolly Dantas is the confidence -booster he's been waiting for.
When it comes to pure power-brokers on tour, Alejo Muniz is right up there at the top of the list. The Brazilian veteran is still clawing his way back into the mix after suffering an injury last year, but he was showing no sign of weakness in his Round One heat against Ace Buchan and Sebastian Zietz.