Going into the Oi Rio Pro Adriano de Souza sits in his customary position: Camouflaged in the Top 5 and lurking with intent to strike. The Australian leg didn't feature a breakout result for the 2015 World Champion, but his consistency was its own reward. Over the three events only John John Florence and Jordy Smith managed a better average heat score and at times ADS powered through his highly technical gears to reach the form of his 2015 peak.
Now while Gabriel Medina and Filipe Toledo have been written up as the most dangerous Brazilians in the field, it is De Souza who goes in as the country's highest rated surfer. He also has previous success in Rio, making the final in 2013 and winning the event in 2011.
Then there is the crowd factor. De Souza is, rightly, hailed as a champion of the people in Brazil. He grew up in a favela in Guarujá, located in the closest surf zone to the city of São Paulo. "I grew up in the street without great expectations, with no future, no basic quality of life," he told the WSL after his World Title win. "Today I want to inspire thousands of kids that were, or are, in the same position as me. I was born in a place of zero and I arrived at the top of the world."
There's hardly a better place to inspire kids than on a local Brazilian beach surfing against the best surfers in the world. Now in his twelfth year on the Championship Tour (CT) it is this upbringing that still fuels his famous competitiveness. The surf historian Matt Warshaw said that during his World Title campaign, De Souza "rode with near-monomaniacal intensity and often willed his way to heat victories against more talented surfers." Expect to see the same intensity in Saquarema.
De Souza has warmed up for the Oi Rio Pro with a quick trip to Bali, which included a Semifinal placing in the Komune Bali Pro at Keramas. That event is well known for its relaxed party vibe with many surfers doing a "shoey" or skoling beer from a shoe before their heats. For ADS though, there was no need for such poolside antics. He relaxes by sharpening a surfing toolkit that is already one of the best-maintained in the game.
"I had a great time at this event, I'm so glad I came," he said afterward. "It's been so much fun, I scored my first-ever perfect 20 heat and now I'm excited to go home to Brazil for the CT."
Even amid the colorful cocktails, pool parties and perfect peelers, he always had one eye on Rio. His focus and commitment has never wavered in his career and you sense it never will. With his form in 2017 now starting to match that intensity, Adriano de Souza will go into the Oi Rio Pro believing he can win it. You'd be foolish to think he can't.