With playful surf already on tap at Saquarema, the world's best surfers are readying for a Tuesday start to the Oi Rio Pro. Round One could get underway as early as 7:05 BRT at the event's newest venue. While Saquarema has been the site of numerous Qualifying Series events, the new location is largely unfamiliar to a few of the Championship Tour stars. Stephanie Gilmore explained during the press conference today, "This is my first time to Saquarema. To come here and be so unfamiliar with the area, it's challenging. It brings out another element. I love it."
Reigning WSL Champion and defending event winner John John Florence (HAW) leads the WSL Top 34 and wears the Jeep Leader Jersey heading into the event. "It's great to be back in Brazil," Florence said. "I always have fun here. There are tons of waves. It's where I won my first CT. Great to be at a new venue this season and looking forward to competing at Saquarema."
Round One Heat 1 will kick off with Gabriel Medina, Ezekiel Lau and Nat Young on the Men's side. Carissa Moore, Sage Erickson and Laura Enever will start things off for the Women. Italo Ferreira and Malia Manuel have both withdrawn from the event, due to injury, but Nat Young and Bianca Buitendag will be filling in for them. At a location where underdogs have been known to come out on top, expectations will be high as the Title race heats up.
Unfortunately, 11x World Champion Kelly Slater has withdrawn from the event due to back issues. "I have been working through some injuries the past several seasons and, unfortunately, I need to take some time off to mend my body," Slater said. "I won't be in Rio and I don't know how long I'll need. My lower back has been in constant pain for the last three years and although I've been able to fight through it with short stints of rehab, it hasn't fixed the problem. If I don't do this now, at some point, I'll ruin my body. I'm spending the next five weeks rehabilitating with WSL Doctors in Australia and we'll see how I feel after that. I'm hopeful that I will be in top form again this season at some point. Thanks everyone for the support."
Tune in to watch the live broadcast via WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL app and Facebook LIVE on the WSL's Facebook page.
Oi Rio Pro Men's Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Ezekiel Lau (HAW), Nat Young (USA)
Heat 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS), Jeremy Flores (FRA), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 4: Kolohe Andino (USA), Josh Kerr (AUS), Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Jack Freestone (AUS), Bino Lopes (BRA)
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW), Miguel Pupo (BRA), Yago Dora (BRA)
Heat 7: Filipe Toledo (BRA), Frederico Morais (PRT), Ethan Ewing (AUS)
Heat 8: Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 9: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Connor O'Leary (AUS), Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 10: Michel Bourez (PYF), Mick Fanning (AUS), Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Heat 11: Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Conner Coffin (USA), Kanoa Igarashi (USA)
Heat 12: Julian Wilson (AUS), Caio Ibelli (BRA), Stuart Kennedy (AUS)
Oi Rio Women's Pro Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Carissa Moore (HAW), Sage Erickson (USA), Laura Enever (AUS)
Heat 2: Courtney Conlogue (USA), Nikki Van Dijk (AUS), Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Keely Andrew (AUS), Taina Hinckel (BRA)
Heat 4: Tyler Wright (AUS), Coco Ho (HAW), Bianca Buitendag (ZAF)
Heat 5: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), Pauline Ado (FRA)
Heat 6: Johanne Defay (FRA), Lakey Peterson (USA), Silvana Lima (BRA)