BARRA DA TIJUCA, Rio de Janeiro/Brazil (Thursday, May 9, 2013) - Round 1 of the Billabong Rio Pro was completed today in three-to-five foot (1 - 1.5 metre) waves at the primary site of Barra da Tijuca with the world's best surfers navigating the at-times challenging barrels on offer and thrilling the crowd on the beach.
Stop No. 3 of 10 on the 2013 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT), the Billabong Rio Pro continues this year's campaign for the world surfing crown and the perennial threats were in form on the opening day of competition.
Kelly Slater (USA), 41, 11-time ASP World Champion and current ASP WCT No. 1, returned to Rio de Janeiro today after a 2012 absence due to a foot injury.
â€œBased on the years prior, I thought last year was going to be turns and maneuvers and there were a lot of barrels,â€ Slater said. â€œI had stitches in my heel last season and could probably have attended if it was just barrels, but I couldn't really do turns with the stitches in my heel. Lesson learned and I'm here this year.â€
The iconic natural-footer was completely dominant in his Round 1 bout this morning, threading a number of impressive forehand barrels to collect a 16.30 out of a possible 20 heat total and advance directly into Round 3.
â€œI saw a bunch of good waves down the beach and just kept that to myself,â€ Slater said. â€œYou can take off on that foam ball out the back on the reef and get one or two turns and you've already got as good a score as you can get on some of the ones on the right side of the scaffolding. Most of the waves this morning have been closeouts, but I figured at some point today it's going to get good. There were some unbelievable barrels down the beach.â€
Joel Parkinson (AUS), 32, reigning ASP World Champion, opened up the 2013 season with a runner-up finish to Slater on the Gold Coast before an uncharacteristic Equal 13th at Bells Beach. Currently sitting at No. 5 on the ASP WCT rankings, Parkinson is further focusing his efforts on defending the ASP World Title.
â€œI've had a little time to reflect on the world title but it's only a few months break and once this year started it was game on again,â€ Parkinson said. â€œI enjoyed it for sure. Nothing was going to wipe the smile off of my face. I just cruised it and didn't surf for about three weeks. Once the bug came back though I was just pumped. It's one thing to win your first one, it's an entirely different beast to defend one. The fact that the performance level on tour has never been higher doesn't make it any easier.â€
Parkinson was joined by Gold Coast stablemate and current ASP WCT No. 2 Mick Fanning (AUS), 31, in Round 1 victories today.
Adriano de Souza (BRA), 26, winner of the previous event at Bells Beach and current ASP WCT No. 4, continued his 2013 momentum on home soil today, netting a solid Round 1 win over Australians Matt Wilkinson (AUS), 24, and Yadin Nicol (AUS), 27.
"I'm so happy to be back in Brazil and have all the support of my friends and family," De Souza said. "The waves are challenging out here today but I'm fit and I'm motivated to do well. Winning Bells was a huge confidence for me - to be the first Brazilian male to win it. I came home and then went to the Mentawais after and have been training very hard for this event. The world title is the goal and hopefully I can bring one home to Brazil."
Gabriel Medina (BRA), 19, complimented De Souza's win this morning with a Round 1 victory of his own, posting the day's high heat-total, 18.00 out of a possible 20, for a series of excellent backhand tube rides. Following an injury at the opening event of the season on the Gold Coast and a less-than-successful run at Bells Beach, Medina now appears fit and focused at home in Brazil.
"After Bells Beach, I came home and worked with lots of doctors and rested for this event," Medina said. "It's home in Brazil for me and I want to do well in front of my family and friends. I'm feeling pretty good - getting stronger every day. Stoked to get a win in Round 1 and hope I can keep going throughout the event."
Jordy Smith (ZAF), 25, current ASP WCT No. 7, long-heralded as one of the premiere surfers on the planet, has been in blistering form in 2013 and opened up his Billabong Rio Pro campaign with an impressive 16.94 out of a possible 20 showing today to advance directly into Round 3.
â€œI just started the year off at home,â€ Smith said. â€œI wanted to let last year go. I have incredible people around me at the moment from my friends to my girlfriend. I also did a trip and I felt like I'd been behind the speed bump and couldn't get past my injury. I was still feeling one step behind and then I went on a trip to Mozambique with my best friend and it changed everything for me. It got me over that hump and put a smile on my face again. It got me stoked again and I'm pumped.â€
Highlights from the Billabong Rio Pro and Colgate Plax Girls Rio Pro will be available via http://wctbrasil.com/rio13
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com