BARRA DA TIJUCA, Rio de Janeiro/Brazil (Friday, May 17, 2013) - After a week of lay days, the world's best surfers got back to action at the punchy Brazilian beachbreak Barra Da Tijuca, tackling stormy three-to-five foot (1.5 metre) surf to complete Round 2 of Billabong Rio Pro competition.
Josh Kerr (AUS), 29, took flight in Round 2 of the Billabong Rio Pro, reveling in the wind-blown ramps at Barra Da Tijuca while earning the day's highest scores. The progressive natural-footer launched a massive air-reverse on a righthander, finishing the ride with a strong frontside snap for a near-perfect 9.77 out of 10. Kerr found another right at the end of the heat and combined three big forehand turns, scoring a 17.94 out of 20 heat total to eliminate wildcard Messias Felix.
"It feels good to get that heat win after all of those days off," Kerr said. "I was lucky to find those two good ones and I waited forever to get that second good one after that first 9. Hopefully I can keep it going in the next round."
Taj Burrow (AUS), 34, current ASP WCT No. 3, went for broke in his Round 2 bout against wildcard Gustavo Fernandes, nailing a huge layback snap with complete commitment to start off his heat. The perennial ASP World Title contender back up the ride in the back half of the heat to lead the round's top seeds while securing his position in Round 3.
"We had fun on the lay days and everyone was on vacation mode, but it's good to be back," Burrow said. "Even though it's howling onshore it's fun to finally have some waves. That little section on the lay back was a fun one to hit and I was hoping the judges would throw me a good score for the one maneuver. It was pretty difficult in the end. I just never got offered another section like that one. I knew Gustavo (Fernandes) was catching up and I was nervous the whole time."
Burrow will take on Californian Kolohe Andino (USA), 19, tomorrow in Round 3 of the Billabong Rio Pro.
Adrian Buchan (AUS), 30, threaded the needle on a thumping backhand barrel and solidified the ride by clobbering a closeout section towards the back half of his heat. Buchan would earn an excellent 9-point score for the effort to vault in to the lead over dangerous Brazilian Raoni Monteiro (BRA), 31, and would hold on to the lead for the remainder of the heat.
"I tried to get busy in the beginning and it's hard to get out the back," Buchan said. "I was out of position at the start of the heat and Raoni (Monteiro) wanted to surf on the inside. I had one at the start that I didn't ride out of and found a left, but that 9 was a diamond in the rough. I didn't know if it was going to be really open, so I didn't want to be too deep, but it was a pretty nice round barrel. It's powerful out there and dumpy now that the tide's gone out."
Buchan will face off against C.J. Hobgood (USA), 34, in Round 3.
Brett Simpson (USA), 28, edged out fellow American Damien Hobgood (USA), 33, in a close come-from-behind victory. Simpson was in need of a solid score in the dying minutes of the Round 2 match-up and navigated through a barrel, completing the ride with a clean snap to top Hobgood by a score of 15.10 to 15.04.
"Damo (Damien Hobgood) is such a good competitor and him and his brother have mentored me through my first year until now," Simpson said. "He's a tenacious competitor and I knew it wouldn't be easy. I started off bad in that heat and it was bumpy and lumpy and I struggled to get things going. I finally started off with that 7 and eventually found that little tube and had the rio. The judges want to see two big maneuvers out there today and I'm stoked to have found that wave at the end of the heat. I knew I could get the score if I just had a decent wave. I had the 7 and knew I'd get the score if I could just find the wave. We've had a lot of time off and I'm happy to get that win."
Simpson will take on two-time ASP World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS), 31, in Heat 12 of Billabong Rio Pro Round 3.
Filipe Toledo (BRA), 18, led the Brazilian charge in Round 2, besting Australian goofy-footer Matt Wilkinson (AUS), 24, in the final heat of the day. While both surfers struggled to find a rhythm in their bout, Toledo was able to put together a two turn combination finished with a clean air-reverse, earning an 8.77 for the maneuver which proved to be the deciding factor for the win.
"It was a really hard heat with the conditions, but that air at the end was a good one," Toledo said. "I just had two small turns on the outside and knew i had to go for an air. I'm just really stoked to make that heat, especially here at home in Brazil."
Miguel Pupo (BRA), 21, was another Brazilian to find success in Round 2, topping fellow countryman and close friend Alejo Muniz (BRA), 23, with a buzzer-beating effort in his first ASP WCT appearance this season. Pupo was in need of a mid-range score with just seconds left in the heat and combined two committed backhand maneuvers to secure a Round 3 berth.
"i knew it was going to be a hard heat with Alejo (Muniz)," Pupo said. "He's a good friend of mine and it's been a tense week with all of the lay-days. I'm just stoked to make it after having a whole week off. It's funny because Alejo was telling me that this is the third time he has lost at the end of the heat. It's always hard when you have to surf against a good friend. You don't want to lose to them, but at the same time you don't want them to lose either."
Pupo, who missed both Australian events due to an ankle injury, showed no signs of struggle today in the powerful beachbreak and commented that the former injury is no longer a factor.
"The ankle feels good," Pupo said. "It feels a little stiff at the beginning of the heat, but once I get going it feels good. I don't even notice any pain anymore and I'm happy to be back."
Pupo will face yet another Brazilian in Round 3 of competition, where he will face off against current ASP WCT No. 4 Adriano de Souza (BRA), 26, in Heat 3 of Round 3.
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 6:30am to assess conditions for a potential 7am start.
The Billabong Rio Pro will be webcast LIVE via http://wctbrasil.com/rio13
For additional ASP information log on to www.aspworldtour.com