Tracks scans the key issues facing competitors and fans before it kicks off on the weekend.
Can Florence and Wright fight back, a million Brazilians (and that’s just the competitors) and is there life after the Surf Ranch? We will find out when normal service is resumed at Saquarema.
The Surf Ranch Comedown
If you thought the Margaret River Pro PR’s team had the toughest pimping job on the CT calendar, give a moment’s thought to the Oi Rio Pro’s press department. In the week that artificial waves took over the surfing world, Saquarema’s beachbreaks will now have to shoulder the comedown. Now Saquarema can get good (last year’s poor banks were the exception rather than the rule) however there’s no question that its quality ceiling is the lowest of any break on tour. However there is the possibility that the random, punchy beachbreaks might serve as a fresh reminder how the ocean’s unpredictability adds so much to competitive surfing. Alternatively with the Surf Ranch and the unveiling of Waco so fresh, will the Oi Rio Pro just highlight that, as of six days ago, average beachbreaks are now a remnant of the competitive past?
The Brazilian Storm
Of the 36 male surfers competing in the Oi Rio Pro, 15 will be Brazilian. There’s the 10 CT regulars, three replacements (Pupo, Dantas, Muniz) and two yet undecided local wildcards. I haven’t gone through the CT microfiche, but I’d be very surprised if there has ever been a CT event so stacked with one nation’s representatives. With Italo, Toledo, ADS and Medina in their mix and the unrivaled support the crowd provide from the beach, you’d be a brave punter to go past a Brazilian winner at this one.
John John Is Dangerous
There’s dangerous, there’s Donald Trump on crystal meth and then there is John John Florence in Brazil. The Hawaiian won his first CT event here in 2012, claimed another in 2015 and always seems to bring his A-game to Brazil. He looked slightly disinterested in Kelly’s tub last weekend, like a solo performer forced into a three-ringed circus, but should return to full focus here. With one more poor result potentially ending his quest for a three-peat, this is his opportunity to reset his 2018.
For the copy above for John John, we could easily replace Tyler Wright’s name. Like Florence she too is intensely serious about chasing a third successive world title and hasn’t achieved the results her surfing has deserved this year. And, if anything, her past record in Brazil is even more impressive than John John’s. In the last four years she has never failed to make the Semis, and has won three Finals. One more win and she’ll be the most winningest surfer in Brazil, eclipsing Taj and Kelly’s CT haul she equaled last year. In 2018 she hasn’t made it past the Quarterfinals, but if history is any predictor that should change at Saquarema.
When The Going Gets Weird...
.... The weird turn pro, reckons Hunter S Thompson and 2018 has been a bloody weird year. Julian won at Kirra won with one arm, then failed early at Bells. His fellow Yellow Jersey wearer Italo Ferreira did the reverse. The current World No 3 retired after two events, and an 11-times World Champion picks and choses his events without fear of any type of recrimination. If all that is odd, the Margaret River shark attacks and event cancellation further burleyed the waters. Add Kelly’s Surf Ranch gig, and it all seems like pro surfing as we knew it has been sucked into a black hole. The Oi Rio Pro could change that. A pure potatoes and gravy comp, with baying fans and the world’s best surfing riding waves we can all identify with mightn’t be that exciting, but we know what to expect. Without prehistoric man-eaters or waves made by trains it might even get this World Title race back on track.