De Souza crowd surfs to victory in the Oi Rio Pro
Full Disclosure: I didn’t stay up to watch the final of the Oi Rio Pro. The local beachie has been four foot and hollow, which is to say the waves are better than in Saquarema, and I didn’t want to risk sleeping in and missing the early session.
Like many fans I relied on the WSL’s timely delivery of replays to catch up on pro surfing’s own festival of the beach break. The passion and enthusiasm of the Brazilian crowd had certainly lost nothing in the delayed telecast. Every time Adriano rode a wave it felt like my screen was about to start doing the samba. Throughout the contest the commentators have made muffled references to the fact that many local fans have partied long into the night, only to front up at the beach the next day and chant like they’d just won the world cup. With the WSL’s mainstream ambitions and country club values, the commentary team culture is pretty conservative, but surely Pottz and the crew were at least tempted to tear off the collared shirts, skull a half a dozen Caipirinhas (Brazilian cocktail) and party like it was 1989 on the pro tour. At least we hope some of the knocked out surfers did. Alas I digress.
In random, four-foot lefts that invited floaters as scoring manoeuvres and a frantic pinball approach, Adriano was always going to be a handful. On top of that you had an adoring, frenzied crowd that had to be worth at least a bonus point for every ride, whether it be by virtue of pure inspiration or judging pressure, or a combination of both.
Ace Buchan’s cutbacks and front-side carves featured a delicacy and precision that are impressive for the rail-surfing connoisseur, but up against the frenetic, improvised bebop of Adriano it was always going to look too classical for the super-junk conditions. Ace’s surfing relied on the presence of clean faces and good sections that he could fillet with his low-railed slices. He found one such wave and locked in an impressive 9.2. However, Adriano ultimately triumphed as a result of his ability to attack crumbly sections and racy walls. On his clinching 9.8 it was his low-centred bottom turn that really did the damage. Off the top his surfing was a little lateral and hunchy, but he had enough power loaded up in the bottom turn to throw crowd-pleasing plumes of spray with every reo. A few earlier grab-rail bottom turns added a degree of panache to his performance, even if they did kinda did sell the waves as being bigger than they were.
The result puts Adriano well and truly into world title contention, equal second with Jordy and only a few hundred points shy of John John. Say what you like about his surfing, Adriano is a true professional, totally committed to getting the most out of his own performances and eternally vigilant in his capacity to make life tough for competitors.
He doesn’t care if it’s not flashy, he will happily grind you down all day long.
That said the next leg (Fiji, J-bay and Tahiti) should favour the other title contenders on paper, but that almost works to Adriano’s advantage on a psychological level because he thrives off being the underdog.
As for the other contenders, John John is always expected to dominate, but after claiming his title, may need good waves to really sustain his interest. Jordy has historically not had his greatest performances in the heaving left hand barrels of Teahupoo and Fiji. J-bay is a favourite but his prospects of claiming the title he is ‘expected’ to win at some point, could hinge heavily on his ability to improve on his weaknesses.
Owen’s presence in the top five still feels like a kind of fairy-tale. Fiji will represent another major milestone because it means returning to a heavy, left reef. Wilko sneaks into number five and has unequivocally dismissed any accusation that last year’s yellow jersey romance was a fluke. Perhaps sitting just behind the front peloton is a better position for him psychologically, given last year’s melt down.
Finally, the purists will be pleased to see a rejuvenated Joel Parkinson lurking at number six as he prepares for his favourite leg on tour. Perhaps aware that his career is in its twilight, Parko appears to be channelling bold forces this year. He is probably one good result away from being right in the mix.
Finally on Brazil. While the crowds are perhaps the best in the world and they appreciate the presence of the top 34 more than anyone else, do fans and surfers really want to see an event there every year? It’s all hypothetical, but if you offered the Brazilian contingent on tour the option of say G-land or Macaronis instead of a contest on home shores it would be interesting to see which destination they opted for?