Hosting a WSL event in Rio’s poor, polluted waves has its critics, but could it bring benefits to pro surfing in the long run?
The World Surf League’s mantra is to have the ‘world’s best surfers in the world’s best waves’ and, undeniably, the majority of WSL events are hosted at world-class spots. However, the wave at Postinho, the main site for next week’s Oi Rio Pro, is a spot that few would consider as one of the best waves in the country, let alone the world.
The WSL’s ‘break breakdown’ describes Postinho as an outstanding wave when conditions align. The article, which can be found on the WSL’s website, cites the opinion of a local pro to describe the quality of the waves.
“I've seen epic days when the waves ended near Olegario Maciel Street [next to the Royalty hotel]," said Phil Rajzman, a local surfer and 2007 World Longboard Champion. "In these classic conditions, you can ride the wave for about 250 meters or more.”
“On the biggest days the inside of Postinho looks like Puerto Escondido, and the slab's shape is similar to The Box in Western Australia,” said Rajzman in the article.
This glowing review from Rajzman, along with the labelling of the wave’s Backdoor-like barrels as “Barradoor”, is a stark contrast to the statements of the punters in the comments section below the piece.
“I live at Barra Da Tijuca and I just can't believe what I just read,” said one comment. “The wave at Postinho is almost a shorebreak, it will never run 250m.”
“Comparing Postinho to the Box, Backdoor or Sunset is ridiculous,” said Paulo Musa, another commenter. “These people who wrote this must have learned with our politicians and world champions in bragging and bullshit [sic].”
“I really do not understand why the contest is held in such a horrible break. All the above info is completely wrong and the place is a close out wave with no inside. To make things worse, when the swell comes from east and the tide is low all the sewage from the Barra da Tijuca lagoons pollutes the area,” said another comment on the article.
In the WSL’s piece the author, Ricardo Macario, alludes to the fact that part of what makes Barra a good wave is its “close proximity to the beach [which] makes for a stunning spectacle”.
Herein, the WSL has somewhat revealed their rationale for holding the event at a location that most of us would consider a poor wave. The crowds on the beach spark new interest in the sport as well as attracting the sponsorship of big companies such as Oi, a telecommunications giant aiming to market itself to the masses of locals at the event. As the WSL’s latest media release states, the event “offers a festival platform for an array of partnership activations in [the] Rio site”. By hosting the contest at a popular beach in a city with close to 10 million inhabitants, the WSL hopes to increase the popularity of surfing and bolster corporate sponsorship in a country with huge marketing potential.
With Adriano De Souza leading the ratings, Filipe Toledo in the best form of his career and Gabriel Medina competing in his first event on home soil since winning the world title last year, the WSL will undoubtedly be expecting the largest crowd in the event’s history. This could amount to a huge revenue boost for the WSL that, hopefully, would improve the tour in the long run.
For the WSL to take the best surfers to remote, world-class waves they will need the funds to do so. Perhaps sitting through sloppy closeouts in Rio could be the compromise we have to make to get G-Land on tour in 2018. That’s what we’re hoping anyway. Heck, we’re lucky in Australia - we can just sleep through the broadcast and watch the highlights in the morning.
So, while we may beg and cry for the event to be held at any number of Brazil’s better waves (Saquarema, Fernando de Noronha, the Buzios Pensinsula, just to name a few), we may just have to suffer through the Rio event for a few more years to reap the rewards in the future.