BILLABONG RIO PRO WRAP UP 2014

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posted by James Willmott

Monday the 12th of May saw the best surfers in the world wrap up stop Number 4 of the ASP World Championship Tour in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  It was profoundly evident the local crowd wanted a Brazilian to wear the crown of victory at this event, though it was Tahitian and in form Michel Bourez who took the men’s title, while Aussie Sally Fitzgibbons shone bright above Carissa Moore in the Women’s event to take the win.

The final day of competition in the Billabong Rio Pro saw competitors face off in heavy 3 foot conditions, with barrels on offer left, right and centre. The day  was full of sunshine and saw the Women’s Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and Finals while the Men’s event saw Round 5 and onward. Rio’s heavy Barra Da Tijuca produced the goods for the top 34 male surfers and top 17 female surfers, and coming from the cold waters of Australia’s southern waters, the warm change of Brazil was a welcomed change.

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A-Frames for the final day of competition – photo by ASP

11 Time World Champion Kelly Slater opened Men’s Round 5 with a free fall into a no hand  heavy barrel, resulting in the contests only perfect 10 score. “I couldn’t believe I came out,” said Kelly. “That’s why I claimed it. I’ve had so many closeouts this week.” Though an amazing wave, the rude shock of reality was evident on the Brazilian spectator’s face, as Slater continued his domination over Adriano de Souza, whom only managed to scrape together a 3.37. Other standouts of Round 5 included Kolohe Andino overcoming South Africa’s Travis Logie, despite an interference call leaving him with only 1 score to work from. Logie managed to secure two 3 point rides, though in the final minutes Andino managed to score a 6.83, enough to progress through to the Quarter Finals. Tahitian and Drug Aware Margaret River Pro winner Michel Bourez also managed to overcome Joel Parkinson, while Sebastian ‘Seabass’ Zietz eliminated Australia’s Josh Kerr.

The Women’s Quarter Finals followed the Men’s Round 5, with more standout performances despite the deteriorating conditions. Lakey Peterson first overcame Pauline Ado through a close heat and trading of the lead. Heat 2 saw Hawaiians Carissa Moore and Alessa Quizon come head to head. The experience from the current World Number 1 was sufficiently evident, defeating the up and comer Quizon and eliminating her from competition. Tyler Wright also came on top over Nikki Van Dijk and Sally Fitzgibbons sent Hawaiian Coco Ho packing after a great heat of strong scores.

The men were back in the water afterwards, with Slater coming up first again, this time meeting fellow American Nat Young. Slater managed to gain scores of 7’s taking advantage of the low tide barrelling conditions of Barra Da Tijuca, while Young got his fair share, however was unable to overtake Slater’s lead. Australia’s Bede Durbidge met American Kolohe Andino in Heat 2 of the Quarter Finals. Andino broke away from the strategy of barrel riding and shifted his approach to a series of powerful turns through his backhand. This paid off in the end as he secured a few barrel scores and was able to overcome Durbidge’s efforts and progress through to the Semi Finals.

The next heat was exciting as Michel Bourez met previous event winner South African Jordy Smith. Smith has been in such good form lately and Bourez had won the contest recently in Margaret River, this heat proved one not to be missed. Smith held a close lead for the first 20 minutes with scores of 5.4 and 4.00, though in the final minutes Bourez scored high through a backhand barrel and a series of backhand snaps. The two continued to battle out and swap for first place though Bourez was too strong, eliminating the 2013 event champion. Tour veteran Taj Burrow went head to head with Sebastian Zietz next and through a series of heavy tubes and clean manoeuvres eliminated the Hawaiian, progressing through to the Semi Finals.

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 Taj locked and loaded – Photo by ASP

The Women’s Semi Finals hit the water next and did not disappoint, throwing out powerful snaps and proving their heavy barrel riding skills. Semi Final 1 saw Carissa Moore meet Lakey Peterson. The reigning three times World Champion stuck to what she knew, producing an array of great combination scores including a 9.27, too much for the American to overcome. Previous event winner Sally Fitzgibbons met an in form Tyler Wright in Semi Final 2, and the all Aussie heat produced some great surfing. Wright has had some great results so far in 2014, though has not had a 1st place result as of yet. Unfortunately, this was the case again as Fitzgibbons unleashed a powerful wrath of scores, winning on 15.17 to Wrights 9.80.

The Men’s Semi Finals to much surprise did not include a Brazilian competitor, with many big names being eliminated early in competition. Kelly Slater came up against Californian prodigy Kolohe Andino in Semi Final 1. The two had opening exchanges of scores with Andino taking the lead from the 11 time World Champion early. The heat continued with both surfers staying busy, though it was the Californian who unleashed a solid air reverse into the flats, resulting in a 7.60, a score high enough to push him through to his first ASP WCT final.

Margaret River event winner Michel Bourez met Bells Beach runner up Taj Burrow in Semi Final 2. It was extremely evident that both were hungry for the event win, as both surfers displayed their skills, which lately had been tested in all conditions. The tide had changed, forcing both surfers to break away from the typical barrel riding approach and move into airs and powerful turns. Though Taj gained good early combination scores, Bourez took the lead with back to back scores, including the first air of the heat. This forced the Australian to pack his bags earlier than he would have wanted as he was now eliminated.

Sally Fitzgibbons and reigning World Champion Carissa Moore met in the final of the Women’s Rio Billabong Pro after the Men’s Semi-Finals. The Hawaiian wasted little time, producing a great score of 8.50 through three powerful snaps. The Aussie was soon to respond with a similar display of powerful turns, resulting in a near perfect 9.27. Moore ended up needing to produce a 7.83 to take the lead from Sally, a score which she simply could not attain.

“A lot of hard work went into this victory and I’m so happy,” said Sally Fitzgibbons. “There’s a great rivalry between myself and Carissa. We always have such great battles and I knew I had to step things up after the Semifinal to take the win. The crowd was sending me great vibes out in the water and that really helped. It’s a long year but I think I have a lot of strong surfing left in me. I’m really excited to get over to Fiji and try and get another result like this.” This win gives Fitzgibbons her first event win for the 2014 season and her second Rio Pro title. Carissa Moore continues to hold first position on the rankings, with Sally in second.

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 A stoked Sally Fitzgibbons – Photo by ASP

The Men’s Final saw Tahitian Michel Bourez meet a focused Kolohe Andino, with the crowds energy used by both as motivational tools. Bourez opened his final campaign first, completing three powerful backhand turns and receiving a score of 7.17. Andino, competing in his first ever WCT Final, opened with two powerful turns, however managed to only score a 5.00. Bourez continued his selective approach, choosing only the better waves at the Barra Da Tijuca beach break. The Californian, needing a 8.84 for the win, approached the air ramps of the powerful right handers, though could not gain the score needed to take the title, allowing Michel Bourez to take home his second event win of the 2014 season.

“This win is amazing and I feel great,” said Michel Bourez. “I didn’t expect to win two events in the same year so it feels brilliant. It’s great to be here in Rio and have another win – I’m so happy. I’m really glad I came and to have a final against a good friend of mine is wonderful. He (Kolohe Andino) is someone I think will be huge in a few years. Rio is beautiful, I love this place. There’s so many things going on and so many people that are passionate about sports and surfing.”

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 Michel Bourez taking home his second event win for 2014 – photo by ASP

Though disappointed with coming so close to a win, runner up Kolohe Andino went on to say “I have so many good memories of Brazil,” said Kolohe Andino. “To make my first WCT Final here in front of the wonderful crowd is a pleasure. I’m very happy with the result.”

The next stop of the ASP WCT see’s surfers fly to the razor sharp reef breaks of Fiji. The top 34 male surfers will battle it out between June 1st to the  13th, while the top 17 women will surf between the 25th and 30th of May. Keep up to date with the World Tour here at SurfStitch Blog or the ASP official website at aspworldtour.com. SurfStitch would like to send huge congratulations to Michel Bourez and Sally Fitzgibbons on their terrific results in Brazil.