Pictured: (from Left to Right) Tyler Wright (AUS), Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Courtney Conlogue (USA), Silvana Lima (BRA), John John Florence (HAW), Jordy Smith (ZAF), Owen Wright (AUS) and Gabriel Medina (BRA) at the press conference for the Oi Rio Pro.
Credit: © WSL / Poullenot
Monday, May 8, 2017 (Saquarema, Rio de Janeiro/BRAZIL) – The world’s best surfers have arrived in Saquarema ahead of the Oi Rio Pro presented by Corona. The fourth stop on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), which holds a competitive window of May 9 – 20, looks set to get underway tomorrow with a promising forecast.
Reigning WSL Champion and defending event winner John John Florence (HAW) leads the WSL Top 34 and wears the Jeep Leader Jersey heading into the event. Florence will take on Miguel Pupo (BRA) and event wildcard Yago Dora (BRA) in the opening round of competition.
“It’s great to be back in Brazil,” Florence said. “I always have fun here. There are tons of waves. It’s where I won my first CT. Great to be at a new venue this season and looking forward to competing at Saquarema.
“Pretty strong start to the season for me but still a long road ahead,” Florence continued. “When I won in 2016, I still felt like I had a lot to learn and a lot to showcase. Every year is a challenge and I feel like I’m only improving. There’s a lot of talent on tour so we’ll see how the rest of the year goes.”
2014 WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) currently sits in equal 11th place on the WSL Jeep Leaderboard. The Brazilian star, is yet to win a CT event in front of his home crowd and will battle Ezekiel Lau (HAW) and Nat Young (USA) in the opening heat of Round 1.
“I love competing at home,” Medina said. “To have my friends and family and country supporting me feels really special. I still have some work to do in this event specifically, but I’m excited to be back in Saquarema and I’m looking forward to the upcoming week.”
Jordy Smith (ZAF) trails just 3,800 points behind frontrunner Florence and the South African, who is fresh from a win at Bells Beach, will battle Jack Freestone (AUS) and Bino Lopes (BRA) when competition gets underway.
“Coming off a win at Bells and I’m hoping to keep the momentum going here in Brazil,” Smith said. “I love the waves here – they offer a lot of variety and you can be getting barrelled one heat, doing turns the next and airs the one after that. Love the challenge and we’ll see what this week delivers.”
In equal second place on the Jeep Leaderboard is Owen Wright (AUS), who will match-up against Jeremy Flores (FRA) and 2017 WSL rookie Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA).
“Great to be back in Brazil after a year away,” Wright said. “The fans here are so passionate about surfing here and it’s a great thing to see. Excited to surf Saquarema and hopefully we get some great conditions for the event.”
Reigning WSL Champion Tyler Wright (AUS) locked in a win at the Oi Rio Pro 2016 en route to claiming her maiden world title and will battle Coco Ho (HAW) and Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) in Round 1 Heat 4.
“New spot for the Oi Rio Pro here in Saquarema and I’m excited to see what it delivers,” Wright said. “Hovering in the Top 3 this season so far but looking forward to getting my first win of the season. We’ll see how it goes.”
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), six-time WSL Champion, will kick off her Brazil campaign wearing the Jeep Leader Jersey. Gilmore is set to face Keely Andrew (AUS) and trials winner Taina Hinckel (BRA) in Round 1.
“I’m really pleased to still have the Jeep Leader Jersey after three events and I hope I can keep hold of it,” said Gilmore. “We’re all really learning, growing and evolving after each event we go to so there’s incredible progression on the women’s tour. No heat is an easy pass any more because all the girls are surfing so well.”
Californian charger Courtney Conlogue (USA) sits in No. 4 on the Jeep Leaderboard and will compete alongside Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) and Bronte Macaulay (AUS) in the opening round of competition.
“Really stoked to be back in Brazil and back in the singlet after the win in Bells,” Courtney Conlogue said. “I’m feeling strong and I have some great boards under my feet and I’m really looking forward to this week.”
Silvana Lima (BRA), the sole Brazilian on the women’s CT, will look to draw on her home-town advantage when she hits the water in Round 1 against Johanne Defay (FRA) and Lakey Peterson (USA).
“Competing in Brazil, and having the support of my country, it feels really special,” Silvana Lima said. “I have not had the year I’ve wanted yet, but hopefully I can turn it around here at home.”
Yago Dora (BRA) has won the men’s trials and earned himself a wildcard into the main event where he will match up against Florence and Pupo in Round 1.
WSL South America Junior Champion, Taina Hinckel (BRA), has claimed the women’s wildcard after winning the trials event. Hinckel will face Gilmore and Andrew in Heat 3 of Round 1.
Kelly Slater (USA), 11x WSL Champion, has withdrawn from the event due to a back injury. He has been replaced by Bino Lopes (BRA), second injury replacement from the 2016 QS rankings.
“I have been working through some injuries the past several seasons and, unfortunately, I need to take some time off to mend my body,” Slater said. “I won’t be in Rio and I don’t know how long I’ll need. My lower back has been in constant pain for the last three years and although I’ve been able to fight through it with short stints of rehab, it hasn’t fixed the problem. If I don’t do this now, at some point, I’ll ruin my body. I’m spending the next five weeks rehabilitating with WSL Doctors in Australia and we’ll see how I feel after that. I’m hopeful that I will be in top form again this season at some point. Thanks everyone for the support.”
Event organizers will convene tomorrow morning at 6:45 am local time to assess conditions and make the first call.
The event will get off to a nice start with a fun to mid size SSW to S swell lining up for the first couple days of the waiting period (9th-10th) and light morning wind. The surf looks down for Thursday before another increase in S swell on Friday/Saturday (12th/13th). Long range charts point to a potential strong swell early to mid next week (15th-17th) with the surf potentially lingering into the last several days of the contest waiting period. Surfline.
For more information, check out WorldSurfLeague.com
Oi Rio Pro Men’s Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Ezekiel Lau (HAW), Nat Young (USA)
Heat 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS), Jeremy Flores (FRA), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 4: Kolohe Andino (USA), Josh Kerr (AUS), Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Jack Freestone (AUS), Bino Lopes (BRA)
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW), Miguel Pupo (BRA), Yago Dora (BRA)
Heat 7: Filipe Toledo (BRA), Frederico Morais (PRT), Ethan Ewing (AUS)
Heat 8: Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 9: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Connor O’Leary (AUS), Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 10: Michel Bourez (PYF), Mick Fanning (AUS), Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Heat 11: Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Conner Coffin (USA), Kanoa Igarashi (USA)
Heat 12: Julian Wilson (AUS), Caio Ibelli (BRA), Stuart Kennedy (AUS)
Oi Rio Women’s Pro Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Carissa Moore (HAW), Sage Erickson (USA), Laura Enever (AUS)
Heat 2: Courtney Conlogue (USA), Nikki Van Dijk (AUS), Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Keely Andrew (AUS), Taina Hinckel (BRA)
Heat 4: Tyler Wright (AUS), Coco Ho (HAW), Bianca Buitendag (ZAF)
Heat 5: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), Pauline Ado (FRA)
Heat 6: Johanne Defay (FRA), Lakey Peterson (USA), Silvana Lima (BRA)