There were only two World Champions that event wild card Yoga Dora didn’t defeat at the Oi Rio Pro, and one of them went on to win the whole damn thing.
And as if you needed more drama to the back story that unfolded on finals day, Dora’s father once coached Adriano De Souza, the 2017 Oi Rio Pro Champion. I think it’s safe to say that a Brazilian was destined to win this one.
The man known as ADS didn’t drop a heat the entire event, including a focused, strategic and resourceful win over Adrian ‘Ace’ Buchan in the final. The 17.63 vs 17.23 final score line told a gripping story of De Souza’s deep set grab rail bottom turns into flaring hooks, starkly contrasted by Buchan’s beautiful weight distribution and inside rail timing.
Both packed high 9’s in their top scores, but it was the fervour and undeniable spirit of the 10 000 plus local crowd that kept pushing De Souza further. Him gesturing with fist pumps, theatrically asking questions of their support after every ride, them in turn asking the judges to reward their man, chanting and insisting on it.
De Souza’s jet ski beach passes were drowned out with crowd delirium. Ace Buchan’s were met with pockets of silence best reserved for an awkward conversation you don’t really want to have, about things you don’t want to discuss. Like, “Did I get the score or not?” We all know the answer to that.
From a Saffa perspective Jordy Smith was looking steady, if not spectacular, until poor wave selection let him down in the Quarters against Ace Buchan.
The technique, pace and timing in certain heats was there for sure, no doubt about it, but the clinical dominance and confidence of the Bells victory was felt wanting. The question remains, how does he dust it all off and re-set for Fiji?
He’s been kinda underwhelming in big bowly tropical reefbreak lefts before, but the wave sure suits his solid frame and his backhand has been looking fierce. Our advice would be to head there early, get comfortable, find some rhythm and bring it back big guy!
As for Bianca Buitendag, the lanky Vic Bay goofy footer stood tall in Brazil using her rock steady backhand attack to bank a quarter final finish where she lost to finalist, Johanne DeFay. Bianca did, however, down former World Champ Carissa Moore in Round 2 with some clutch surfing under pressure, proving that she’s still got the heart to compete at the highest level.
A 5th place finish, without the luxury of full time competition, is proof that she isn’t just making up the numbers, she’s got what it takes to belong in the prime time again.
So, we leave Brazil with a resurgent De Souza, a sure to be pissed off Medina, a well set Ace Buchan going into an event that favours him, and in Yoga Dora, yet another Brazilian talent unearthed and ready to roll with the best.
But the thing that really struck me against the back drop of all the energy and enthusiasm of this event is just how dated the current WSL format is. Change is needed. Now. Especially when it comes to the ‘escape clause’, other-wise known as Round 1 and 4. I don’t know of any other sporting code that allows the potential winner, to actually be a loser. Twice.
So what exactly is the point of non-elimination rounds? Besides making the event longer, and in doing so, shortening the time to score good surf.
Every athlete should deal with the conditions and rival that stand before them on equal footing. There’s no more compelling or dramatic way to finish of your opponent than standing toe to toe in a sudden death match up. It should be winner takes all, once and for all. You beat them fair and square. No second chances.
Wouldn’t that make for high octane performances and cut throat strategies at the Outerknown Fiji Pro? If we remove the safety net of the non-elimination rounds and let em scrap it out, Gladiator style? Mano a mano. Hell, with all the upsets at Rio, re shuffling of the top order and a world title race bust wide open, I couldn’t think of a better location to see who’s got the mettle, or the minerals, to throw caution to the wind. To let it all hang out.
It’s either that, or back to the losers, who could potentially, be winners.
I’m looking forward to Fiji, see you there on the armchair!