Day three of the Oi Rio Pro was a long one, with three Rounds completed at Barra de Tijuca. And there were some big airs and some even bigger surprises along the way, as quarter finalists were decided.
John John got off to a flying start in the morning.
John John Florence (HAW) appeared to have rolled out the right side of his bed, because he went massive in the opening heat of the day. First he got the early morning crowd going with a cleanly landed rodeo flip that earned a 9.00 from the judges, then he pig-dogged a draining left for a 9.77. His solid 18.77 heat total was the highest of the day, and it left Adam Melling (AUS) trailing in his wake and out of the event.
In the second heat of the day, Filipe Toledo opened with an 8.00-scoring tube on his backhand to take the lead over fellow Brazilian Wiggolly Dantas. He then bust out his trademark forehand rotation halfway through the match-up and landed cleanly to solidify his advancing position. It was a lead Filipe would not surrender, and he advanced to Round 4 with a 15.60 heat total.
Kelly Slater was going for broke in Heat 3.
When Kelly Slater (USA) took to the water against Matt Banting (AUS), you could see from the start that he had big ideas. His first wave involved a quick high-line pump into an enormous forehand rotation. But instead of the standard 360 spin, Kelly rotated beyond that and missed his landing.
“I didn’t expect to spin that much,” said a relaxed Kelly on the beach afterwards, having a few laughs with Rosy Hodge. “Actually, nothing felt right today.”
The 11-time world champ had a tough time of it this morning, and Matt was able to scrap for the win in the tricky conditions. It has been a poor start to the season for Kelly, but at least he has one of his favourite events coming up next – the Fiji Pro.
Italo Ferreira was on fire.
The crowd’s focus then turned to Italo Ferreira as he came up against Nat Young (USA), and the young Brazilian rookie threw caution to the wind, literally. A massive backhand no grab rotation into the flats was answered with loud cheers from the fans on the beach, and the 8.93 score he was awarded was enough to advance over Young.
There was more for the Brazilian fans to get excited about when Jadson Andre defeated Sebastian Zietz (HAW) in Heat 5 of Round 3, before the crowd thickened even more for the next match-up.
The eyes on the Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs Ricardo Christie (NZL) heat must have been double the previous one. The crowd on the beach chanted, the rest of the tour surfers were watching the rankings leader with beady eyes, and webcast viewers the world over (except for New Zealand as it was 3:00am at the time) dialed into the heat.
Ricardo Christie has been taking down some big names in Rio.
After walking the gauntlet through the patriotic Brazilian fans on the beach, Ricardo got stuck right into the battle with a great tube to score an 8.67 on his opening ride. The Kiwi then smashed a smaller right to score a 6.67 just over a minute later, putting the rankings leader in a combination situation early on. Adriano answered back with a 6.23, before Ricardo tried to shut the door with a 7.90 back-up score. Needing an 8.90 to advance, Adriano tried but failed and was eliminated from the event. The crowd were disappointed.
Following that intense heat was the battle of the blonde-haired brush-cuts, which Mick Fanning (AUS) won over Dusty Payne (HAW). Bede Durbidge (AUS) got the better of Jeremy Flores (FRA) in the following heat, then Josh Kerr took out fellow Aussie Kai Otten in Heat 9.
No matter the conditions, Bede Durbidge is always a threat.
Matt Wilkinson (AUS) looked razor-sharp on his backhand to eliminate Taj Burrow (AUS) in the following heat, before the all-Australian goofyfoot match-up between Owen Wright and Ace Buchan resulted in another win for Owen.
The last heat of Round 3 saw reigning world champ and crowd favourite, Gabriel Medina (BRA), take on Hawaiian rookie Keanu Asing. The strategy appeared to be ‘hit and hope’ in this match-up, with 24 waves ridden between the two surfers in the heat. Keanu landed a lofty alley-oop halfway through the encounter to stamp his authority, and despite a number of attempts by Gabriel to get back in the battle, the Brazilian supporters were left to lament the loss of another local big-hitter.
Filipe went massive in Round 4.
Filipe Toledo stole the show in Round 4 with a Perfect 10 to open Heat 1 against John John Florence and Matt Banting. Neither JJF or Matt were able to answer back strongly enough and had to settle for a spot in Round 5, while Filipe become the first of the Oi Rio Pro quarter-finalists.
Joining Filipe in the quarter finals were Round 4 winners; Italo Ferreira, Josh Kerr and Matt Wilkinson. Jadson Andre, Ricardo Christie, Mick Fanning, Bede Durbidge, Keanu Asing, Mick Fanning and Owen Wright, meanwhile, joined John John and Matt Banting in Round 5.
Josh Kerr has been flying all over the peaks at Postinho.
It was late in the day now, but event organisers went straight into Round 5 to decide the remaining quarter-finalists. And up first were rookies Ricardo Christie and Matt Banting, and it was a closely-fought battle in the end. But Ricardo’s strong start to the match-up ensured he grabbed his first quarter-final appearance in his fourth Championship Tour event.
Italo Ferreira then surprised everyone except the devoted Brazilian fans by eliminating John John from the event, also grabbing his first quarter-final spot in the process. Bede Durbidge put an end to rookie Keanu Asing’s great run in Rio by taking out the win in Heat 3, while Owen Wright ripped the last heat of the day to pieces to eliminate Mick Fanning from the contest and grab the last quarter-final slot. Which leaves just eight more surfers to battle it out for the Oi Rio Pro title.
OI RIO PRO QUARTER-FINAL MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1 – Filipe Toledo vs Ricardo Christie
Heat 2 – Jadson Andre vs Italo Ferrira
Heat 3 – Josh Kerr vs Bede Durbidge
Heat 4 – Matt Wilkinson vs Owen Wright