Kelly Slater (USA), 39, reigning 10-time ASP World Champion, posted the day’s highest single-wave score of a 9.00 on the opening day of Billabong Rio Pro competition.
After a week of lay-days, the world’s best surfers tore into consistently changing conditions at the lefthand pointbreak of Aproador to complete Round 1 of the Billabong Rio Pro.
Stop No. 3 of 11 on the ASP World Title Series, the opening day of men’s competition saw ASP Dream Tour veterans earn the day’s top scores while defending event winner Jadson Andre (BRA), 21, made an impressive entrance in the Billabong Rio Pro’s opening round.
Kelly Slater (USA), 39, reigning 10-time ASP World Champion, got off to a strong start to open his Billabong Rio Pro campaign. Slater unleashed two furious tail-drifting backhand turns to notch the day’s highest single-wave score of a 9.00 (out of 10) midway through his bout to overtake ASP World Tour rookie Julian Wilson (AUS), 22, and event wildcard Peterson Crisanto (BRA), 18, after nearly missing the start of his heat.
“That 9 felt good,” Slater said. “I went down to grab my jersey and there was some confusion. By the time I got out, the heat had already started and Julian got that first one. It wasn’t a good start. I knew there were going to be some good ones and I just had to be patient. That one good wave actually let me bottom turn and hit the lip, most of the waves were soft and had a lot of horizontals.”
Slater, who finished runner-up at the Billabong Pro last year, was also quick to admit that several goofy-footers will be tough to beat at the lefthander of Aproador and noted that the natural-footers will need to be especially selective in their wave choice at the Billabong Rio Pro.
“A little left like this is going to play well for goofy footers,” Slater said. “Owen (Wright) and Jadson (Andre) are probably frothing on it and licking their chops ready to go. We (natural footers) have been on our frontside at Snapper and Bells and now it’s their turn. We’ve just got to try and be smart. Mick (Fanning) looked good and there are waves out there to do it, you’ve just got to be smart.”
Taj Burrow (AUS), 32, opened his Billabong Rio Pro campaign with a sharp backhand attack by belting two Arpoador lefthanders to the tune of a 16.83 (out of 20) on his first two waves to earn the highest heat-total of the day. The Australian veteran notched his Round 1 heat win over dangerous Brazilian rookie Alejo Muniz (BRA), 21, and event wildcard Ricardo Santos (BRA), 20.
“It was kind of scary for a second there, right when they decided to start the competition the wind started howling, but then it cleaned up heaps,” Burrow said. “I got two fun ones at the start so I’m happy.”
Jadson Andre, defending event winner, reveled in Aproador’s lefthanders with a combination of aggressive carves and snaps to take a convincing Round 1 heat victory with the support of the Brazilian crowd behind him.
“I’m so happy to be here competing in Brazil and I love Aproador, I feel like a local,” Andre said. “I’ve competed here several times before and have friends here. I know everyone says I should feel pressure as defending champion, but I’m not worried about it. I’m just thinking about the next heat. That’s what I did last year.”
Mick Fanning (AUS), 29, two-time ASP World Champion, slowly built momentum in his opening Billabong Rio Pro heat, eventually igniting two lefthanders by combining a series of seamless backhand turns to notch a 15.07 heat total and advance directly through to Round 3.
“It was tricky trying to find the right one out there, but I watched the heat before and noticed that guys that were doing turns back-to-back were getting scores, so I tried to concentrate on that,” Fanning said. “They weren’t the biggest waves, but they just allowed three turns straight away.”
The Australian talent also expressed the importance of advancing directly through to Round 3 with Brazil’s ever-changing conditions.
“It’s really good to skip as many rounds as possible, especially here in Brazil where it can be really unpredictable,” Fanning said. “I’m stoked to get through Round 1 and I’ll go back and assess what’s going on and hopefully keep going.”
Billabong Rio Pro event organizers will reconvene at Aproador at 7am local time tomorrow morning for a possible 8am start.
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