SOUTH African samba on the shores of Rio for the resurgent Jordy Smith. He won the Billabong Rio Pro in a hard-fought final over national demi-God Adriano de Souza by a score of 17.80 to 16.34 at Barra Da Tijuca.
Smith showed an incredible variety of technical airs and turns in the Final against De Souza, launching a massive straight frontside air for a 9.33 and a stailfish air-reverse for an 8.50 to top De Souza for the win. The Billabong Rio Pro victory marks the third career ASP WCT event win for Smith and his first away from South African soil.
“This win feels unbelievable,” Smith said. “It’s another dream come true. I knew I could win a World Tour event, but I had to prove to myself that I could do it away from South Africa. Thanks to crowd and Adriano. He’s been ripping the whole event. Thanks to all of my friends and family for all of the amazing support.”
Smith’s run to the final was nothing short of amazing as the South African powerhouse defeated dangerous rookie Filipe Toledo and two-time ASP World Champion Mick Fanning. He attributed today’s success to his ability to adapt to both his competitors and the ever-changing conditions of Barra Da Tijuca.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” Smith said. “I was really nervous in the first heat against Filipe. Luckily I got through that one and when I came up against Mick I waited for better waves. When the swell dropped against Adriano and he took to the sky, I knew I was going to have to do the same, but luckily I got a couple of scores.”
De Souza, 2011 Billabong Rio Pro winner, went on a rampage to advance to his second career Billabong Rio Pro Final, eliminating 11-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater and goofy-footer Gabriel Medina, but was unable to top Smith’s devastating form in the Final.
“I did my best out there and thanks to the crowd for being behind me 100 percent,” De Souza said. “Congrats to Jordy. He beat me in the final from start to finish. I’m so happy to be here representing Brazil. Jordy was the best out there today and congrats to him.”
De Souza’s win at Bells Beach combined with his Runner-Up effort today at the Billabong Rio Pro vaults the hard-working Brazilian to the No.1 position over then rankings leader Kelly Slater, highlighting his chances to be the first-ever Brazilian ASP World Champion.
Gabriel Medina was incredible on the final day of competition, earning a perfect 10-point ride for a lengthy barrel-to-air combination in the Quarterfinals. The high-flying Brazilian was equally dangerous in his Semifinals bout against fellow countryman Adriano de Souza with a stout 17.50 out of 20 heat total, but fell just short of a final appearance despite a valiant last-second effort, finishing equal 3rd.
“It’s so hard to get that close to the final and lose, but it was a good event for me,” Medina said. “My ankle injury has finally healed so that’s good progress for my season and congratulations to Adriano on the heat win. Hopefully I can do better in Fiji.”
Mick Fanning matched his Billabong Rio Pro result from 2012 with a Semifinals finish. Fanning looked deadly in his Quarterfinals victory over ASP WCT rookie Sebastian Zietz, but was unable to find a rhythm against Jordy Smith in their Semifinals clash.
“It would have been good to go one better, but the semis is good,” Fanning said. “This whole week was so tricky and it was one where you had your heart in your mouth whole time. I think I went out there and over-thought it. I got way too excited watching Jordy, Filipe, Adriano and Medina and tried airs and embarrassed myself. The waves I had at the start didn’t really allow turns so I thought I’d go for airs and find waves that allowed turns at the end and it didn’t work out. Congrats to Jordy. He’s been surfing great this whole event.”
Fanning, current No. 3 on the ASP WCT Rankings following his Semifinals finish, has been incredibly consistent throughout the opening events of 2013, is now hoping to carry the momentum from Brazil to the next event in Fiji.
“We saw upsets go down early and you come to this event and can’t expect anything,” Fanning said. “Last year we watched Gabe go down in the first heat, so a Semifinals result here is good and I have three out of three keepers for the season. I’ve had a couple of good weeks.”
Kelly Slater, 11-time ASP World Champion and current ASP WCT No. 4, was near-flawless in yesterday’s action but was out of rhythm in the opening Quarterfinal of the morning against De Souza.
“I thought there were a lot more waves than there ended up being and didn’t make the adjustment during the heat,” Slater said. “Adriano did and that made all the difference. Quarterfinals is not the worst result – it’s better than I went last year. It was a long wait this window and if I had waited that whole time and lost yesterday, I would have been bummed. I’ll take a 5th and look ahead to Fiji.”
The annual moan-fest that is Rio is over and we can look towards the back half of the season where all the really good waves reside. Kirra was good for about a day and Bells is an acquired taste, so with them ticked off we're heading into the dreamy lineup of: Fij, Keramas, Teahupoo, Trestles, Hossegor, Supertubos and finally Pipeline. The next stop on the 2013 ASP World Championship Tour will be the Volcom Fiji Pro from June 2 – 14, 2013.
BILLABONG RIO PRO FINAL RESULTS
1 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 17.80
2 – Adriano de Souza (BRA) 16.34
BILLABONG RIO PRO SEMIFINALS RESULTS
SF 1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 17.64 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.50
SF 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.83 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 8.26
BILLABONG RIO PRO QUARTERFINALS RESULTS:
QF 1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 15.33 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 12.30
QF 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.43 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 14.93
QF 3: Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.50 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.37
QF 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 17.76 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.07
ASP WCT TOP 5 RANKING
1. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 18,500 pts
2. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 18,250 pts
3. Mick Fanning (AUS) 18,200 pts
4. Kelly Slater (USA) 16,950 pts
5. Taj Burrow (AUS) 15,700 pts