Kaua‘i surfer Malia Manuel edged past Australia’s Laura Enever, 11.66 to 11.10 and France’s Pauline Ado, 9.77 to advance following the opening round of the Billabong Rio Pro Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Carissa Moore, also of Hawai‘i, controlled Heat 5, with a 14.63 over Jacqueline Silva of Brazil (5.80) and fellow Hawaiian Coco Ho (0.27) to advance on.
But event wildcard Alessa Quizon, also of Hawai‘i, was responsible for the upset of the day, relegating four-time Association of Surfing Professionals Women’s World Champion and current ASP frontrunner Stephanie Gilmore of Australia to Round 2 with a 13.10 heat, Gilmore marking 12.93 and Sarah Mason of New Zealand at 9.27, while California rookie Lakey Peterson earned the day’s highest score at 15.50.
“It feels good to beat Steph (Gilmore),” Quizon said in a Billabong release. “I was so nervous before that heat. This morning, I wasn’t even officially in the event, and this afternoon, I’ve beat the four-time world champ. It’s hard to describe.”
Peterson finished with top honors in Round 1 of the women’s competition, earning the day’s highest score of 9.77 out of 10 for several backhand blasts to take out an all-American affair over Courtney Conlogue and Sage Erickson.
“It’s tricky out there and the waves have been slowing down this afternoon,” Peterson said. “It was a really exciting heat and Courtney and Sage are amazing surfers. It went back and forth so many times. I had a slow start so I was really aggressive towards the back half of the heat. You really had to be selective and when the set came, you had to be on it. On my 9, it was just a really good wave and I scratched for position on it.”
The 2012 Billabong Pro Rio, the third stop of 10 on the 2012 ASP World Championship Tour, kicked off competition at the secondary venue of Arpoador with the top seeds dominating the clean two-to-four foot lefts for Round 1.
Australia’s Julian Wilson, in his second year among the world’s elite, was in solid form, posting the day’s highest single-wave score of 9.27 out of 10 for committed backhand surfing en route to getting the day’s highest heat total, 17.14 out of 20.
“I got kind of lucky because Freddy (Patacchia) didn’t go on that wave,” Wilson said. “The set before that, Freddy went on the first wave and the one behind was better. I think he was worried about that happening again and when that second set came through, it lined up really well for me. I got to my feet straight away, but then saw the section was still building and wasn’t really there yet. I took my time and squared it up because I really wanted to get strong starts to those waves, keep it clean and not try to rush it.”
Adriano de Souza of Brazil, defending Billabong Rio Pro Champion, navigated his way through the Arpoador lineup to take out a close Round I win over Kai Otton of Australia and William Cardoso of Brazil.
“It feels good to be here at Arpoador,” De Souza said. “I just love this place. I’ve been competing here since I was an amateur and I always love to come back. It’s good to see the WCT here again and it’s got me excited and motivated as well.”
When the men’s competition resumes, Gabriel Medina of Brazil will be up against Peterson Crisanto, also of Brazil in the first heat of the elimination Round 2.
Ho and Gilmore are scheduled for the elimination Round 2, Ho meeting Sarah Mason and Gilmore going up against Hawaiian surfer Melanie Bartel in Heat 3.
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• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.