BARRA DA TIJUCA, Rio de Janeiro — Event No. 3 of 10 on the 2012 ASP World Championship Tour, returned to the powerful beachbreak of Barra da Tijuca for the second consecutive day in three-to-five foot (1-1.5 metre) barrels which provided the ideal canvas for the world’s best surfers to push the limits of high-performance beachbreak surfing.
Joel Parkinson (AUS), 31, current ASP World No. 5, rebounded after a Round 4 loss, threading the needle on two deep barrels to earn the day’s highest heat total of a near-perfect 18.33 out of 20, eliminating powerhouse Jordy Smith (ZAF), 24, in the process.
“It was just one of those heats where I waited for a while and got one good one and thought ‘that could be amazing, just that one wave.’” Parkinson said. “Then I got another one. Poor Jordy (Smith) really got nothing. It was a lot like home, the good ones have a really nice draw on the water off of the bank. It’s really dumpy, so you air drop into it and it’s hard to find a rail. Who would have thought you’d come to Brazil and get two 9s getting barreled?”
Parkinson has now faced off against Smith four times in the three ASP WCT events this year and admits their seesaw battles have created a friendly-but-competitive rivalry between the two surfers.
“I think there is a rivalry,” Parkinson said. “We don’t talk about it, but we just keep catching each other. We’ve had three events and it’s four times that we’ve surfed against each other and it’s been back and forth.”
Parkinson will face Tiago Pires (PRT) in the Quarterfinals when competition resumes.
Josh Kerr (AUS), 28, was clearly in rhythm with the afternoon’s barreling conditions. The talented natural-footer put on a dominant performance, earning one of the day’s highest heat totals of 17.84 to relegate defending event champion Adriano de Souza (BRA), 25, and Jeremy Flores (FRA), 24, to Round 5 of competition. The Australian admitted to being spurred on by de Souza’s Perfect 10-point ride acquired early in the heat.
“I saw Adriano’s wave go down and we were sitting in a different spot than everyone else,” Kerr said. “We were getting 9s and 10s and I feel bad for Adriano (de Souza). I wasn’t expecting a little backdoor shootout and I’m stoked to get some good waves.”
Kerr will take on Adriano de Souza (BRA), 25, in Quarterfinal No. 4.
Adriano de Souza put in a valiant effort, posting the event’s only perfect 10-point ride for a critical forehand barrel ride. De Souza went on to take a Round 5 win in a rematch of last year’s final, topping Taj Burrow (AUS), 33, in a tough battle to advance to the Quarterfinals.
“I was focused on the right, but I knew there was a little channel and I went over to the left,” De Souza said. “Luck is really going my way and I’m stoked. The waves were really hard and I’m stoked to make it through this heat.”
De Souza admitted that advancing to the Quarterfinals alleviates some of the pressure that came along with competing as defending Billabong Rio Pro champion and is hoping to carry the momentum into the Final day of competition.
“Making it through that round, some of the pressure is off,” De Souza said. “Being defending event champion, I’m really looking to do well here and head to Fiji without pressure. Hopefully the crowd is going to push me to the Final.”
John John Florence (HAW), 19, took an amazing come-from-behind victory in his Round 4 heat to advance to the Quarterfinals. In need of two scores to overtake Julian Wilson (AUS), 23, Florence drove through a lengthy barrel for a 9.63 to take him out of a combination situation before finding another barrel in the dying seconds, earning 8.10 for the ride and claiming victory.
“It was Taj (Burrow) and Julian (Wilson) and those are two guys you never want to have in a heat,” Florence said. “It was windy when I first paddled out and I was trying to do airs and have fun with it. Then the wind stopped and I got the one in the middle of the heat that was a pretty decent barrel. I finally got that last one and there was only 10 seconds left. I wasn’t even sure I had gotten the score when I hit the beach.”
Florence, who is highly-regarded for his barrel-riding ability, was surprised to find barrels at this year’s Billabong Rio Pro and is elated to come away with a guaranteed 5th place finish in Brazil.
“I couldn’t get a good wave and dug my rail a lot at the start of my heat,” Florence said. “That one good barrel came through and I was just trying to figure out what the conditions were doing. I was searching for any kind of peak and couldn’t find one, then I got the wave at the last second. I’m stoked to make the Quarters here in Brazil. For me to be able to make Quarters here is amazing.”
Florence will face Julian Wilson (AUS), 23, in Quarterfinal No. 3.
Alejo Muniz (BRA), 22, was responsible for two big heat victories. The young Brazilian bested fellow countryman Heitor Alves (BRA), 30, in Round 3 and went on to topple Australian icons Mick Fanning (AUS), 30, and Joel Parkinson (AUS), 31, in Round 4 to advance directly to the Quarterfinals, his best result of the season.
“My heats are always like that, where someone is always getting a score at the end to get through,” Muniz said. “I’m just happy. Mick (Fanning) and Joel (Parkinson) are two of my favorite surfers. I knew there were a couple of lefts and for some reason my board didn’t feel good on the rights, but on the lefts, it felt good.”
Muniz, who has been working to recover from an ankle injury sustained this past December, is nearly at full strength and the talented natural-footer was relieved to have a breakthrough result to help rebuild his competitive confidence.
“My ankle is feeling better,” Muniz said. “Everyday it’s feeling a bit better. It’s feeling better than the first round at Arpoador even, but running on the beach is still a little sketchy. I’m just stoked that it’s feeling better so I can show a bit of my surfing.”
Tiago Pires (PRT), 32, continued to find success in the challenging surf at Barra da Tijuca, besting Tahitian charger Michel Bourez (PYF), 26, and Jordy Smith (ZAF), 24, in their three-man non-elimination Round 4 bout to advance directly to the Quarterfinals.
“It was a tough heat,” Pires said. “The wind got really strong and the rain doesn’t help either. I knew it was going to be a tough heat because those guys are really complete surfers and they have the whole bag of tricks. I was just looking for a good nugget and a good barrel. I waited and waited and that wave came from heaven.”
Pires, current No. 25 on the ASP World Title Race, has a deep relationship with Brazil and is using his paramount support from his local fans to march to his best result of the 2012 season thus far.
“I love Brazil, I’ve been coming here for so many years and I’ve had some really good results here,” Pires said. “It’s been a nice event and I’m really focused and it’s all going well for me.”
BILLABONG RIO PRO QUARTERFINAL MATCH-UPS:
QF 1: Tiago Pires (PRT) vs. Joel Parkinson (AUS)
QF 2: Alejo Muniz (BRA) vs. Mick Fanning (AUS)
QF 3: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Julian Wilson (AUS)
QF 4: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Adriano de Souza (BRA)
BILLABONG RIO PRO ROUND 5 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.33 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 7.00
Heat 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.00 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 7.20
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) 11.43 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 10.77
Heat 4:Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.73 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 7.90
BILLABONG RIO PRO ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Tiago Pires (PRT) 14.40, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.67, Michel Bourez (PYF) 7.50
Heat 2: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 11.90, Mick Fanning (AUS) 11.43, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 10.73
Heat 3: John John Florence (HAW) 17.73, Julian Wilson (AUS) 17.50, Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.20
Heat 4: Josh Kerr (AUS) 17.84, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.10, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 5.97
Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.33 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 10.17
Heat 12: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 15.10 def. Travis Logie (ZAF) 11.77