2018 Rio Pro Preview
The 2018 Oi Rio Pro is just around the corner in Brazil, so expect to have your expectations flipped each morning faster than a freshly cooked hotcake. Just like the country it’s hosted in, Saquarema can be vibrant, fun and close to perfection...or a surfer’s worst nightmare depending on the situation.
Anyone who wins this event is going to have to be super versatile - ready to surf draining beachbreak pits, short dumping shorebreaks, dribbling 1ft gutters or big outside rollers. You just don’t know what will show up. Wildcards are always ready to upset here, fuelled on by local passion, big crowds and nothing-to-lose confidence. Case in point, Yago Dora made the semis here last year, wreaking havoc against the top seeds.
Bearing all that in mind, here’s a summary of how the Billabong guys are likely to fair come May 11th when the comp window opens…
Versatile is Griffin’s middle name. Well, really it’s Dave. Who would have thought someone with such unique first and last names would be good old Dave in the middle? I totally made that up by the way, but it was interesting for a second, wasn’t it? Back to the point - Griff mixes it up more than a DJ with a new set of salad forks. Seriously. Airs, tubes, hacks, cheater fives, he’s got every trick in the book, which is exactly what the shifty waves of Brazil love. He’s had some really tough draws in the early rounds of the first couple of events, and this time won’t be any exception. Assuming he can overcome the big dogs and get into a groove similar to what he did at Snapper, Griff will be a delight to watch at the Oi Rio Pro. We’re just as excited for his post-heat interviews as the heats themselves. Always entertaining.
You might be tempted to say that Italo has a homegrown advantage in Brazil. That’s how a lot of the media will be pumping it up. He will have the crowd behind him on the beach and his momentum is still running hot from his win at Bells. Flip that the other way and you have to remember that Italo is actually from the north of Brazil, a good 1500 miles away from the event site. You also have the intense pressure on him as ratings leader, which throws some doubt into initial reactions. That said, Italo does have a good history in Rio. He made semis here in 2015 and had a respectable Round 5 finish in 2016. He also won a pro junior title back here as a teenager. Throw in his crazily versatile approach - from being able to throw airs, weave tight tubes and glide effortlessly over flat sections, and you have all the ingredients for another podium finish. If he can crush the wildcard upstarts in the early rounds and shake some expectations off his shoulders, he could be going for his 2nd win for 2018.
Where a lot of surfers from other countries have to deal with major culture shock coming into the boiling pot of Rio, Fred has a major advantage - his mother-tongue is Portuguese. That familiarity with the language speaks volumes when settling the nerves of being in such a wild place. Rio’s shifting beach breaks can throw shades of Supertubos in the mix at times, so if it’s at this hollower venue, he’ll have an advantage for sure. More likely though, the comp will be in the cleaner waters of Saquarema which has a bit less shape, but still plenty of ramp sections. Not known as an air guy, you might be tempted to count him out at this venue. Don’t. If there’s a left offering some sections to tag, this is where Morais will be at his mostly deadly. His laser-sharp backhand is deadly when he winds up. A bit more swell would suit him too. Keep an eye on the forecast and get ready for the unexpected.
There’s a misconception that Brazil suits the younger guys on tour, because of expected small waves and wild hail mary airs that require springy knee cartilage to pull off. Not true. It’s man against ocean out there and more often than not it’s experience that wins the day. Case in point, veteran Ace Buchan finished second at Saquarema last year. Parko made quarters, only being beaten by eventual comp winner Adriano De Souza (who has also been on tour for over 10 years). It’s a salty seadog’s paradise. Parko is looking more comfortable than ever this year, which is exactly when he’s at his most deadly. As long as the forecast is overhead or more, look for Joel to be showing the young guns on tour exactly how thousands of hours in the ocean can work to your advantage.
**UPDATE: Joel Parkinson has officially withdrawn from the Rio Pro due to personal reasons.**