The world’s best surfers are gearing up for the fourth stop on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour, the Oi Rio Pro, with the event window opening on Tuesday, May 10 and running through Saturday, May 21.
Host country to back-to-back WSL Champions Gabriel Medina (2014) and Adriano de Souza (2015), Brazil has firmly established itself as the new superpower in the surfing world. Boasting 10 countrymen within the WSL elite Top 34, Brazil could provide a significant home-field advantage as the season transitions out of the Australian leg.
Matt Wilkinson (AUS) and Courtney Conlogue (USA) will don the WSL Jeep Leader Jerseys heading into the Oi Rio Pro, leading the men’s and women’s fields respectively.
Long-regarded as one of the sport’s most talented and colorful characters, the Central Coast’s Wilkinson had yet to win an elite tour event entering into his seventh CT season in 2016. Back-to-back wins on the Gold Coast and Bells Beach quickly erased that stat and a respectable 9th in Western Australia have handed Wilkinson a stranglehold on the men’s ratings heading into Brazil.
Wilkinson’s historic run signals a potential changing of the guard that sees new faces such as Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Italo Ferreira (BRA) and Kolohe Andino (USA) hovering near the top of the ratings following the opening leg of the season.
Back-to-back Top 5 finishes in 2012 and 2013 placed Conlogue in the WSL Title contention conversation as the first mainland American in more than a decade. A devastating near-career-ending injury derailed her 2014 season, but the powerful natural-footer rebounded in 2015 and took the title race to the final event of year, falling just short of Carissa Moore (HAW) in Maui. In 2016, Conlogue has Finaled in all three elite events, winning Bells Beach, and looking dangerous to collect her maiden WSL Title this season.
Conlogue is closely trailed by Tyler Wright (AUS), Carissa Moore (HAW), Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) and Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) heading into Rio.
Silvana Lima (BRA), former CT superstar, has been given a wildcard into the Oi Rio Women’s Pro. With Lima’s electric brand of progressive surfing, she could wreak havoc on the top seeds in the draw.
Severe storms over the past week and subsequent swell activity have damaged the event structure at Postinho, prompting event organizers to move the event approximately 24 kilometers south to Grumari in the West Zone Municipal Park area. Pulling in significantly more swell activity, Grumari boasts a world-class beach which the WSL will be unleashed upon at the start of the competition window.
“Recent swell activity has damaged the event structure at Postinho, rendering it unusable for the next several days,” Kieren Perrow, WSL Commissioner, said. “Fortunately, we have the secondary site at Grumari prepared for the opening days of the window. Grumari will serve as the primary venue should competition run during the opening days of the window and we’ll work to get Postinho back as an option as soon as possible. We’re very appreciative of the teams on the ground for all the hard work they have put into the event and look forward to a world-class competition.”
The event is also being carried by our LIVE broadcast partners Fox Sports Australia, CBS Sports in the United States, ESPN Brasil, Globosat, Edgesport, Sky NZ, Sport TV, Canal + Deportes, Channel Nine, MCS, Starhub, and Oceanic Time Warner Cable 250 & 1250 in Hawaii.
The Surfline forecast is projecting surf in the head-high range for the opening day of the event window on May 10.
Owen Wright (AUS) and Bede Durbidge (AUS) remain out with injury while Kai Otton (AUS) has withdrawn for personal reasons. Mick Fanning (AUS) continues to take time off in 2016 for his personal year and the recent retirement of Taj Burrow (AUS) has him absent from Rio as well. Joel Parkinson (AUS) has withdrawn to mend a knee injury ahead of the remainder of the year. The men’s replacements include Adam Melling (AUS), Stuart Kennedy (AUS), Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA), Dusty Payne (HAW) and Bino Lopes (BRA).
Deivid Silva (BRA) has been allocated a wildcard from the WSL Commissioner’s office as he is the highest ranked Brazilian on the Qualifying Series. The second wildcard will be allocated to the Trials winner to be determined this weekend.
On the women’s side, Californian Lakey Peterson (USA) remains out with her ankle injury sustained pre-season. She will be replaced by Bronte Macaulay (AUS).
Oi Rio Pro Men’s Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA), Michel Bourez (PYF), Alex Ribeiro (BRA)
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Kanoa Igarashi (USA), Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS), Stuart Kennedy (AUS), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Davey Cathels (AUS), Deivid Silva (BRA)
Heat 5: Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Miguel Pupo (BRA), Bino Lopes (BRA)
Heat 6: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Jadson Andre (BRA), TBD
Heat 7: Nat Young (USA), Conner Coffin (USA), Jack Freestone (AUS)
Heat 8: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Josh Kerr (AUS), Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 9: Jeremy Flores (FRA), Kelly Slater (USA), Ryan Callinan (AUS)
Heat 10: Kolohe Andino (USA), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Alejo Muniz (BRA)
Heat 11: Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Matt Banting (AUS)
Heat 12: Caio Ibelli (BRA), John John Florence (HAW), Keanu Asing (HAW)
Oi Rio Women’s Pro Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Bianca Buitendag (ZAF), Laura Enever (AUS)
Heat 2: Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), Malia Manuel (HAW), Keely Andrew (AUS)
Heat 3: Courtney Conlogue (USA), Bronte Macaulay (AUS), Silvana Lima (BRA)
Heat 4: Tyler Wright (AUS), Nikki Van Dijk (AUS), Coco Ho (HAW)
Heat 5: Carissa Moore (HAW), Sage Erickson (USA), Chelsea Tuach (BRB)
Heat 6: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Johanne Defay (FRA), Alessa Quizon (HAW)
For more information, check out WorldSurfLeague.com