It's Rio baby, the biggest party on earth! And the World Tour is back in the second largest South American city for the first time since 2000. Which means party time for the tour! But is it party time at the expense of quality surf?
Okay, it's not like Rio is completely lacking any kind of quality, rippable beachbreak bowls. But that's all it's going to be: typical beachbreak at best—with thousands, tens of thousands, and maybe even hundreds of thousands of Brazilians on the beach all chanting for their favorite surf stars. And of course hard partying in the Brazilian nightclubs till all hours.
Obviously the five Brazilians on tour (Adriano, Jadson, Alejo, Heitor, and Raoni) will have the natives in their corner, which makes the possibility of Adriano, Jadson, or Alejo winning even more realistic. Jadson skyrocketed into worldwide fame last year when he took down the soon-to-be 10x Champ on the beaches of Praia da Vila. A $500G total prize purse is up for grabs this year and you better believe Jadson wants to repeat.
Parko and Mick are both coming off searing hot performances at Bells, along with Taj who just drew Bobby at the wrong time. And we've really yet to see a solid heat from Jordy this year, which is scary. But for Parko and Mick to get as far as they did at Bells they'll have to throw a little more reckless abandon into their heats in Brazil—Jordy and Taj already do this.
And of course there's Dane Reynolds and Kelly Slater. We know you've been watching every one of Dane's heats in the 6.0 Lowers Pro where he has returned to competition after missing the first two World Tour events due to knee surgery (Freddy P also missed Bells due to a knee injury and should be back for Brazil). Dane looked pretty solid in his first heat and should be ready to test the knee out in the Brazilian ramps. Which are what Slater will also be looking to take advantage of in Brazil. There's no way the champ ain't heading to Brazil—when he wins Snapper it sets the pace for the rest of his season. Plus you can bet that he doesn't want to go out not on top, which means he'll travel to Brazil.
There's been tons of talk about the three World Tour stops this year in major cities, and the Billabong Pro Rio is the first of the season. How much of a spectacle these stops become is yet to be seen. But with Rio's south facing beaches in a decent pattern at the moment don't be surprised if the world's best light up the punchy sections in the day and the Brazilian clubs at night.—Ryan Brower
Kelly Slater 5.5-1
Mick Fanning 6.5-1
Joel Parkinson 6.5-1
Jordy Smith 8-1
Taj Burrow 8-1
Adriano de Souza 14-1
The 2011 Billabong Pro Rio runs May 11-22 and can be seen live at aspwtrio.com.br/.
Chris Cote, Editor In Chief
Winner: Wilko will be the winner. Wilko is forever the winner in my book. He's grown so much on me in the last few months, it's like he's a butterfly spreading his wings and flying right in front of my face. Except instead of wings he's wearing rollerblades and instead of flying, he's rooting chicks.
Rookie/wildcard: Julian is getting more and more pissed about losing early. I'm gonna keep picking him to win until he does, and I think in Brazil, he's got a good shot.
Who will rip: The Brazzo's will flair up hard, especially Adriano, Alejo, and whoever the Brazilian wildcards are. Is Neco getting a wildcard? He should.
Who will slip: The cameramen filming the event will slip and zoom in too close to a thonged out butt and the whole viewing audience will see some errant pubic hairs and the edges of a Brazilian woman's leather Cheerio.
Conditions: Long mushy lefts, hot sun, nuts crowd on the beach, thongs on men and women.
Conner Coffin, star of our new film Surprise Excitement Party!
Winner: Bobby! Have you seen him surfing lately!? He's back on CI’s and better than ever. He's hungry after the first two comps of the year.
Rookie/wildcard: Alejo in Brazil, enough said.
Who will rip: Jordy and Mick.
Who will slip: Heavy footed surfers—Brazil looks tricky.
Conditions: Air sections galore…
Casey Koteen, Managing Editor
Winner: I think a family man (i.e. someone who's less likely to go on a week-long Brazilian bender) will win. That said, I wonder how many foreign guys are bringing their families down there? I'm calling Fanning as the victor.
Rookie/wildcard: Alejo. I think Julian is going to be shocked by the insanity of the Brazilian fans.
Who will rip: The Brazzos will obviously do well. But don't be surprised to see beachbreak savant Josh Kerr have the best finish of his world tour career. Also, you wouldn't think these conditions favor someone like Taylor Knox, but it's pretty close to the surf he grew up in, and with two 25ths in a row, he needs to step it up.
Who will slip: You can party in Brazil until 6am without even meaning to. The young guys can bounce right back, but the dudes with some miles on them will have jello legs if they don't get some sleep.
Conditions: Despite a bad rap, Rio can thump. Hopefully they get at least one day of overhead surf.
Aaron Checkwood, Photo Editor
Winner: Since I don't know a damn thing about the waves in Rio, I'm assuming it's a punchy beach break that's a left or a right depending on where they run it. So, with that being said, I have to go with Owen Wright. I've claimed him a few times and think this will be the one… really.
Rookie/wildcard: Gotta go with Alejo. Brazilian homecourt advantage.
Who will rip: Both Hobgoods. These types of waves are Hobgood specialties.
Who will slip: A couple of thongs jumping up and down for Adriano during his heat.
Justin Cote, Online Editor
Winner: Jadson Andre. With a renewed sense of style and less bouncing around, Jadson's aerial antics will go unmatched in his home waters.
Rookie/wildcard: Alejo Muniz has looked incredible this year but Julian Wilson will do better in the Brazilian beachies.
Who will rip: All the little guys who grew up surfing beachbreaks (i.e. Adriano, Jadson, Pat Gudauskas, Simpo, and a hopefully back-in-action Dane Reynolds). And oh yeah, if Kelly Slater shows up to Brazil he will rip.
Who will slip: Big dudes like Dan Ross are going to struggle. It'll be interesting to see how Fred Patacchia and Dane Reynolds surf in their return to competition as well.
Conditions: Shitty beachbreak with a bunch of hot Brazilian babes on the beach… just what the "Dream Tour" is all about nowadays—big contests in big cities. It's like the 80s all over again.
Ryan Brower, Contributor
Winner: It'll take someone who can surf their best in the day and party their hardest at night. That said, I'm calling a young blood win from either Jordy, Wilko, or Owen—they can all shut things down at night and dust themselves off in the morning to handle business.
Rookie/wildcard: The crowd will be reaching insane decibel levels for every wave Alejo stands up on. He'll feed off it invariably.
Who will rip: Parko will be on top of his game, but I don't think he has the wow factor it takes to hang with Jordy, Wilko, Alejo, Owen, Julian, Dane, Jadson, etc. in everyday beachbreak.
Who will slip: Dane Reynolds will slip from the tour if he isn't buying the first of these three stops in major cities planned for this year. Just how many screaming surf fans can he sign autographs for and take pictures with out and about in the city and at the event?
Conditions: Billabong best be panning out during slow heats (which there will be a lot of) to let us get a good view of the local talents on the Rio beaches…
Jeff Baldwin, TW Sales Turkey
Winner: It’s a toss up between Parko and Adriano.
Rookie/wildcard: Julian is pissed at his early losses. He's gonna eat up Brazil.
Who will rip: Dane will be back in action for this one. Blowing minds!
Who will slip: It's so early in the year but all the bottom feeders tied for 22nd and 33rd better start firing up.
Conditions: Sloppy, high performance sand bars. All the tricks will come out.