As the ASP World Tour stops off in Rio de Janeiro, local favourite Adriano De Souza looks back on his victory there last year and muses on the absence of reigning champion Kelly Slater from the 2012 event…
The world’s best surfers are waiting for the waves to roll into Rio de Janeiro’s Barra da Tijuca. The best in the business have come to Brazil for the Billabong Rio Pro, the latest stop on the ASP World Championship Tour.
Nobody on the tour is more eager to dip their toes into the surf than Adriano De Souza. The Brazilian surfer, better known at home as Mineirinho, is back to defend the Rio Pro title he won last year.
"Every year I just work on building upon the previous season," said De Souza. "Last year was great. I had two wins and finished the year fifth. The win in Rio was amazing, so much support and so much passion from the people. This year, I have had a pretty good start. I feel healthy, strong and my boards feel very good. I’m looking forward to the coming weeks at home in Brazil.”
The Brazilian currently sits second in the 2012 ASP standings and the 25-year-old surfer knows that another victory in Rio would take him one step closer to bringing the world title back to Brazil.
"I’m very proud to be representing my country on the world stage. There were those who came before me, such as Victor (Ribas) and Neco and Flavio (Padaratz), who opened the door for Brazilian success on the tour. I’m honoured to be able to open it a little further and we have a great group of surfers on tothis year with Heitor (Alves), Miguel (Pupo), Raoni (Monteiro), Jadson (Andre), Alejo (Muniz) and, of course, Gabriel (Medina).”
Reigning ASP World Champion Kelly Slater has withdrawn from this year's Rio Pro event so a good result for De Souza could see him gaining on the frontrunners.
Another Red Bull surfer looking to take advantage of Slater’s absence is Mick Fanning. The Aussie won the tour’s last meet at Bells Beach and will be hoping to achieve back-to-back wins.
"It’s unfortunate that Kelly isn't here," said Fanning, "but in the same sense it’s sort of good that he’s not. Even though he’s not here, we’ve still got to go out and do our job and get the results we need. Kelly missed an event last year and went on to win the world title so he knows what he’s doing.”
As well as being the third stop on the men’s tour, the Rio Pro is also the fifth event in this year's women’s competition.
Sally Fitzgibbons will be out to keep up her impressive start to the season when she hits the waves. The Australian is sitting in second place on the women’s leaderboard and will be hoping to get even closer to Stephanie Gilmore.
Sofia Mulanovich joins Kelly Slater in withdrawing.
Here's how they line up…
BILLABONG RIO PRO ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS
Heat 1: Josh Kerr (AUS), Bede Durbidge (AUS), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF), C.J. Hobgood (USA), Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS), Raoni Monteiro (BRA), Taylor Knox (USA)
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Kai Otton (AUS), Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 5: Taj Burrow (AUS), Kieren Perrow (AUS), Tomas Hermes (BRA)
Heat 6: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Peterson Crisanto (BRA)
Heat 7: Julian Wilson (AUS), Brett Simpson (USA), Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)
Heat 8: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Yadin Nicol (AUS)
Heat 9: Mick Fanning (AUS), Damien Hobgood (USA), Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 10: Michel Bourez (PYF), Miguel Pupo (BRA), Tiago Pires (PRT)
Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA), Heitor Alves (BRA), Kolohe Andino (USA)
Heat 12: John John Florence (HAW), Alejo Muniz (BRA), Adam Melling (AUS)
BILLABONG WOMEN’S RIO PRO ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA), Lakey Peterson (USA), Sage Erickson (USA)
Heat 2: Tyler Wright (AUS), Paige Hareb (NZL), Justine Dupont (FRA)
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Sarah Mason (NZL), TBA
Heat 4: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Rebecca Woods (AUS), Melanie Bartels (HAW)
Heat 5: Carissa Moore (HAW), Coco Ho (HAW), Jacqueline Silva (BRA)
Heat 6: Laura Enever (AUS), Malia Manuel (HAW), Pauline Ado (FRA)