IT'S battle stations at Brazil as the ASP World Tour swings into Rio de Janeiro and the solid beach breaks of Barra da Tijuca for the Billabong Pro men's and women's competitions.
Close-out beach-break conditions, much like the Northern Beaches on the Gold Coast at the moment, forced organisers to call a lay day and wait for the two-metre-plus swell to settle.
It has been quite a while since the ASP World Tour has set up shop at Rio, which is renowned for the Brazilian wax and bikinis, beach soccer and jiu-jitsu exercises like the martial arts capoeira.
The locals are fiercely patriotic and love their sport with a passion, turning out in huge numbers to watch, sing, dance and party with the pro surfers.
It has been 20 years since Kelly Slater last competed in Rio beach-breaks and owed his first world title to the local guy Peterson Rosa, nicknamed “the Animal”, who won the local derby, allowing Slater the points to claim his first world title in 1992.
The WCT events for the men have previously been held down the coast at Imbituba, where latest Brazilian talent, Jadson Andre, beat Slater last year. Slater won the year before, beating another Brazilian contender, Adriano De Souza.
The Brazilians are a huge success story in pro surfing, backed up by a seemingly fluid and buoyant surf economy and, like Australia, there are millions of surfers.
The only difference is that Australia has more surf breaks.
When former Australian coach Eddie Valladares took the Level 3 coaching program to Brazil he unintentionally opened up the floodgates of talent. Now there are five Brazilians on the men's ASP World Tour, all capable of winning.
De Souza has been the child prodigy and was touted as a future world champion until Alejo Muniz, who was born in Argentina, set the tongues wagging.
The deadliest contender in the Barra beach-breaks is Heitor Alves, who won back to back WQS events on his home breaks to qualify for this year's Dream Tour.
Raoni Monterio is a comeback man marking his second run on the tour.
Interestingly, De Souza scored a huge win over Kelly in the quarters at Bells.
Parko then beat De Souza in the semis and got the jump on Fanning in the pumping Bells final.
THIS Billabong Pro at Barra is only the third world title event out of 10 but the lines are drawn in the sand for a colossal battle waged for fame and glory, fuelled by a hot blooded and passionate beach crowd.
There is a lot on the line here and I'm strictly talking about the world title race with all its scenarios, like will Kelly rise like Tron and defeat all, or will Parko continue his roll towards a possible 2011 world title?
It is anybody's guess, but you can bet on one thing – that whoever wins will be cheered and chaired like a football champion up the beach and whoever loses will, well, like the movie, Just Blame it on Rio!
“It is now or never,” Stephanie Gilmore said on her prospects of clawing back to claim a fifth world title.
That is seemingly going to be an uphill battle, with only three more women's events to decide this year's world title.
The charming, yet super calculating Hawaiian Carissa Moore has made four out of four finals and won two.
Another win in Brazil will shut the gate on Steph and Moore will be deservedly crowned the queen of women's surfing.
It has been a while since a Hawaiian woman has dominated, not since the great Margo Oberg, of Kauai.
IT used to be beware of the injured athlete, but change that to coach, because Dave “Davo” Davidson and Mark “Richo” Richardson, the coaches for the Australia junior team heading to Peru this weekend for the world junior championship, are both carrying surfing injuries, thanks to the pumping waves of late.
If anything, Davo and Richo will be even more determined to bring home the bacon and a sixth world team win for our young Aussie team of 12, including locals Brodie Doyle (Rainbow Bay), Codie Klein (Kingscliff) and Mitch Parkinson (Tweed Heads).
That trio will be greeted to a warm homecoming at the Currumbin Surf World Surf Museum on their return on Friday, June 3, which will be called The Frothin' of the Groms!
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