By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The world’s elite surfers arrived in Rio de Janeiro state this week for the start of the World Surf League’s (WSL) 2017 Rio Pro at Saquarema’s Itaúna Beach, about 100 kilometers north of the capital city.
Round Two action on Wednesday, May 10th, was highlighted by an all-Brazil showdown between two of the world’s best, as former world champion, Brazilian Gabriel Medina defeated fellow countrymen Jesse Mendes.
The previous day, Tuesday, May 9th, Medina got off to a slow start in Round One of the tournament, suffering a narrow defeat to American Nat Young, forcing Medina to face off against wildcard Mendes in Round Two.
In what were rough surfing conditions at Saquarema on Wednesday, all eyes were on the matchup between the two lifelong rivals who have been competing against each other since they wore both children.
Showing solid transitions and good speed, Medina displayed some of the same magic that made him Brazil’s first-ever world surfing champion in 2014. Medina got three good waves and accumulated a score of 14.20. Mendes, on the other hand, looked very solid himself but fell short, finishing with a total score of 10.66.
“It is good to surf in Brazil. There are a lot of people rooting for you” exclaimed Medina, after the match. “Jesse and I have had some good battles and he is a really good surfer. He is so hard to beat and I am pretty sure he is going to qualify this year.”
Medina and Mendes were not the only Brazilians “making waves” on Wednesday. Wildcard Yago Dora gave surfing fans the tournament’s first major upset as the young upstart Brazilian beat the world’s number five ranked surfer, American Kolohe Andino. Showing great aerial skills and composure, the twenty-year-old Dora narrowly took out the veteran Andino, 14.27 to 13.23.
After several stops across Austrailia, the Rio Pro is the fourth stop on the WSL Championship Tour. The tournament started on May 9th and runs until May 20th at Itaúna Beach in the town of Saquarema.
Located only about two hours outside of Rio, Itaúna Beach is commonly referred to as the Templo Sagrado do Surf (Sacred Temple of Surf) for its world-class waves.