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by Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – The Association of Surfing Professionals (A.S.P) has revealed it will return to Rio next year for the Brazilian leg of the World Tour, taking over from Santa Catarina where it has been held for the last eight years. With huge prize money to be made available, the A.S.P. is set to make it the biggest event in the tour’s history.

Teahupoo will give competitors one of the toughest challenges of their careers, photo by Mark Mongabay.

The Billabong Rip Pro will create history by offering a first prize of USD$500,000, whilst a women’s event is also being added to the card, with a USD$120,000 reward for the winning athlete.

“Brazilian fans are so passionate and vocal,” reigning A.S.P champion Mick Fanning said. “Sport is a huge part of their culture and that reflects in the crowds we get to the beach. I’m excited about bringing the World Tour back to Rio.

Barra da Tijuca has been chosen to replace Santa Catarina as the main site for the 2011 event thanks to its consistent beach breaks. The secondary site will be Praia da Arpoador, and should conditions not favor either of these, a third location – Canto de Recreio – will come into play.

For its part, Santa Catarina leaves the circuit in style after a home win for rookie Jadson Andre over former nine-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater earlier this year.

The 2010 event currently has a Brazilian in the running for the title as the tour hits Tahiti, home to the world’s heaviest wave “Teahupoo”, and the outcome of the next eleven days will see the midyear field reduced from 45 to 34. Teahupoo is thought to be one of the world’s most dangerous waves, and with solid swells predicted and the pressure of the midyear cut, stop number five on the World Tour promises to be one of the most intense to date.

Adriano de Souza will need to improve on three disappointing rounds to have a chance of taking the crown, photo from A.S.P Press Room.

Brazilian hopes rest mainly on the broad shoulders of Adriano de Souza, currently ranked fourth on the Tour. While he will have no problems navigating his path into the second half of the tour, the Brazilian has been far from at his best for the majority of the year. De Souza will face off in the fifth heat in Tahiti against Hawaii’s Roy Powers and Tim Reyes of the U.S.A.

The 23 year-old from São Paulo was in red hot form during the qualifiers, but put in disappointing performances by his own high standards in events one, two and four of the tour so far. He will have to find his top form in Tahiti if he is not to prematurely rule himself out of the World Title.

Fellow Brazilian Andre Jadson is just behind de Souza in seventh, and still has an outside chance of snatching the title. Meanwhile, fellow countrymen Wiggolly Dantas, Heitor Alves, Alejo Muniz, Raino Monteiro and Willian Cardoso all sit in the top 34 and could beat the eleven-man cut.

Upon leaving Tahiti, the tour will take in California, France, Portugal, Puerto Rico, and will finish in Hawaii on December 20.

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