By Lisa Flueckiger, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The World Surf League contest in Rio de Janeiro, the Oi Rio Pro, has started competitions today after weather conditions and a low swell delayed the kick-off of the event yesterday. The competition takes place in Barra da Tijuca’s Postinho until May 22nd and includes the world’s best surfers such as Gabriel Medina, Kelly Slater and John John Florence.
Rio de Janeiro is stop number four on the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour in both the men’s and the women’s world competition and the first event of the year outside Australia. This year’s contest in Rio is especially significant, as the CT so far has featured superb season starts from the Brazilian participants, so a big crowd of spectators is expected to cheer on the locals.
The men’s field include 36 of the world’s best surfers including current world champion Gabriel Medina, surfer legend Kelly Slater and youngest ever Vans World Cup of Surfing champion John John Florence.
Also participating are the Brazilians Adriano de Souza, current number one on the Jeep Leaderboard and winner of the third stop, the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, in Western Australia and Filipe Toledo, winner of this year’s Quicksilver Pro Gold Coast, the first stop on the tour. Last year’s Rio champion French Polynesian Michel Bourez unfortunately is not participating due to injury.
The competition started with twelve heats of three surfers each in the first round. At the time of writing, Medina and Slater already won their heats and will go directly to round three, while Florence will have to dispute the second round and de Souza and Toledo are yet to compete.
The women’s championship, set to start the first round after the men’s today, will see Sally Fitzgibbons defend her title from last year with fierce competition from Carissa Moore, winner of the second stop, and Courtney Conlogue, the third stop’s champion.
The Oi Rio Pro, former named Billabong Pro, returned to Rio in 2011 after running in southern Brazil for eight years. It found a home on the wide beach of Barra da Tijuca, near the Postinho area known for the lefthander wave ‘Quebra-mar’.