Round 1 2014 Billabong Rio Pro

Are we ready?
Depends who you ask. If you ask the FIFA World Cup, which begins in Brazil this June, then no. Soccer stadiums are still not finished and people are protesting its existence. If you ask the people in charge of the Summer Olympics, due to be held in Rio in 2016, then no. They’re not ready either. Airport terminals still haven’t been built and the Olympic committee is calling Rio’s preparation the worst it has ever seen. But, if you ask 2014 Billabong Rio Pro, the fourth stop of the 2014 ASP World Tour, then yes. Hell yes. Round 1. 7:30AM. Blow that horn and start this bitch. Take that, soccer and decathlon communities.

Who else is ready?
The ocean…came prepared with a clean chest-to-head high peaks at Barra de Tijuca. You can call it “Baha” if you want to be correct, or “Barra” if you don’t want to try too hard. Swell looks to be fading, though.
The fans…were definitely ready. I thought that their rabid fanaticism toward Filipe Toledo was going to be the benchmark against which all hysteria would be measured. I was wrong. Apparently, even in Brazil, blonde locks trump patriotism as proven when John John won the last heat of the day. Security guards were peeling greedy hands from JJF’s shoulders. The young Hawaiian’s smile was as forced as they come.
Filipe Toledo…was the readiest of them all? Hot damn. The youngest guy on tour took it to Julian Wilson (who also looked strong) and Aritz Aranburu (who surfed well but may as well have been riding a SUP) for the highest score of the day, 18.30. Nobody is more consistent in the air than Filipe, and he lands like an over-coached Russian gymnast — firm on the mat, no bobbles.

Any surprises?
Kolohe Andino…beat Mick Fanning and David Do Carmo. Brother got barreled, unleashed combos on his backhand and landed a clean frontside slob. You know Mick was rattled because he was trying airs.
Mitch Crews…beat Kelly Slater and Peterson Crisanto. Kelly flew into Rio this morning and battled Rio traffic to make it to the comp less than an hour before he surfed (on a Weirdo Ripper with a 5-fin setup). Kelly got frustrated. Mitch took it too him.
Laura Enever…took out Stephanie Gilmore and Alana Blanchard in the prettiest heat of the day. The rest of the women’s heats went about as you’d expect them.

They say that tomorrow…
The swell is dropping a bit and the girls are going to keep on keeping on. Remember, though, that what “they say” is very often wrong. So best to be ready for anything.

—Taylor Paul