The Oi Rio Pro Equalizer

You can complain about the subpar waves, but the beauty of an event like Rio — at least for those of us that like an exciting world title race — is that it’s the ultimate equalizer.Even more than France and Portugal, the “tricky” Barra De Tijuca beachie means every heat a lucky dip, making it that much more probable that David slays Goliath, Rudy takes the field and Ricardo Christie makes the quarters. Tens of thousands of fans saw rounds 3, 4 and 5 of the Oi Rio Pro on Friday, and day rife with drama. Rookies rose up. World champs fell. Filipe Toledo shook the earth.

About that earthquake. Filipe is getting into that territory where he’s not judged on the world tour scale, but rather on what the judges know he’s capable of. Which is more than most everyone else. Good heavens, those airs. He made quick work of Wiggolly in round 3 with a respectable 15.6 heat total. But in round 4, against Matt Banting and John John Florence, he gave the crowd exactly what they came for. An electric, two-rotation 10 and a backup 7.83 that woulda been a 9 if Parko had surfed the same wave. With the swell dropping, can anyone beat him?

Rookie rise.In the biggest upset of the day, Ricardo Christie comboed ratings leader Adriano De Souza in round 3, giving ADS his first throw-away result of the season. Christie would then go on to beat fellow-rookie Matt Banting (who beat Slater in round 3) to make it into the quarters. Keanu Asing edged out world champ Gabriel Medina before falling to Bede Durbidge in round 5. So much stuff going on! Oh, and rookie Italo Ferreira spun his way into the quarters.

And on the lighter side…

Potential alternative careers for a few good rookies. Italo Ferreira, ballerina. (For anyone else it’d be a Hail Mary, for Italo it’s a backup score.) Keanu Asing, inspirational speaker. (The kid’s an underdog and can tap into that emotion.) Ricardo Christie, statue. (So stoic in those post-heat interviews!)

@worldsleepleague. Don’t hit the snooze button, this is your new favorite Instagram handle.

Quarters by country. One lone Kiwi, three Brazilians and four Australians, one of which is guaranteed to make the final.

Tomorrow…The Rio train just keeps on chugging toward the final stop. Look for the quarters to be completed and the girls to return to the water. The contest will finish by Sunday afternoon.—Taylor Paul