Familiar Territory at the Top of the Ratings as Yago Dora and Caitlyn Simmers Win in Brazil
The Rio Pro
The VIVO (formerly Oi!) Rio Pro is always a controversial event. The waves are rarely good (although they can sometimes surprise us), Slater never shows up, a Brazilian nearly always wins, and the contest is the least popular on tour among the athletes (despite being one of the most-attended by fans, with 40,000 people on the beach every time there’s a heat in the water).
This year was noteworthy for being pretty much exactly what you’d expect—except for the fact that the faces on the podium were finally different than they have been the past four years (which have all been won by Felipe Toledo). In fact, if you are starting to feel like we’ve been here before, that’s probably because we have. Once again, Slater ditched the event. Once again, the waves were pretty bad. Once again, throngs of fans crowded the beach. And once again, a Brazilian came out on top after scoring a 10 in the final for a huge frontside rotation in crappy waves.
But this time, it wasn’t Toledo—it was Yago Dora.
Dora has always been a bit of a silent assassin. He’s undeniably a world tour talent, but when you share a country with world champs Toledo, Italo Ferreira, and especially Gabriel Medina, it’s easy to get lost in the shadows. That can be an advantage, though, especially when you quietly surf your way through the pack, running beneath the radar despite handing out smack downs every time you pull on a jersey. Dora beach Medina in round one, fellow Brazilian and former Rio Pro winner Jadson Andre in the quarterfinals, and John John Florence in the semis.
Those are three major scalps to take on the way to the finals, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when Dora stomped a huge air for a 10 and the win over Ethan Ewing. But Ewing has been a consistent performer over the past two years, finishing in the top five last year and holding tight to a top-five ranking this season, so the final was always going to be a hard-fought one. Ultimately, the high-flying Brazilian air game beat out Ewing’s textbook carves, just as it always seems to do in the shifty, imperfect beach break peaks of Rio. And predictably, the hometown crowd went crazy.
While Brazilian men have dominated the Rio Pro over the years, the same hasn’t been true of Brazilian women. This is most likely due to the fact that there are very few Brazilians who are actually on the women’s world tour. Tatiana Weston-Webb is probably the most high-profile competitor flying the Brazilian flag, but she technically lives in Hawaii and has dual citizenship with the US (she recently switched to Brazilian representation in order to qualify for the Olympics). In fact, the only other Brazilian woman surfing in this event was Silvana Lima, a former world tour competitor who got into the contest as a wild card.
Neither Tati or Silvana ended up making the finals in Rio. Instead, it was Tyler Wright and Caitlyn Simmers who beach Caroline Marks and Carissa Moore in the semis, respectively. The Australian veteran and two-time world champ then faced off against the Californian youngster in what would become Simmers’ second event win of her rookie year.
With only two events remaining on tour, Simmers now sits comfortably in fifth place, 7,000 points ahead of defending world champion Steph Gilmore, who is the closest to stealing her spot at the championship event at Trestles. Australian Molly Picklum sits above Simmers in fourth, while Caroline Marks is in third and Tyler Wright in second (Wright has already clinched a spot at the championship event). Hawaii’s favorite Carissa Moore is sitting dominantly in first, with three wins, two thirds, and two fifths in her score line. In fact, she has only failed to make the quarterfinals once this season, in her throwaway result from the Portugal Pro.
The men’s ratings are much tighter, with only 700 points between current leader and defending world champion Felipe Toledo and second-ranked Griffin Colapinto. Ethan Ewing remains in contention for the second year in a row, and is actually ranked higher at the moment in third than he was coming into the championship event last year. Joao Chianca has slipped off the pace over the past two events and now sits in fourth, while Yago Dora has moved up into fifth. However, John John Florence is only 1,300 points behind Dora (essentially one heat behind), with Gabriel Medina close behind him in seventh. Thus far, no men have clinched spots in the championship event, so the race is still wide open.
That being said, with the season 80 percent completed, the same two surfers are sitting atop the ratings coming into the last two events of the year (Jeffreys Bay and Teahupoo). Carissa Moore and Felipe Toledo both started the championship event as the first seed last year, where Toledo easily surfed to victory over Italo Ferreira, while Moore eventually fell a rampaging Steph Gilmore, who surfed from fifth seed to eventually win the contest and her record-setting eighth world title.
What will happen this year? With the race still wide open, numerous athletes peaking at the right time, and CEO Erik Logan ousted from his position atop the WSL this week in a surprise move, it’s anyone’s guess. We’ll learn more later this month as the tour heads to South Africa!