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Contest Wash-Up – Oi Rio Pro 2017


The purpose of the first few pages in a story is to get the reader hooked. Australia served that purpose well in 2017 with its (mostly) good waves and excellent surfing. Usually the next part of the narrative arc requires some background or character development; a context through which the mounting tension can be viewed. Is that Brazil’s role? To throw out a little adversity and show us the character of this year’s tour surfers?

Brazil has always kept world title contenders honest; it requires surfers to demonstrate their ability to win in funky beach-breaks and offers some variation to the barrelling reefs or grinding points that we find in abundance on  tour. This year the waves were OK (except for R2; what were they thinking?) and we got to see many surfers in a new light. I saw Wilko and Ace looking all buttery on their forehand and found myself musing, ‘I don't think I've seen him surf like this…’.

So, I understand why we need a break like this on tour, but does it need to be at this particular wave? How many consistent, walled left-hand beachies are there in the world?

I will give Rio this: the crowds were great.

So, as I reflect on the already fleeting memory of the OI Rio Pro, it already feels like the ‘contest’ was at the fore and the surfing was secondary. Sure, there were some great performances, but, in the ebb and flow of lay days, the jetsam that lay washed up in our minds wasn’t necessarily surfing, but wins and losses. Who’ll benefit most from John’s early loss? Who can beat Yago? How do we feel about that Filipe interference? Adriano is a machine. How long until Fiji?

I’m not hating on Rio, I liked the change of pace for the most part. I’m glad it’s over though; bring on the reefs and point-breaks.


Here’s a thought to ponder: What if ADS wins another world title? Would that change the whole narrative around his first win? He’s surfing well this year, and he's within reach. Will Slater be forced to drop some more wave pool news in December?

ADS was, in retrospect, miles ahead of the rest of the field. He didn’t lose a single heat, nor was he pushed on many occasions. That's Adriano though: He rarely makes an error, either tactically or on a wave, and his positioning and timing are on-point. Adriano is basically your safety-net champion; if nobody else steps up and takes things by the balls, he’ll be right there in the wings, with a sharpened shiv of hyper-consistency in his back pocket and a look that says he’s ready to swoop.


A dark horse for the ages, with only a tenth of the hype that Yago earned (he didn’t beat any world champs). If you had him on FS, you’ll sure as hell be holding for Fiji.


What is the definition of ‘storming’ in regards to judges’ towers? The footage I saw seemed fairly tame, so how threatening does one need to be to justify a ban? A little clarity here wouldn’t go astray.

Everyone’s had a laugh at the timing of his suspension, as Fiji was hardly going to be his pet contest, but his early loss and subsequent suspension have driven a stake into the heart of his 2017 title hopes.

Priority errors

Owen, Wiggolly, Julian; these guys should all know better. For all the advisers riding on the coattails of the current WSL coaching trend, you’d think that the pros could master the contest basics.


Yago killed it. We gave you a heads-up by posting this clip on our FB page before R1, but even we were amazed. What’s not to love? He surfs with style, progression and confidence. At 3rd on the QS ratings, I’m sure we’re not alone in hoping he qualifies for 2018.

Also, if you haven’t seen (or want to re-watch) his break-through performance (and plenty more) in Volcom’s Psychic Migrations, you can watch it free here. You’re welcome.


For the first few events, Ewing showed patience and obvious skill, which was especially impressive given how young and inexperienced he was. He seemed a surfer who wasn’t overwhelmed by the occasion, a surfer on the brink of a break-out result.

However, Ethan seemingly had no idea with his heat strategy in R2. He caught nothing for the first half of the heat, dodged every end-section available, and threw absolutely no caution to the wind when he was on a wave with 2 mins to go. I don't see how any red-blooded teenager can not have his pulse race when a section looms in front of him, but Ethan kicked out. Twice.


Julian was looking like the best natural-footed backside surfer on tour. Maybe he is. He was again ripping in the early rounds, making me seriously regret not pulling the trigger and putting him on my fantasy team. And, while he was a decent fantasy pick for this contest, he showed exactly why I always hesitate in picking him when he surfed his R5 heat against Jordy; he imploded. Waiting 15 mins for a 0.17? Is he being secretly coached by Ewing? He then fell on every other wave. I know Jordy’s 9.03 was a tough way for him to start, but surely he has more resilience than that?


Hating on the WSL commentary has been done to death. I know. But there’s a small thing that has been shitting me, and Potz is the worst at it: During every ad break, luck would have it that there has been a set surfed. That's fine so long as the WSL shows the replay as soon as they return. What shits me though is that the commentators (Potz in particular) always call the replayed wave like they have no idea what’s just happened, usually with a comment like, “What will he do here... …he goes up to hit the end-section, and, does he make it? Yes! He does. Wow.”.

So, was he not paying attention, or is he pretending like he doesn’t know what happened on a wave that just only took place before his eyes? Either way, he sounds like a fool.

Also, where the hell is Turps? A quiet dismissal? Time off for surfing? Alien abduction? Gender reassignment surgery? The silence is deafening and I’m growing tired of Kaipo.


The only thing more boring than picking apart the commentary is picking apart the judging. There weren’t any heinous calls by my account, but the scores in general seemed a little high. Round 4 especially. What benefit do they possibly gain by jacking up 7.5s into 9s?


By the Numbers

1 – the number of semi-finalists who won their R1 heats. A team with Ace, Wilko, and Yago could have been pretty bummed heating into R2.

2% - the number of WSL fantasy players who owned Ace. Yago and Joel were great contrary picks as well; both were owned by only 1% of players. In the FS game, these same surfers were owned by 5%, 6% and 12% respectively.

9 – the number of full-time CT surfers placed below Yago Dora in the season rankings after this event (10 if you include Nat).

16.55 – the highest AHS for this event (Adriano de Souza).

$9,933 – the price for each of Yago’s 151 Fantasy Surfer points (at $1.5M). For comparison, Kolohe’s 44 points cost $250,000 each (at $11M).

2 – the number of full-time tour surfers without a single heat win this season.

What do Leo, Ewing and the area code for Western Australia all have in common? They all start with 0-8.


Title Race

John John fell early to the Yago express, opening the door for Jordy and Owen. Their 5th place finishes closed the gap, but John maintains his Yellow Jersey and advantage going into Fiji. All three have a single throw-away result at this point, but John’s top 3 results are much stronger.

The biggest jumps were for Wilko and Ace, with the former carrying a 13th and 25th to still sit in the top 5, and the latter moving from outside the qualification bubble at 24th all the way up to 12th.

Yago Dora also jumped up to 26th place after just one result. This puts him above Bede, Kerr, and a swathe of others.

Here’s the top 12 after Brazil:



Clubhouse Results

Congratulations to the following clubhouse champions:

Surf-Stats WSL group – The coveted Rio title went to hyper1, with a respectable 537.15. Mordida Storm maintains a slender lead for the overall clubhouse bragging rights.
FS Public Clubhouse: suberimakuri was our closest to the coveted four-figure-score, with a quality 993 and 78th spot in the world at Rio. Mahos in now the clubhouse leader and sits at 111th in the world.
FS Private Clubhouse (password SS): My personal team, MF Boom, shat all over the numbers team and finished on top with 970. I’m currently leading the clubhouse and waiting for the inevitable crash from my position at 243rd in the world.


Best Possible Team

In Fantasy Surfer, the perfect team was affordable, with ADS, Ace, Yago, Wilko, Owen, Jordy, Mick and Joel coming in at $49.75M. The best score was 1101, which has Mendes instead of Yago and Gabe instead of Wilko.
In the WSL game, the best-placed team only had half of the top 8 surfers across all tiers and a respectable 689.49. Compare this to the best possible team’s 776.86, or even the 868.96 that was actually attained by someone at Bells, and the broader picture of fantasy success at Rio becomes apparent.



Worst Possible Team

We included Kelly on this list as he was owned by 46% of teams, despite withdrawing.

Other than that, most of the other lower performers had minimal ownership; a few had faith in Freestone’s ability to back up from last year, while rookies Zeke and Ewing were given a chance by a few players. Bino was sensibly avoided by all.


Event awards

Best wave: I really liked the old-school floater and hacks in Adriano’s 9.57, as well as Yago’s gouge-to-rote effort to beat JJF in R3. Tough to call, but I’m giving it to ADS.
Best heat: For sheer entertainment and tension, it had to be Gabe vs. Yago in R5. Wilko vs. Owen was good, as was the R1 battle between JJF and Yago.
Biggest disappointment: John. The waves in R2. The lay-days. Take your pick.
Best Manoeuvre: Yago may have missed the best wave award, but his buttery full-rotation backside air against John in R1 gets my manoeuvre nomination. So Good.
Most impressive: Yago’s giant-killing run was incredible. But it was the one champ he couldn’t conquer that stood out the most; Adriano finished with the best AHS, the highest individual wave score and the highest individual heat score for the event. Yago was amazing, but only until he met ADS; suddenly he looked a bit more like a local wildcard again.

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Balyn McDonald
Balyn grew up on the east coast of Australia, nourishing his passion for surfing through a diet of empty beach breaks, Taylor Steele VHS cassettes and poor amateur competition results. As one of the head writers/analysts for Surf-Stats, he is as comfortable tearing through spreadsheets as he is 6' left-handers.

2 thoughts on “Contest Wash-Up – Oi Rio Pro 2017

  1. re WSL commentary gripe…..Pete Mell … with his incredibly detailed breakdowns of aerials that he can not perform….. Kaipo is genial bland… Should not have dropped Jordy for Kolohe…but thought was clever at the time…. bring on Fiji…

    • You raise a fair point, Simon: there’s no real expert on the panel when it comes to modern progression. Maybe Simpo (who at least has personality) or anyone who can detail the nuance of difficulty within the various above-the-lip possibilities should get a shot. Any suggestions?

      What would it take to get Mason Ho in the booth? That guy would make any contest watchable (in short bursts).

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