Ricardo Santos: angry with his tail

The curse over the 2011 Billabong Rio Pro is over. After several consecutive lay-days, surfers have kicked off Round 1m, at the lefthand pointbreak of Arpoador, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Despite the bumpy wave conditions and inconstant weather conditions, the heat is on and there were a few surprises. Except one. Yes, that one called Kelly Slater. The Floridian got off to a strong start and scored the day’s highest single-wave score of a 9.00 (out of 10).

"That 9 felt good," Slater said. "I went down to grab my jersey and there was some confusion. By the time I got out, the heat had already started and Julian got that first one. It wasn’t a good start. I knew there were going to be some good ones and I just had to be patient. That one good wave actually let me bottom turn and hit the lip, most of the waves were soft and had a lot of horizontals."

Slater also admitted that several goofy-footers will be tough to beat at the lefthander of Arpoador and noted that the natural-footers will need to be especially selective in their wave choice at the Billabong Rio Pro.

"A little left like this is going to play well for goofy footers," Slater said. "Owen (Wright) and Jadson (Andre) are probably frothing on it and licking their chops ready to go. We (natural footers) have been on our frontside at Snapper and Bells and now it’s their turn. We’ve just got to try and be smart. Mick (Fanning) looked good and there are waves out there to do it, you’ve just got to be smart."

Taj Burrow opened his Billabong Rio Pro campaign with a sharp backhand attack by belting two Arpoador lefthanders to the tune of a 16.83 (out of 20) on his first two waves to earn the highest heat-total of the day. The Australian veteran notched his Round 1 heat win over dangerous Brazilian rookie Alejo Muniz and event wildcard Ricardo Santos.

"It was kind of scary for a second there, right when they decided to start the competition the wind started howling, but then it cleaned up heaps," Burrow said. "I got two fun ones at the start so I’m happy."

Jadson Andre, defending event winner, reveled in Arpoador’s lefthanders with a combination of aggressive carves and snaps to take a convincing Round 1 heat victory with the support of the Brazilian crowd behind him.

"I’m so happy to be here competing in Brazil and I love Aproador, I feel like a local," Andre said. "I’ve competed here several times before and have friends here. I know everyone says I should feel pressure as defending champion, but I’m not worried about it. I’m just thinking about the next heat. That’s what I did last year."

Mick Fanning slowly built momentum in his opening Billabong Rio Pro heat, eventually igniting two lefthanders by combining a series of seamless backhand turns to notch a 15.07 heat total to advance directly through to Round 3.

Billabong Rio Pro Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 13.60, Heitor Alves (BRA) 7.67, Bobby Martinez (USA) 7.47
Heat 2: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.84, Adam Melling (AUS) 11.16, Kai Otton (AUS) 7.90
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS) 16.33, Ricardo Santos (BRA) 11.17, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 10.60
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.07, Simao Romao (BRA) 12.36, Dusty Payne (HAW) 11.66
Heat 5: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 8.13, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 8.07, Igor Morais (BRA) 6.34
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.17, Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.37, Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 3.84
Heat 7: Jadson Andre (BRA) 14.33, Gabe Kling (USA) 10.66, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 7.90
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.56, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 10.80, Josh Kerr (AUS) 7.43
Heat 9: Damien Hobgood (USA) 12.00, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 11.10, Tiago Pires (PRT) 10.93
Heat 10: Cory Lopez (USA) 11.54, Chris Davidson (AUS) 10.00, Michel Bourez (PYF) 8.57
Heat 11: Daniel Ross (AUS) 14.90, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.67, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 8.96
Heat 12: Taylor Knox (USA) 15.03, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.70, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 8.34