Billabong Rio Pro 2013 —– Barra Da Tijuca/Arpoador

After the Australian leg of the tour we sit at an interesting place this year. While no one is surprised that Kelly is out in front, he’s only leading the pack by 50pts. Just behind Slater, Mick and Taj are tied for 2nd with 11700. One of three different ties in the top ten right now. Brazilian stand out, and this year’s Bell ringer Adriano de Souza is in fourth. Parko shares the fifth spot with Santa Cruz Tour Grom Nat Young, with 9750 each. An amazing spot to be in for the bright eyed kid from the cold North. Jordy’s got a comfortable position in 7th (8250), with Michel Bourez far behind him in eighth. With the rest of the pack only 50pts behind Bourez at 6950 and all tied for 9th (Julian, Bede, Kai Otton, Felipe Toledo), there is sure to be some exciting match ups and quite a few position changes in Rio.



Contrary to California or Australia, Brazil, and Rio (most centrally) have had a long surfing history. The possible beginnings of our sport in Brazil were reported to be at Santos on the Sau Palo St. Coast pre-WWII. Different again from California, Australia, and Hawaii in the 50′s, modern practitioners were not lifeguards but SCUBA divers. Already assembled in a club and being watermen, it was a natural transition. Later, in the sixties, and on into the seventies, Brazilian surf culture grew into it’s own with the music of the surrounding areas. In the 60′s the flowing Bossa Nova beats influenced style at Arpoador, then into the 70′s where the upbeat Tropicalismo guitar brought the first of the modern agro style at Ipanema Pier. During the heat of cultural revolution, in the summer of 1972, in the “Verao de contracultra” (the counter culture summer) they held a pivotal surf contest at Ipanema Pier, entering in the modern age of surfing in Brazil. In 1976 the First Mundial Surf Circuit was formed, brought to Brazil by Nelson Machado (shop owner of “Pipeline”), the worldwide surf competition would have a stop at Arpoador. That year Pepe Lopes won the Brazilian leg of the inaugural World Tour, with PT famously taking the trophy later that year in Hawaii, to become the first World Champion. Though never taking the title, the Brazilians held their own in the late 70′s and early 80′s, often winning the Brazilian leg and finishing in the top 30. Rio has also been a stage for some of surfing’s brightest stars to shine, with Cheyne Horan taking his first Pro victory here in ’78 against PT at Diablo beach, and then more recently with JohnJohn (winning for the first time) in 2012.


Being surfers, we like to travel. Be it to the breaks just South or North of us, piling the bros into a van and going on Surfari, or away to international surf awesomeness, we’ve all shared the lineup with Brazilians. They seem to be everywhere and opinions on this vary widely. For a little insight, I went to my longtime friend and sometimes surf partner, Brazilian ex-patriot Giancarlo. As an everyday surfer, and regularly returning to and surfing in Brazil, Gian was the perfect person to share his insight both as an American and as a Brazilian.


ME: Do you know much about the origins of surfing in Brazil, or from your beach there?

GIAN:  I know that surfing started in the beginning of the 1950′s and it really took off by the begging of 1960′s. It was brought by immigrants and it was in Rio de Janeiro in the beach of Ipanema that surfing was practiced.  There was a Brazilian that did make the sport famous he went to California in the 50′s and started to shape boards and spread the knowledge of the sport.

ME: What is it like being seen as a surfer in Brazil?

GIAN: Being a surfer in Brazil is a little different than the states. In the States surfers are seen kinda like burn outs, stupid, uneducated. The typical stereo type of the “Hey Dude, that was gnarly”. In Brazil surfing is seen much more as a sport rather than a hobby or passion. Surfers are very well respect and are seen as athletes down there, where in the States they are stereotyped as idiots or burn outs.

ME: Is Brazil a difficult or stressful place to surf as an outsider?

GIAN: As aggressive as surfing might be in Brazil, Brazilians are still very fascinated with foreigners especially Californians. They will try to get to know you, were you are from, cool spots that you surfed before. I made a lot of friends from my travels in Brazil. It is a very open country for outsiders.

ME: What is the biggest difference between Brazilian surfers and the rest of us?

GIAN: The biggest difference between Brazilian surfers and the rest of the other world surfers is that surfing is like a sport, and much more competitive than other places. Brazilians do have a bad rap for being disrespectful to others in the water. To some extent that is true, but if you go to Brazil and surf you will see why. Surfing in Brazil is very aggressive, but once you prove yourself and show that you are not scared they will respect you.  Also Brazil is famous for its jujitsu, and a majority of jujitsu fighters do surf, so that aggression gets out in the water. From my own experience when I was down there, it’s was very aggressive, but once you show that you are not afraid they will respect you and hang with you out of the water. In my opinion surfing in Brazil is a very respected sport, the down side is that surfing is much more spiritual and soulful and I think sometimes that is lost with the whole “competition /sport” view of surfing.

ME: Where do you see the future of Brazilian surfing?

GIAN: The future looks very bright for surfing/skating in Brazil. Brazilians are very athletic and love sports. With the new generation of young aggressive surfers we are now seeing their names on the biggest competitions around the world:)



Brazilian Champ?

Recently there has been talk of a Brazilian world champion. For some the mere mention is near blasphemy, but for the sake of argument and to stay on topic, I’ve thrown out all preconceptions and reviewed the top three Brazilians “I” thought had a chance of being there at the end of the year (some year).

  1. Gabby- 12/22/93 Rip Curl’s Magic Brazilian, may possibly be the only real rival to JohnJohn as far as potential, but currently lacks both the personality or independence to be a champion. He needs to review some Mr. Jeremy Flores’s missteps/speaks to get a full understanding of how attitude can effect people’s (judges) opinion of you. Also, more current, look at how JJ has taken the reins of his own career while still keeping his family close. Based sheerly upon talent and tenacity, Gabby is my #1 pick, however he needs to iron out his emotional wrinkles and become a more independent surfer.
  2. Adriano- 2/13/87 A small guy but driven pro, has had his ups and downs but is more focused than ever. Picking up Pena Surfwear after starting the year without a major sponsor was a big boost to his confidence. Showing us, and them, they didn’t make a bad investment, he led the Brazilian charge and did his best to hoist that massive trophy over his head. Adriano sits solid in 2nd place for my choice of first champ.
  3. Felipe- 4/16/95 With his advanced maneuvers and cool demeanor, Hurley’s (Nike’s) investment in Felipe is a good one. Taking the Pro Junior event at Lower’s in 2011, and making huge waves in the Aussie leg of the tour this year, “Holy Toledo” has a bright future. Similar to Gabby in two aspects; Ridiculous Dad (get Gerr for a coach), HUGE bag of tricks, he needs to get more polished/confident and he could easily overtake Medina in the Brazilian rankings.


I included Gabby (23rd) in this discussion and not guys like Willian Cardosa, Raoni Monteiro, and Alejo Muniz, because of his actual potential at a World Title. Though not ranked (currently) as high as some of the other Brazilians, his talent and drive are undeniable. This in no way is meant as disrespect or to take away from anyone else’s story, only to discuss the possibility of a Brazilian, World Champion

Though I don’t see there being a Brazilian champ this year, I can see it happening in the next three. Who ever might take it there will have to deal with King Kelly trying to keep people of his mountain a few more times, The Australian top 3, and the Rise of JohnJohn. Not to mention Brother, Sebass, Julian, Jordy, and all the rest of the new breed of super-ripper. Whoever pulls it will deserve it.



Originally from Maroubra, Gordon Merchant helped pioneer the Gold Coast. Making it his home, in 1973  he and his wife Rena started hand making boardshorts out of their house and picked up the likes of Rabbit as an early team member. As a shaper, he not only came up with the first leg rope, Gordon developed a tucked edge board with Joe Larkin that helped Rabbit and Michael Peterson rise to the top of the tour. After picking up a young Mark Occhilupo, Bong went international in the 1980′s. Though going through several massive expansions in the 90′s the brand stayed strong, even grew, it wasn’t until 1998  on their 25th Anniversary when they moved to their Huge Plant at 1 Billabong Ave, that the bottom line started to be effected. The party was seeming to come to an end.
Bong’s current financial worries are mirroring those of the .com bubble crash in California. Over expansion and market flooding has left them high and dry. Since replacing Ted Kunkel with former Target CEO Laura Inman last year, the brand has seen a $536million dollar loss in it’s first 6mo since the change. As a bad short term fix Bong off loaded the stock at a near half share to net the company only $285mil. Losing on most of it’s expansion, Bong was closing stores and selling smaller brands, but its $80mil investment in Nixon was still turning a profit. Gordon turned down a disappointing but fair offer from private equity firm TPG, bumming out the board and major investors, later leading to offers from both Bain Capitol and a return offer (now much less generous) from TPG to be lost.
With a former executive facing fraud charges of $13million and Gordan Merchant being put into a forced takeover situation, the future is definitely bleak for Bong. Australia is getting another dose of the Hollywood gloss-over with their beginnings (as well as Quik and RipCurl’s) being fictionalized in the upcoming movie Drift. Because of the tumultuous relationship surfing has with media 1.0, producers of Drift (Aussie actors Sam Worthington and Myles Pollard) are pimping Quik pros out to make testimonials for it’s acceptance.


Billabong Rio Pro 2013

John John and Owen Wright are out with injury, while Patty Gudang, and Yadin Nicol are replacements.

Day 1/Round 1- It all started with the all gthe regular pomp and circumstance yet only managed one round.  Despite questionable 4ft+ surf and dodgy weather, Pat won a heat, finally. Adriano made it through. So did Sebass, Mick and Joel. Slater got barreled. Micro made it. Gabby looked like he was back. “The Kid” (Nat) was looking sharp and professional. Jordy stepped it up. Bede was ripping, and Kolohe is here to stay.
Day 2/Round 2- Ten days later, a view of an empty chair and an air-conditioner, complete with worse conditions greeted the ebbing competitors.
Through the gloom and haze of a Brazilian hangover the destitute but chosen few got back to work. Those not subjected to the “losers round” relished in the extra time. Josh Kerr managed a whopping 9.77 early in the day. Yadin Nicol got into the contest due to Owen Wilson’s injury, so I don’t know if he felt sorry for the big man, but he hurt his own back Round 1. Ten days was not enough rest for Mr. Nicol and was promptly eliminated Round 2. The Hobgoods and other Florida natives seemed to have an unfair advantage in the chaotic circumstances and did well. Raioni continued to fight hard but Ace was blessed by Kelly’s barrel gods and advanced himself to round 3.  Additionally, Kai Otton, Brett Simpson, Travis Logie, Miguel Pupo,  and Felipe Toledo are all losers no more. With the waves, weather, and morale getting better, things were looking up for the next day.
Day 3/Round 3- With much better weather and head high surf some people really seemed to take advantage of the long break. Wether they wanted a mercy killing, or wanted carnage it was evident they wanted it over. I think that with the Tahiti swell during the lay days, endless Brazilian nightlife, and far away families,  the boys are thinking more about moving on and getting barreled than they are about surfing slop in the rain. The Brazil magic has worn off.
After looking good in the early round, Brother got swatted by Taj who put on a small wave clinic. The SC Kid stayed on top taking out Mr. Personality himself, Jeremy Flores. Adriano kept his momentum rolling and Gabby got a 3rd round win. Ace proved to be immune to the Hobgood sorcery whilst taking down CJ. Kelly beat Pat with a near perfect heat. Not a surprise, but a let down to see Pat eliminated. Joel blew it, but Micro surfed well and deserved the win. Bourez bested Bede, and Sebass’ barging bumped off Julian who just can not get a break. Felipe surfed brilliantly! [THANK YOU Adam Repoagle for bringing up his dad, "That would be really distracting."] Jordy was “mini barrel man” and Mick, also a barrel master, was too much for Brett Simpson. Mick later said “Shoots!”, about his wrist in a post heat interview with GT.

Round 4-no loser round again Taj recieved a questionable interference, but Adriano surfed a great heat and advances. Ace won a heat that Gabby and Kelly didn’t show up to. Sebass moved on taking out Michel Bourez and Glenn Hall. “Holy Toledo’ put on an amazing show of his talents and skipped round 5 by out ripping Mick and Jordy.

Round 5-  Squeezing in the last loser round  Taj got on a roll, but it wasn’t enough enough to smite the King. Unfortunately, The Kid’s run came to an end when up against a healthy Gabby. White Lightening cooked up some French Toast with Mr. Bourez, and in near darkness Jordy finally took down Glen Hall who just didn’t get the waves he needed to best Jordy’s heavy shredding.

Day 4/Final Day Nicer weather and a bigger crowd-

Quarter Finals- Known for not loving the morning heats, Kelly gave one up to Adriano. A priority disk was not changed and Gabby dropped in on Ace who promptly put the fins to his face. To Mr. Bucanan’s and all non-Brazilian observers surprise gabby was not called for interference. Ace was rattled and never recovered. Mick finally stopped Sebass, and Jordy surfed a beautiful heat, comboing Felipe Toledo.

Semi-Finals- Adriano fended off a swarming Gabby, even having the insolent kid paddle up his back. Though interference was again not called (on contest director Luke Eagan’s personal choice to win), Adriano had priority and paddled to block Gabby, who then paddled up his back, then off to get another wave. A wave where he was thankfully not rewarded for a mediocre backside 360. After losing Gabby cried, and of course, like any baby, needed his mommy. Get over it Gabby. Be a man and start winning. Adriano played Gabby’s game, only better.

Jordy KEPT ripping, landing some big airs set up by amazing power surfing. I don’t know if it’s because he shows just what us big men can do, or wether it’s the fact he brings up memories of Occ or Taylor Knox but I’ve grown to love Jordy’s surfing. What ever it is he seems to have this year he’s using it to take down some of the tours best. Though Mick never really even showed up for the heat, the nail biting potential could not be ignored.

Finals- As we get into the finals I actually feel like there has been fair and paced judging. Even with the priority and interference decisions I feel like the best surfers won the heats. Both Adriano and Jordy were absolutely going for it, but Jordy’s smart surfing always kept him in the heat. With his surfing and great story Adriano has the full backing of the beach. Jordy has not only been stepping up, he keeps bringing it, really putting the pressure on Adriano. It was obvious that Jordy wanted this, and after putting together massive combos, he took the final, much to the crowd’s chagrin.  Jordy surfed amazing and deserved the win!

Billabong Rio Pro 2013 —– Barra Da Tijuca/Arpoador

Brazilian surf history

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