After finishing the day with both a spot in the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro Semifinals and another win over Kelly Slater (USA), Adriano de Souza (BRA) should prepare for a huge homecoming at the Oi Rio Pro. Even with Semis and Final still on deck in Western Australia, De Souza accrued enough ratings points to leave Australia at the top of the Jeep Leaderboard and arrive in Brazil wearing the World No. 1 yellow jersey.
Coming into Round 4, only Julian Wilson (AUS) stood between De Souza and the top spot on the Championship Tour (CT) rankings. If he had been eliminated in Round 5, Wilson could have captured the No. 1 position with an event win. And in the first two rounds of the day, Wilson looked poised to do it.
His Round 5 heat was among the best of the day: Conditions and skills found complete alignment, with Wilson earning near-perfect heat score of 19.06. The higher of the two -- a 9.73 -- featured a dramatic foam-climb finish that had the beach crowd roaring.
"I'm just happy to come back in that," said Wilson. "That was the first good heat I've had out there. I was able to showcase my surfing. I'm happy to keep going and Owen (Wright)'s a great competitor. We've had some great battles so it's always good to get one over on him."
But in the very next heat, De Souza defeated Josh Kerr (AUS) and advanced, spoiling any hope that the young Aussie might have had of overtaking the rankings. Instead, De Souza found a lot of momentum going into the last stages of Margies. His performance level steadily rose throughout the day, culminating in the victory against Slater in the Quarterfinals.
Slater has only gotten the better of De Souza one time since 2010, and this time around the Brazilian dominated once again. Thanks in part to good wave selection, De Souza posted a 15.73 two-wave total, leaving the 11-time World Champion in a combination situation. Making matters worse, Slater broke his board midway through on a huge wipeout, and had to swap it out in the channel. He rallied to earn a solid 7.13 in the final minutes, but De Souza won the heat -- and his second Quarterfinal win of the year.
"I surfed a pretty good 1 minute at the end, and that was about it," said Slater. "Adriano sits on you and gets in your head and he was smart. I also got caught up in one big one, went over the falls and broke my good board, which didn't help."
"I was actually relieved when I saw that wave because I knew Kelly was out of position, but it was so painful," said De Souza. "I'm so happy with what's happened in this contest so far. It's been wonderful at Main Break and huge at The Box and I've survived all these conditions and I'm so happy and proud with what I've done so far."
MR NOTES: With the new points system that awards CT points to wildcard competitors, local wildcard Jay Davies has made his mark on the elite Tour. At the conclusion of the event, he'll outrank or tie 11 of the full-time CT surfers.
Tune in to the conclusion of Stop No. 3. Watch the action unfold LIVE on worldsurfleague.com and the new WSL app.