Competitors returned to the punchy bowls and mega-ramps of Postinho Saturday, as a fresh pulse arrived. The big weekend crowd cheered a solid contingent of Brazilians defending their home surf. The crowd watched a lethal aerial assault on their break, led by Gabriel Medina, who pulled the first-ever inverted flip in competition.
By day's end five of the Top 10-ranked surfers in the event were gone. Casualties included Matt Wilkinson, Kolohe Andino, Julian Wilson, Ace Buchan and rookie sensation Conner Coffin.
Nine Brazilians faced elimination on Saturday, four of them lost, yet three came by way of friendly fire. Bino Lopez, Alex Ribeiro, and Jadson Andre were respectively removed by Adriano De Souza, Gabriel Medina, and Caio Ibelli. Wiggolly Dantas was the only Brazilian to fall to an outsider, with giant-killer Stu Kennedy inflicting the damage.
With Round Three on tap, Brazilians own 10 of the 24 remaining spots, but there's more friendly fire ahead.
Meanwhile a few early-season laggards started showing life on Saturday. Rookie Jack Freestone, fresh back from injury, earned his first heat win of the season against Jeremy Flores. Though he's always an aerial threat, Freestone got by on his powerful ground game. His rapid-fire snaps demonstrated some sharp reflexes that wouldn't be there if he was feeling any residual pain, so he should be considered dangerous.
Matt Banting was the one who dished Andino his early loss. The duo traded backhand blows in a match that went down to the wire. Banting's final wave secured him the narrowest of victories.
Deivid Silva took out Matty Wilkinson with his last-minute heroics, while Hawaii's Dusty Payne got the better of Julian Wilson.
A fresh round of reseeding heading into Round Three has produced some compelling matches, beginning with defending Oi Rio Pro champion Filipe Toledo taking on the Roman replacement, Leonardo Fioravanti. Silva is likely prepping for a dog fight with Gabriel Medina based on what we saw today.
But with Italo Ferreira, John John Florence, Jack Freestone and Jordy Smith in the mix, aerial supremacy in Brazil is up for grabs.