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Our Tips for the Women’s Oi Rio Pro

Though just three events remain before the WSL Finalists are decided, there is still plenty of water to go under the bridge on both the men’s and women’s side of the draw before we know who will be competing at Trestles. That makes each event pivotal, but there’s no time to take a breath; just a few days after Griffin Colapinto and Steph Gilmore triumphed at El Salvador, the tour heads to Brazil for the Oi Rio Pro. These are the names most likely to be battling it out in the women’s contest.  

The Favourites

Carissa Moore has been uncharacteristically unexceptional of late, adding a quarterfinal exit at El Salvador to a three-event period which already included a Round of 16 defeat at the Margaret River Pro. She’s yet to win an event this year, but despite all that she still sits atop the world rankings and will wear the yellow jacket at the Oi Rio Pro, an event which she’s never won but at which she has been runner-up twice. She remains the runaway favourite for what would be her fifth world title, and is widely viewed as the best in the world. A win is surely just around the corner, and could easily come in the next week.

Throughout the course of the year, Tyler Wright has appeared to be Moore’s biggest challenger for the world title in what has been her best, most uninterrupted year since she won the world title in 2017. At least, it was until a few weeks ago. A throwaway result at Margaret River was followed by a COVID diagnosis during the event in Indonesia, a diagnosis which also led her to miss the Surf City El Salvador Pro. Those three results – which came after she rang the bell at the Rip Curl Pro – have seen her tumble down the rankings and out of the top five. The way she has been surfing when fit so far this year, however, means she looks almost certain to climb back up and earn a spot at the WSL Finals. And there could hardly be a better place to do it. Wright won this event in 2013, 2016 and 2017, and it would be no surprise to see her become the first surfer – man or woman – to win it four times.

While Wright has been dropping down the rankings, her fellow Aussie Steph Gilmore has been doing the exact opposite. Gradually working her way towards the top five after a slow start to the year in Hawaii, the seven-time world champ wound back the clock in El Salvador to claim a hugely impressive and important victory, jumping from seventh up to third. Aged 34, she’s no longer the dominant force she once was, but that performance reminded everyone that she’s still more than capable of recapturing her form of yesteryear. Like Wright, she’s won here in the past, her lone victory coming in 2018. Coming off a win and having enjoyed success here previously, she could easily make it consecutive victories this week.

The Next Tier

Johanne Defay seems to be perennially underrated, and that she’s still not regarded as a favourite for this event is perhaps yet another example of that fact. She’s sitting in second place in the world rankings, has finished first and third at the past two events, hasn’t failed to make at least the quarterfinals at every single event this season, and is a past runner-up at this event. Her tendency to make it through the early rounds before being beaten once contests heated up has certainly contributed to the dampening of expectations surrounding her – while she made the quarters in the first five events of the year, she also didn’t make it past that round once – but she has gone some way to shaking that stigma with her performances at the last two events. She’s surfing as well as anyone at the moment and could potentially be wearing the yellow jersey after this event. 

Caroline Marks, in contrast, won’t be wearing the yellow jersey anytime soon, but she could still have a major role to play at this particular contest. She’s way down at the bottom of the world rankings having not competed for the first half of the year and even if she won all three events left in the season, a spot in the top five would be unlikely. Despite that, she showed in El Salvador that she has no qualms spoiling the party for anyone else, making it through to the semi-finals there. She hasn’t done much damage at the Oi Rio Pro the couple of times she’s competed in it, but she was also only 16 and 17 years of age at those two contests. Now 20, she’s far from the finished product but is a far more accomplished competitor than she was back then, and a run deep into this contest would be no surprise at all.

Another who, similar to Defay, tends to fly under the radar despite putting in consistently solid performances is Lakey Peterson, who again like Defay enters this contest on the back of a couple of good results in the past two events. A quarterfinal appearance at the Roxy Pro G-Land was followed by a finals appearance in El Salvador – her second for the year – and that saw her sneak past Wright into the coveted fifth position in the world rankings. Of course, as mentioned earlier, Wright seems likely to jump back into the top five assuming she remains healthy, so Peterson will need to keep performing well if she’s to maintain her hold on a spot in the finals. She was a finalist here in 2018 when she lost to Steph Gilmore, and is very capable of repeating that effort this year. 

The Roughie

Whether you can really call her a roughie is up for debate, but with so few surfers competing in the women’s events in the back half of the year, most of them have a decent chance heading into each contest. Weston-Webb is sitting back in ninth place in the world rankings, ahead of only Gabriela Bryan of those who made the mid-season cut, but that she fell four spots after a poor showing in El Salvador is indicative of how tight the race for the WSL Finals is. Her inability to get any sort of consistency has led to a frustrating year for the 2021 runner-up; at five of seven events she’s failed to make it past the Round of 16, but at the two in which she has she’s racked up a win and a semi-final appearance. On her day she is still super dangerous, and at her home break she can definitely cause an upset; one which would likely see her skyrocket back up into the top five. 

Our Tip

As cliché as it might sound to say, there is no shortage of chances at this event. Of the 12 surfers who will compete, it would be no great surprise for probably ten of them to win, which evidently makes picking a winner a tough task. Despite her lack of preparation heading into the contest, however, Wright stands out as the pick of the bunch largely due to her dominance here in the past. Three wins in the past seven Oi Rio Pros are numbers which are hard to argue with, and she can go climbing back up the rankings after a gradual descent the last few weeks with her second win of the season. 



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