Adriano de Souza not only posted an ASP World Tour victory for the home crowd, by defeating Taj Burrow in the final of the Billabong Rio Pro on Friday at Barra Da Tijuca, Brazil. De Souza, a Brazilian now living in Southern California, vaulted to the top of the ratings board in the race for the world title.
Trailing De Souza in the rankings are Joel Parkinson of Australia, 10-time world champion Kelly Slater of the U.S. and Burrow, another Aussie.
"There are no words to express how I feel right now," said De Souza, who prevailed in tricky two- to three-foot surf. "Thanks to my manger for pushing me every day, I couldn’t have done this without him. Thanks so much to my fans, who have been on the beach supporting me from the beginning to the end and to my sponsors. I’m happy to keep the [event] title in Brazil one more time."
Of his perch atop the standings De Souza said, “It’s still very early days and next event will be J Bay so I’m going to be pushing myself. Kelly and all of these guys are such amazing surfers and have been on tour for such a long time, but I’m going to try my best."
A Brazilian has never won a world title. De Souza is talented enough to challenge for the distinction but there are eight competitions remaining, including the next one at legendary Jeffreys Bay in South Africa. And Slater, though he suffered a close third-round loss to Bobby Martinez in the Rio Pro, looms shark-like at No. 3.
Burrow, also seeking his first world title, opened the final with a 7-point ride but was unable to get a second high score in the tricky conditions.
"I didn’t even really start that well and it really slowed up in the final," Burrow said. "Adriano had a good tactic in that heat and connected with two pretty good waves. I just couldn’t find a wave out there."
De Souza prevailed by a margin of 15.63-12.17 in best-two-scores format.
-- Image of Adriano de Souza courtesy of ASP / SCHOLTZ