Competition continued today at the Corona Saquarema Pro pres. by Banco do Brasil, Stop No. 6 of the World Surf League (WSL) Challenger Series. The day began with clean conditions, offshore winds and waves in the three-to-five foot range at Praia de Itaúna.
Pictured: Local surfer João Chianca (BRA) earned the highest heat total of the day at the Corona Saquarema Pro pres. by Banco do Brasil, Stop No. 6 of the 2022 Challenger Series. Credit: WSL / Daniel Smorigo
Despite moderate onshore winds causing deteriorating conditions in the afternoon, plenty of scoring opportunities were on offer as the women’s Round of 32 and the men’s Round of 24 were completed today. The WSL Tours and Competition team will reconvene tomorrow, Sunday, November 6, at 7:00 a.m. (GMT-3) for a possible 7:35 a.m. start.
Pictured: Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) keeps qualification dream alive at the Corona Saquarema Pro pres. by Banco do Brasil. Credit: WSL / Thiago Diz
Sakura Johnson Moves One Step Closer to Qualification
Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) took one step closer to qualifying for the Championship Tour (CT) today. The current No. 4 on the Challenger Series rankings had a commanding victory in the Round of 32, Heat 6. Her 14.33 total (out of a possible 20 points) was the highest heat total of the day in the women’s division. If Sakura Johnson makes it to the Finals at the Corona Saquarema Pro at Praia de Itaúna, she would take the lead in the rankings and guarantee her spot on the 2023 CT. “I just tried to get some scores on the board, keep building and just surf and have fun,” said Sakura Johnson. “I was super happy to get in the water today. I only surfed four waves, I was watching the heat before mine and saw I needed to be selective and be on the right waves. The wind has picked up a bit, but we’re here to surf in all conditions, so we have to be ready at all times. I just want to make it to the podium and this is the second to last event on the Challenger Series so I want to finish strong.”
Portuguese surfer Teresa Bonvalot (PRT) also made progress towards CT qualification by advancing in second place behind heat winner Bronte Macaulay (AUS) in the Round of 32, Heat 2. Bonvalot has temporarily moved into the Top 5 on the Challenger Series rankings overtaking Australian Nikki Van Dijk (AUS).
“This was one of the toughest heats, there are still amazing waves, but conditions are tough,” said Bonvalot. “Those last ten minutes I just focused on doing one big turn. So I kept moving around, looking for an opportunity, so I kept fighting until the end to find that wave. Conditions are so much different from the start of the event, but the banks here are super complicated. From the beach you see one thing, but in the water it’s another. But I’m super happy with this heat and how I adapted my strategy and leaving it all out in the water.”
Brazilians Medina and Chianca Advance into the Round of 16
As the weekend rolled in and the sun came out, the passionate Brazilian crowds flocked to Praia de Itaúna to see their favorite surfers at one of Brazil’s most iconic venues. Local surfer João Chianca (BRA) turned the energy level up a notch as he secured the highest heat total of the day with a 15.60 on his two best waves in Round of 24, Heat 2. A surprising upset occurred in the same heat with Australia’s Kalani Ball earning the scores he needed to eliminate Liam O’Brien (AUS). “It was a super hard heat and one of my best friend’s said that he hasn’t seen me lose a three-man heat all year, but Liam and Kalani are really good surfers so I felt like I needed to get out in front and take advantage of an early lead,” said Chianca. “Even though conditions are hard, I’ve surfed so many days out here like this, so I know the wave that I want, so luckily I found those two with a clean, open face and that made things really easy to execute. Now the next round is man-on-man and it’s been kind of tough for me this year with a lot of close calls, so I just want to keep the nerves down and do my best.”
Pictured: 3-time WSL World Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) advanced into the Round of 16 at the Corona Saquarema Pro pres. by Banco do Brasil. Credit: WSL / Daniel SmorigoNow fully recovered from a knee injury which he suffered in Saquarema during the 2022 Oi Rio Pro, three-time WSL World Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA), is looking to get back in a competitive rhythm in front of his hometown audience.
The crowds began to flock closer and closer to the event site as Medina warmed up and slid his athlete jersey on prior to the start of Round of 24, Heat 4. He got the crowd on their feet and cheering at the top of their lungs as he landed a solid backside air-reverse for a 7.70. He added a 6.43 backup to win the heat and advance into the Round of 16.
“The waves were really hard and it was super windy out there, but I was happy with the win and I tried to make the most of it. Now I’m probably going to face Miguel (Pupo) in the next round, but I’m just excited to be in the event, said Medina. “I just want to put on a good show and hopefully everything will work out.”
When asked about his recovery, Medina said, “I’ve been training and surfing a lot. This event is to get my rhythm back and make some heats, but I’m just really focused on my training. So this is all preparation for Hawaii really. This event is for me to express myself and see how my body feels back in competitive mode.”
Field Dwindles as Competition Moves to Man-on-Man Format
As the Corona Saquarema Pro gets down to the final stages of the event, the field of competitors has reached the man-on-man phase in both the men’s and women’s divisions. Only sixteen competitors remain for each category and crucial rankings points are still on the line before the last Challenger Series event in Haleiwa, Hawaii.
A new call is set for Sunday, November 6 at 7:00 a.m. for a possible 7:35 a.m. start. When competition resumes, Kirra Pinkerton (USA) will face Bronte Macaulay (AUS) in Round of 16, Heat 1 of the women’s division, while Douglas Silva (BRA) will match up against Kalani Ball (AUS) in Men’s Round of 16, Heat 1.
For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com
Upcoming Men’s Round of 16:
HEAT 1: Douglas Silva (BRA) vs. Kalani Ball (AUS)
HEAT 2: Joao Chianca (BRA) vs. Timothe Bisso (FRA)
HEAT 3: Joel Vaughan (AUS) vs. Maxime Huscenot (FRA)
HEAT 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
HEAT 5: Ian Gentil (HAW) vs. Lucas Silveira (BRA)
HEAT 6: Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR) vs. Morgan Cibilic (AUS)
HEAT 7: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) vs. Lucca Mesinas (PER)
HEAT 8: Joan Duru (FRA) vs. Cauã Costa (BRA)
Upcoming Women’s Round of 16:
HEAT 1: Kirra Pinkerton (USA) vs. Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
HEAT 2: Teresa Bonvalot (PRT) vs. Laura Raupp (BRA)
HEAT 3: Vahine Fierro (FRA) vs. Minami Nonaka (JPN)
HEAT 4: Sawyer Lindblad (USA) vs. Tessa Thyssen (FRA)
HEAT 5: Summer Macedo (BRA) vs. Sarah Baum (ZAF)
HEAT 6: Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW) vs. Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN)
HEAT 7: Alyssa Spencer (USA) vs. Francisca Veselko (PRT)
HEAT 8: Leilani McGonagle (CRI) vs. Keely Andrew (AUS)
The Corona Saquarema Pro pres. by Banco do Brasil is brought to you by: Corona, Banco do Brasil, BB Asset, Prefeitura Municipal de Saquarema, Secretaria de Esporte e Lazer do Governo do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, TikTok, 51 Ice, and NewON. For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com.