It's not too much of a secret that come Brazil there are going to be some notable names absent from the Hang Loose Pro heat sheet. Some are hurt, while others are taking a much-needed break. As of press time, wildcards have yet to be announced, but the picture of who's NOT going to be there is getting a bit clearer. That being said, when it comes to picking your Fantasy Surfer team for this event, you can't afford to fall asleep at the wheel. Make sure you check for last-minute withdrawals or entries. In the meantime, we're here to help however we can, so here are a few things to know right off the bat:
The injured who will not be surfing include: Dane Reynolds with an ankle injury he suffered while doing an air in France (he's currently awaiting diagnosis), Dean Morrison with a tweaked pelvis, Neco Padaratz with continued back problems, Mick Fanning with a groin muscle strain, and Danny Wills with a perforated ear drum. Others who won't be paddling out for various reasons include: Kelly Slater, Joel Parkinson, and Andy Irons. Bruce is out on his honeymoon.
Who Could Win:
The safe money's on Taj. He's won in Brazil (when it hasn't counted) more often than anyone, and if he's going to continue sharing the perennial runner-up destiny with Cheyne Horan, a win in Brazil will solidify his current No. 2 rank on tour. He's had hands-down the best year of his career. He's come so close to winning several events, and now that's Kelly's not going to be there, the contest is his to win.
Adriano de Souza is another good pick.
"I feel like I have a good chance in Brazil," says Adriano. "I've surfed there a lot of times as a junior and got a lot of wildcards there. I don't know, the win in front of the home crowd is something that would mean a lot to me."
The Bubble Brigade:
Consider this stat: There are less than 400 points separating 18th place from 28th. What does this mean for you, the Fantasy Surfer enthusiast? Well, if I were you, I'd take a long hard look at who's hoping to make a last-minute push for re-qualification, and throw some money down. Case in point: Timmy Reyes, Jordy Smith, and Roy Powers, who sit 22nd through 24th, respectively, with literally 5 points separating them. A big result in Brazil could give them some breathing room going into the Pipe Masters. Or what about Damien Hobgood? He sits 30th right now. And while he's rumored to be struggling to overcome an old injury, you think he's ready to see his brother march on in 2009 without him? Doubtful. Diagnose all of these scenarios and pick your team accordingly.
The Local Boys:
Admit it: Save for maybe Adriano De Souza, all year you've ignored the Brazilian contingent. But now it's payback time. From Jihad to Rodrigo to Heitor, a few of these guys will make good building blocks for your team. A guy like Heitor could be a very smart pick, as he's on the re-qualification bubble, knows Santa Catarina well, and lights it up in smaller surf…not to mention, he's the highest rated Brazilian on tour (besides Adriano).
Whatever you do, be on your computer right before the event starts. You never know who's in or out until the first horn blows, and the last thing you want is to have a guy on your team who pulled out of the event. Nothing hurts your score more than a big, fat zero. So please, check the heat sheets early and often.