Cloudbreak and Restaurants are the type of waves that really play favorites. Much like Pipeline and Teahupoo, these waves demand a certain bravado and skill package that not all tour members possess. It's where the Hobgoods pounce on their prey. It's where Kelly owns the blueprint to the reef. It's where the Pacific Ocean could care less if you can do an air reverse.
With last year's mega swell still haunting most of the Top 34, I have a feeling these guys will be itching to show the world that they're not scared. There are two types of surfers: those who put themselves in harm’s way, getting under those 8-foot ledges, and those who prefer a nice pocket ride. Their test of will come in the form of a thick barrel that not only looks daunting, but audibly cracks like thunder as it hits reef. With the southern hemisphere already gritting its teeth, odds are Cloudbreak will be pumping for the event.
More so than the first three events, you will see many Fantasy Surfer teams with the same names. My theme is based on wave savvy and basically guys that get "steep and deep". To get the most bang for my buck, I had to do some shuffling and sacrificing to achieve a well-balanced team. Below are the guys I believe are the favorites in Fiji.
After taking Kelly off my team in Rio, I'm paying a premium to get the man back on my roster. Kelly's performance in Fiji last year was the best surfing done on Tour in all of 2012, period. If you don't already know, Kelly has a deep connection with Tavarua that dates back to his teen years. He knows the waves better than anyone. Combine that with his comfort level when it gets heavy makes him an overwhelming favorite to defend his win.
John John Florence:
Nothing short of John John withdrawing from the event could keep me from adding him to my team. Judging by his recent clips from Lowers and Hawaii, his ankle looks to be of no hindrance. The kid's backside tube riding is the best on Tour. It's evident that any hole he might have had in his surfing is quickly disappearing. The only thing that could hang him up, or any other favorite for that matter, is the tricky lulls that come with Fiji's tidal changes.
Gabby has shown that his competitive savvy translates well in hollow lefts. Most young guns take time to bag good results at places like Pipe, Fiji, and Tahiti, but not Medina. He's already earned a 5th at Pipe in 2011, a 2nd at Fiji in 2012, a 5th at Teahupoo in 2012, and a 9th at Pipe in 2012. You might not see Gabby chucking himself over the ledge like the Hobgoods, but you will see very smart and technical tube riding with minimal mistakes. Gabriel should be a lock for a quarterfinal result or better.
I had a hard time spending 7 million on CJ, but I finally decided that it was downright stupid to not have him on my team. His results speak almost as loudly as his brawn, both of which help create the legendary status he enjoys in Fiji. Finishing 3rd last year was no surprise. In fact, if you look at CJ's results over the years in hollow lefts you would be hard pressed to find a result any worse than a 5th. As soon as those waves start cracking over the reef, you will see our sweet little CJ turn into a blood-sucking vampire. You know what I mean, Ceej.
Seabass has had a very solid start to his 2013 campaign. At first I thought it might be a little bit of a risk to put him on my team for Fiji being that he has yet to compete there, but then I remembered where he is from. One clear advantage for surfers from Hawaii is that they are very comfortable in heavy surf. Seabass has shown that he can close out heats. Surely this is a testament to his free spirit that lets him relax and do his best surfing under pressure. Look out Fiji, here comes the Seabass fun bus.
Just like his twin brother, Damo has all the same attributes as well as results that make him an absolute must for your team in Fiji. If you don't already have both the Hobgoods on your roster, you need to rebuild your team around them right now.
Nat is also a bit of a budget saver for me. Obviously he has gotten his year off to a great start, so I'm hoping he can ride his momentum through the hollow lefts. I have seen him get pitted at Pipe, so I know he is capable, but I'm not going to lie, it's a minor risk to have him on the team.
It's always a risk to have a wildcard on your team, but if things line up just right he could have a chance to go deep in the event. For instance, if he draws Adriano, Jordy, or even Mick, you've got to like his chances. Based on his performance last year, the kid could be real spoiler for one of the top seeds. Mitch just won a prime event in Brazil making him hungry to test his skills on the platform he's destined for.
The Volcom Fiji Pro starts on June 2, so click here to prepare your Fantasy Surfer team for the event.