Rio de Janeiro Preview

Shea Lopez on who to pick for your Fantasy Surfer team

Coming off a win at the Lowers Pro, expect Gabriel Medina to bring momentum into the Rio event. Photo: Lemos

The waiting period for the Billabong Pro Rio starts tomorrow, pick your Fantasy Surfer team now.

Kelly Slater is not in Rio right now. Thanks to a run of swell in Australia, the rest of the Tour surfers have a chance to gain some ground on the Champ. Kelly has let himself gravitate toward good waves and good events, and Rio doesn't hold a candle to perfect Burleigh. But don't expect another no-show at Cloudbreak or Teahupoo, because Kelly plans on winning both events.

Here's my $50 million, 8-person team for Rio:

Mick Fanning: He's coming off a win where he surfed so flawlessly that even Slater's impossible frontside rotation wasn’t enough to stop him. Mick is no slouch in the heavy stuff too, and if Slater doesn’t fire on all cylinders when he returns, Mick is capable of beating him again. A big Rio result is a must for Mick without J-Bay on the Tour, and the best way to get an edge over Slater.

Adriano de Souza: Most competitors struggle with pressure--the pressure to perform in competition, the pressure from the local crowds, and pressure to repeat past wins. Adriano lives for pressure and competes better as more is piled on. Watch him tear through heats again with his typically polished, deadly attack. I love watching Adriano compete--he opens his heart and soul with every performance, showing all those in attendance a sportsman of Olympic caliber.

John Florence: It's hard to pick him for beachbreaks, but seeing what he's been doing in the air and on the face lately, it's harder to not include him on my Fantasy Surfer team. At only $6.5 million, you'd be stupid not to gamble on him. And if he does get a result here, his price is going to go up for Fiji and Teahupoo, where you MUST have him on your team.

Julian Wilson: Putting Julian on the team isn't even a question--watch him surf Lowers and you'll know why. He had the total package there--except the brain, of course. Three interferences in three years at a wave he surfs arguably better than anyone is not a wise course of action.

Pat Gudauskas: Also a standout at Lowers, Pat's board and performance there were on point and looking better than ever. He has been battling an ankle injury sustained completing a Rodeo flip during a heat in San Francisco. Now looking healthy, Brazil should be his first event since the injury where he can get back to going fast and going big.

Kolohe Andino: Rookies with no expectations and everything to prove usually do well. Rookies on the opposite side of the coin, like Kolohe, are screwed from the start. Losing badly at home last week was felt all the way to his core. It will click soon for Brother and when it does, I'll feel sorry for his competitors. I've watched him freesurf enough to know he's a scary man--when he surfs like a man, that is. His time is coming…

Gabriel Medina: The Medina swagger is back. The stuff he throws up when he feels confident in his equipment, the surf, and location is legendary. At Lowers last week Gabriel's performance went beyond anything seen there before by consistently pulling off the impossible and making it look routine. What Kelly would attempt and fall on 9 out of 10 times, Medina would pull 9 out of 10 times.

Peterson Crisanto: He has the X-Factor with the potential to stick airs and tail blows like only Generation Freesurf can. Top seeds should tread carefully around this kid.

Rio will be open season for about 20 surfers who feel deep down that they have a shot at the world title this year, but only the top four will really get a result worthy of sustaining a campaign. I know it's Brazil and the waves aren't going to compare to what we saw last week at Lowers, but you better believe guys will be fired up and ripping. That alone makes for a great event, so get ready for a possible start tomorrow morning.