With barely a moment to catch their breath, most of the World Tour Top 34 rolled into Rio after the Prime event at Lowers with 10-foot surf to greet them (it won't be that big the entire comp, but should be solid at times and fun throughout).
For the first time this year I worked Kelly Slater into my Fantasy Surfer team. He's always a great option at any event, but sometimes just doesn't justify the hefty $12.25 million price tag. Putting my brother on at only $1.5 million freed up the extra space to make it happen. Overall, I'm pretty excited about my mix of old and young talent who excel in the variety of conditions we are likely to see in Rio.
My Fantasy Surfer Team for Rio:
Kelly Slater: Before and after Bells he has been surfing more than ever--and in mostly perfect surf. All this surfing and his incredible fitness level only spells trouble for the rest of the field in Rio. I expect a win or close to it from him down there.
Joel Parkinson: What he did at Bells was as memorable as any performance ever laid down in the 50 years of Bells contests. Parko could just ride that high back into being a title favorite again if Rio goes well.
Mick Fanning: See Parko, the same goes for Mick.
Adriano de Souza: Coming home to Brazil while surfing the best so far in his young career should see him continue comboing his competition--like he did to Kelly in perfect conditions at Bells Bowl. The young Brazilians are making a charge like nothing we've ever seen, and Adriano is heading that charge on his way to becoming a world-title contender.
Michel Bourez: Young and raw at times, but the best surfer in the world at others. Even in the freesurfs at small Lowers, Michel surfed a few waves without equals.
Julian Wilson: Focused, determined, and dead serious with his goals--Julian isn't just a pretty cardboard cutout used to hock goods. A threat at any competition to break through and go all the way to an event win.
Alejo Muniz: In a neck-and-neck race with Julian for Rookie of the Year, Alejo will be surfing at home, in surf very likely similar to what he won the first Prime event of the year in at Fernando. These young Brazilians are a force to be reckoned with--as we all saw during Lowers. Alejo surfed the second most complete wave of the event in my opinion.
Cory Lopez: He admittedly started sluggish at Snapper when he didn't have his boards or his mind ready to jump back into WT competition. At Margaret River and Bells he got better, losing in two very closely scored heats (one a tie and one by .13). Lowers saw glimpses of what he is capable of during his heats, before he eventually lost after a tiebreaker didn't go his way. For Rio, chunky beachbreaks suit Cory's surfing extremely well, and his surfboards are dialed in now after a stop in California with Mayhem and some fine-tuning. The stars may be aligning for him to blow the lid off the place and put a smile back on his face.