Tahiti Preview

Shea Lopez on who to pick for your Fantasy Surfer team

Kelly Slater, getting spit back onto the podium last year in Tahiti. Photo: Joli

The waiting period for Teahupoo starts this Thursday. Pick your Fantasy Surfer Team here.

You have to love modern technology. Precariously perched some 200 feet above sea level, where the Costa Rican rain forest meets the ocean, I'm able to tweak my Fantasy Surfer team, check swell charts for Central America, and pray for a miracle swell to appear for the waiting period of the Billabong Pro. Watching a live webcast from the edge of civilization is a marvel in itself. Combined with the astounding level of talent on Tour, the show at the end of the road will be well worth taking a break from paradise to sit at my computer. Between surfs of my own, I’ll be watching these surfers vie for the trophy in Tahiti:

Kelly Slater: The kid from Cocoa Beach still has a few old tricks that he's ready to reinvent at a moment's notice. With no real swell forecasted, Teahupoo becomes very tricky when small, and the challenge will be to find the diamonds in the rough. In those conditions, Slater always seems to have a knack for finding the few quality waves available in a heat.

Mick Fanning: If the body stays intact, the surfing only improves with age. Mick will always be a contender while he remains interested and maintains this kind of physical condition. Having spent last year on a sort of hiatus from his usual physical and mental form, Mick is back to looking his sharp, calculated best in 2012. Being the hardened veteran he is, he'll be making his opponents pay for their every mistake.

Julian Wilson: The surfing has been there for a long time, but now the desire and backing are off the charts. He finally got a big win last week at the U.S. Open, and now the floodgates may have been opened for the wins to start adding up quickly. Julian in his comfort zone is one of the scariest draws on Tour, in any conditions.

John Florence: He has to make a big mistake, or three, for any mere mortal surfer to stand a chance against him in good surf. The precision at which he has begun riding his waves from start to finish is on a world champion's level. Unfortunately, John won't be able to play with Teahupoo on the same level that it reached with last year's epic swell. Nevertheless, like Julian, John is making a huge surge in the rankings, and changing how waves are being surfed in competition.

The Hobgoods: CJ and Damien have the ability to ball themselves up into almost nothing, deep inside little tubes. Threading their way through wormhole after wormhole along the reef, they will be vying for the top spot every year at Teahupoo, no matter the size.

Matt Wilkinson: The bad heats and close calls have been adding up this year for Wilko. The phenomenal surfing is still there, as evidenced by some massive carves during his losing effort at Cloudbreak. Wilko just isn’t quite grounded with the solid foundation necessary to win those close heats--not yet, anyway.

Travis Logie: The seasoned competitor has been impressive with his ability to rise to the occasion when needed. Earlier in his career, Travis had a motor that always ran very fast, often getting ahead of himself while riding waves and thinking through heats. That hasn’t been as noticeable lately in freesurfing or competition. With the Hobgoods offering him great pieces of advice each year in Tahiti, this South African may just be primed to surprise a few big names again.