Rip Van Winkle took a nap after the Oakley Pro Bali. And when he awoke, the Billabong Pro Teahupo'o was about to start. Damn it’s been a long break.
Is that image of Kelly standing like Jesus at Cloudbreak out of your mind yet? Mine either. The fact that he got smashed by the lip exiting, then still went on to whip Mick Fanning, is just a testament to how scary this man is in tubes of consequence. Look for the Florida logo, Channel Islands quad to be lifted above Slater's shining head yet again.
This guy will slay Slater in Huntington Beach, throttle Taj at Snapper Rocks, and freak dance Fanning at Keramas. Meanwhile he’ll bog in Fiji and go down at his own homebreak in Round 2 nearly every year. This unsolved mystery is begging for resolution.
I think he either breaks the curse now or will be forever mind-fucked at his home event. Michel needs to hope for solid swell because threading small tubes on his backhand seems to haunt him. There's no one I'd rather see win though. Imagine how Laird HAMilton everyone would go for him. It'd be beautiful.
When did he become so sneaky dangerous at Chopes? There's no condition the dude won't excel in. Big, small, choppy, clean… Can you think of a surfer who's improved his overall game late in a career more than Kerrzy? I cannot.
I was thinking about picking Julian because he’s been over there with Raimana on a Red Bull trip priming himself in the pigdog position, but Kerr is just too damn consistent.
This pick is automatic. Seriously, who doesn’t have John on their team for Tahiti? If you don’t, you’re living on a prayer that will not be answered. Not even by Bon Jovi.
It seems like Fred always finds a way onto my teams. It’s for a combination of reasons: he's cheap, badass, has made the final here before, and just purely doesn't give a shit about who he matches up against. Freddy P feels like he should beat everyone. Take note groms; that attitude fucking works. I also predict he'll take the Hinano consumption title yet again — an honor he defends yearly in Tahiti. The guy verts.
It's make or break time for Damo. He’s sitting 57th on the World Rankings. 57th! As in one spot above Garrett Parkes. How embarrassing!
After arguably getting screwed in Fiji (opinion shared with multiple World Tour surfers), this event carries an intense amount of pressure for Damien. Can he block the noise and claw out a big result? My guess is yes. Damien has suffered some tough losses in 2013, but one thing is fact: it hasn’t been for lack of good surfing. He's has given it some serious hell in every heat, yet hasn't found a result. At Chopes, Damo's due.
Sidenote: Recently scored multiple sessions out at Greenbush and put on a clinic for the next Joe G movie, Strange Rumblings. He's tuned up.
This is my YOLO pick of the event. I've never selected Tiago before, but Owen Wright got hurt so it's between him and Alan Riou. The last time I saw Alan Riou surf was the first Young Guns and it wasn't impressive. Probably the reason he went MIA for a decade before finally resurfacing during the worst trials conditions in recent memory. Ah, what the hell… I'll roll with Tiago.
No place turns out a success ratio for wildcards like Tahiti and no non-Tahitian has spent more time in the tube here than Anthony Walsh. The bigger it is, the better.
Who not to pick:
This new addition was a hit for the Oakley Pro Bali. Maybe I can’t always guess who will do well, but I sure did a great job forecasting who would bomb out of the last event. Here’s some dudes stuck in the valley, in bad need of assistance from a higher power:
Have you ever seen this kid get a backside tube? Don't worry, I'll wait…
He reminds me of a Mexican jumping bean on a surfboard. Might be ready to stick the craziest air ever done at any given moment, but Teahupo'o will likely fly swat his dome straight into the lagoon.
Is this merely a sophomore slump or should Brazil start to panic? A couple months ago the girls in Rio would cry from simply making eye contact with Gabe. Guys would jujitsu snap your neck if you even slightly doubted him. Mid way through the year, he only has one result (at home) and the crying role has flipped scripts.
He did good work in Huntington and I was psyched for him — but I sure ain’t throwing him on my fantasy team for Tahiti.
Jordy Smith and Taj Burrow:
These are two expensive, high seeds that reek of risk. It would be great to see Jordy steal a result here and keep himself in the World Title talk, but odds are against it.
Taj obviously has the talent to do well, but you could argue half the tour has an advantage on him here.
Will this be the event that brings Nat Young off Cloud 9?
Will Seabass’ injured foot still be nagging him? He looked crippled during an Uppers session two weeks ago.
Can Brett Simpson surprise us all again the way he did two years ago?
Kolohe seems to have improved in backside barrels and also went down early for the Red Bull trip. Did Raimana pass along some of his platinum chi?
What surfer are we underestimating? Who's going to put on a tube-riding clinic and show off a new found mastery?
Lastly, can we have some bombing south swell please? This event sucks balls when we're stuck watching 20-minute lulls for head high tubes.