jbaypassionpicksThe man whose return everyone’s been fervorously anticipating. Photo: Jimmicane

J-Bay has been firing and quite a few of the world's best have flown/driven over early to get a slice of the action. Looks like more swell with offshores Wednesday/Thursday so have your team ready for action.

The Elite:
Matt Wilkinson
Wilko has been absent from my team the last few events because his previous history was so god-awful, I couldn't start him with any sort of confidence. Still, he's dominated the tour and leads by over 8,000 points coming into an event he's done historically well at. As the top seed, he's bound to draw easy heats and should be on cruise control until Round 5 at the earliest.

John Florence
I thought John's section from DONE was weak compared to everything else in that video. I almost suggested he cut it from the movie when I first watched. But John's turn game has been polished 10x over since then. A couple clips and photos I've seen the past few days impressed me enough to toss John on over Gabriel Medina, who's backside has looked hideous all of 2016. Although I admit he's always dangerous to bet against.

The Commoners:
Conner Coffin
I virtually made this pick two plus years ago when Young Wise Tails dropped Highline (http://www.surfingmagazine.com/video/highline-j-bay-1857/#lH0ZyuLmQkpgTB6f.97). Watch this again and keep in mind Joel Parkinson won here at age 19. Jordy Smith won at ages 20 and 21. J-Bay has been good to young talent who grew up surfing right point breaks, regardless of competitive experience out there.

Kolohe Andino
A lot of people probably think I'm tripping with this pick but Kolohe is sneaky good at J-Bay. The past couple years he's put in a ton of work freesurfing during laydays and also arrived early this year. Kolohe's lost some close heats in 2016 and let some negative thoughts creep into his head about the world (aka judges) conspiring against him, but I see that turning around. Positive Vibe Warrior up and get after it Brother. You got this.

Jordy Smith
A straight no brainer. He was injured last year and suckered us all into picking him. Time to make up for that now. Healthiest and happiest I've seen Jordy ever. He might've won Fiji if it stayed under 6 feet. Will make Semis here at the very least.

Wiggolly Dantas
Would easily be voted the least liked surfer on tour (when in the water). He drew two consecutive heats with interferences in Fiji. Has that ever been done before? WSL neglects that kind of info and statistics, unlike every other sport ever on this earth. Maybe they should step their game up and let us know? Here's one thing I don't need them to tell me, Wiggolly is going to throw buckets and make heats.

Be careful:
Rumor is Mick will surf this event, even with the injured ankle. It's too important from a publicity standpoint. The word is he will not test it anytime before his Round 1 heat begins. That's a little too risky for me considering they're only in for one layday before running. Haven't heard word from Parko but I did watch him test his ankle on the Namotu bar and it was sketchy at best. I'm staying away.

The Strugglers:
Kelly Slater
After making the Semis in Fiji, Kelly still hasn't broken out of The Strugglers. He's 26th in the world behind names like Kennedy, Cathels, and Melling. W? T? F? If the waves are halfway decent for this comp, that'll get fixed quickly. Keep in mind, he owns a goddamn perfect wavepool. My only question is, how many of us will be scrambling to the shop to purchase a Slater Design next week?

Kai Otton
Almost went with Alejo Muniz who somehow, always gets it done here, but I'm gunning with Ottz instead. He loves this wave and stays in the sickest house on the point. Kai's bringing the whole family this time which is a great call because South Africa is the anti-Fiji. It's the cheapest place I've ever been. Filet mignon dinners for $10.