Passion Picks: Oi Rio Pro 2016

unnamed-71John John Florence. Photo: Ryan Miller

It's been a crazy start to the Oi Rio Pro and the event doesn't even kick off until Tuesday morning. Yes, a shooting went down in front of several CT competitors Sunday afternoon, about a block away from the contest site. No one really knows exactly why it happened or if the guy is still alive, but hey, let's pick some fantasy teams!

The Elite:
Italo Ferreira
This guy has been on fire all year and is, yet again, quietly positioning himself in the World Title race. He's currently Brazil's biggest threat to make it three-in-a-row and the Gabriel/Adriano/Filipe club has a lot of work to do if they want to catch up.

Jordy Smith
It's wild in the top 8 right now. This event alone is a wildcard in and of itslef, but I'm going with the gut here. After spending some time with Jordy in West Oz, I can tell that something's clicking and he has his shit more together than years past. It's also one of the three locations he's previously won at.

After the shooting on Sunday, and Wilko getting a death threat from a WSL hired jetski driver last year on the final day, I'm not sure how comfortable the Jeep Leader is feeling down here. Wilko also didn't make a heat in four straight years before finishing 3rd in 2015.

The Commoners:
Adriano de Souza
The World Title hangover is in full effect but it's been 5 months since Adriano raised the cup. Time to shake it off ADS. Floaters, floaters and more floaters!

John Florence
I like him slightly more at Barra Da Tijuca for the tube finding factor (and because it resembles a crappy day at Ehukai Beach Park), but John loves Brazil more than any other non-Brazilian. After busting his ankle here last year filming for his movie VFABM, he's due for some good Karma.

Josh Kerr
Only Filipe and Adriano have a better average finish in Rio over the past five years.

Filipe Toledo
There's a lot to wonder here. Filipe's two months off a serious groin injury, but if he's entering a contest at a Brazilian beach break, he's on my team. It's just that simple.

Other strong options:
There's so many in this group it's tough to pick. Medina and Bourez look scary to not have on your team.

The Strugglers:
Ryan Callinan
Callinan's had a bit of a tough start but that was to be expected considering the locations to open the year. His air game is top notch and we will finally get a chance to watch him use it. And if it's anything like last year, we could see a bunch of rookies place high. None did worse than 13th (Wiggolly)

Matt Banting
I watched him scour the beach over a 500 yard stretch today picking off little corners and blasting them left and right. This event is basically a glorified QS. Banting should get back to that swagger like when he demolished the QS field in 2014 (*minus Toledo).