Was it just me or did you all just get smoked in the last event? Picking a winning Fantasy Surfing lineup for the Oi Rio Pro was always going to be tough. Beachbreaks are unpredictable and the exuberance of the crowd watching their Brazilian Storm compete at home played a big role in the water. Competition at the Fiji Pro, though, will be a touch more predictable.
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Cloudbreak and Restaurants are the two spots where the action will go down. Although they're not without challenges, they provide a reliable platform when the waves show up. Sure, it can be windy and sets can be a little on the inconsistent side at times, but when a set does come you can almost guarantee that the wave will provide an eight-point ride or higher provided that you utilize its strengths.
How do the pros handle Fiji? The Break Breakdown tells all.
During the Fiji Pro's 12-day holding period, Cloudbreak typically produces at least three-to-four days of waves that are well overhead, providing barrels as well as carve-nation walls. So as we all adjust our rosters from the men who can fly to the men who can stall, allow me to throw a few names at you, just in case you're not settled on your choices.
Tier A: Owen Wright (AUS)
With the Blue Angels act that Filipe Toledo has been putting on, O-Dog has been flying under the radar. (Sorry for the pun.) You can safely say that his major back injury is officially behind him (sorry, that was a good one though) and his surfing is evidently as good as it was back in 2011 if not better. He's smooth, powerful and has a versatile game that allows him to adapt to all the venues on Tour. He's also a bit of a hellman when it gets big. Obviously guys like John John Florence and Kelly Slater will be tough to beat, but I have feeling it's Owen's time to shine. I'm looking for the Avatar to win this thing and officially throw his name into the Title race. It just feels Wright! (OK, I'm done.) Start 'em.
Tier B: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA)
Braddah Wigg's surfing is designed for Cloudbreak. Dantas has a killer arc on the open face as well as a knack for throwing buckets of spray. Combine that with his fearless tube skills and you have a surfer destined to do well in Fiji. Wiggolly was in the event last year as a wildcard and drew Mick Fanning in Round 2. It was a really tight heat and ultimately went Fanning's way. But watching it again, I actually thought Wiggolly won, hands down. He had the only barrels, as well as the best turns, of the heat. The two are matched up again in Round 1 this year, which should add a little fuel to the fire. Wiggolly started the year with a fifth on the Goldie but has cooled off since. This is the event where he makes his bid to be a Top 10 contender. Start 'em.
Tier C: Adrian Buchan (AUS)
With a lot of the focus on the rookies, plus Filipe and the Brazilian Storm, guys like Ace have been quietly drowning. Sitting at 30th on the Jeep Leaderboard, Ace may already be feeling the pressure to stay above the requalification line. Part of the reason for this is that it's difficult to beat guys willing to throw caution to the wind (along with their tail, fins and body) with surgeon-like snaps. But Fiji is all about speed carves and tube rides. The two heats that Ace has won this year -- his Round 1 heat at Margaret River and his Round 2 heat in Rio -- were in juicy waves. With his quest to get things back on track and his opponents forced to go rail-to-rail with him, Ace should grab the big result that has long eluded him. Start 'em.
Tier A: Filipe Toledo (BRA)
Although I think his Round 1 matchup is ideal, it's risky to put Filly on your team due to the difficult and potentially irritating task ahead of him: Proving that he can compete in heavy surf. Filipe earned a solid result at last year's Pipe Masters and showed he'll commit to towering waves. I have faith in his abilities, but when you're looking at your options in Tier A you should be thinking of guys that have a great chance at winning the event. With that said, you're best off putting the young stud on ice for now. Sit 'em.
Tier B: Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Bede is off to a killer start this year, showing off his smooth approach and commanding his heats. So it's no surprise that he's rated 10th, making him near the top of Tier B. Here's the problem: You have some big fish in this pond. Kelly Slater (USA), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Joel Parkinson (AUS) and Taj Burrow (AUS) are all in Tier B and are all serious threats in Fiji. Then you have the guys who could really excel in a wave like Couldbreak -- namely Wiggolly, Miguel Pupo (BRA) and Jeremy Flores (FRA). Bede, in my eyes, kind of slips through the cracks in this tier. Although he will make solid choices in heats, catching the right waves and swooping into some clean hacks, I think there are guys with bigger point-earning potential. Sit 'em.
Tier C: Glenn Hall (IRL)
Tier C has many sneaky options. I mentioned Ace but I also like Dusty Payne (HAW), Alejo Muniz (BRA) and Freddy Patacchia (HAW) for this pick. Micro was swooping pretty nicely last year when he competed in Fiji as a replacement for Kai Otton. He knows how to get barreled and has a nice little forehand whip but, not unlike Bede, I think the guys who are a little more aggressive are bound to fetch the most points. Sit 'em.
Dark Horse: Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Jeremy has been on fire this year, making two QS 10,000 Finals, and racking up some decent results on the Championship Tour. He's comfy packing big pits and knows how to get himself under the ledge, which is more than half the battle when surfing Cloudbreak. With his established bravado and newfound abilities with the jersey on, I'm looking for him to crack the Quarters or better in Fiji. The island vibe and warm water could even see him win the event.
Ross Williams spent 10 years as a CT competitor. Currently, he's a WSL analyst and contributes a Fantasy surfing column before each event on the elite Tour, as well as provides up-to-date Fantasy intel each morning at 7:00 a.m. local time on the Dawn Patrol Morning Show. Follow Ross Williams on Twitter (@rosswilliamshi) and Instagram (@rosswilliamshawaii).