Billabong Pro Tahiti

Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Tahiti: Picking Heavyweights for Heavy Water

Ross Williams

Teahupo'o -- known as "Chopes" among the cognoscenti -- offers the most intense and exciting six seconds in our sport. When firing on all cylinders this wave requires more guts than any venue on the Championship Tour (CT). Hecklers and caddies warn contestants as the approaching black blob ambushes the comp zone with whistles and cheers. Thick, scary and extremely intimidating. But if you can manage to tame the beast, there's nothing more satisfying. Usually I'd provide you with a sneaky pick that will deliver those big points over other Fantasy players, but this time I'm not messing around.

(Editor's Note: Jordy Smith and Matt Banting won't be competing due to injury, update your Fantasy Surfing teams accordingly.)

Tahitian Terror
The price of admission at Teahupo'o is high, but so is the reward.

Start 'Em

Tier A: Owen Wright (AUS)

Pretty tough to avoid picking Kelly Slater (USA) here but after the freak show that O-Dog put on in Fiji I'm feeling confident that he has the best odds of winning the draw. He's not only been killing it with his barrel riding, he's been producing some of the meatiest turns this year as well. If for some reason we get skunked and the waves are only providing one section to hack, Owen is still your man. That being said, the forecast looks good and Wright has already been to Tahiti a couple of times this year, making him by far the most practiced surfer in the draw. You're allowed two picks for Tier A so I highly recommend Kelly for your other pick. You might be making the same choices as a lot of team managers but these dudes could meet in the Final. Start 'em.

Wright Finds Tahitian Perfection
The Aussie charger drops another huge score on the final day of competition at the 2014 Billabong Pro Tahiti.

Tier B: John John Florence (HAW)

You have lots of good choices in this tier as well -- guys like Gabriel Medina (BRA), Josh Kerr (AUS) and Jeremy Flores (FRA) are solid options -- but J.J. is the benchmark when it comes to Pipe and Teahupo'o. He's the one that all his competitors will be watching. No one makes the drop at Chopes look easier, and he's the guys to beat if conditions get to a solid size.

Florence vs. Slater
Check out the power heat that saw the two heavyweight chargers go blow for blow in Teahupo'o.

As for his ankle injury, waves like Trestles and even the beachbreaks in Europe will test him more than Teahupo'o because of how he surfs them: Those waves call for airs and maneuvers that create compression, which will be painful until he's at 100 percent. Tahiti could be trouble for him if the swell goes missing and the event calls for maneuvers. But so far, the Southern Hemisphere is looking good for conditions, with solid waves likely for the contest start August 14. Start 'em.

Tier C: C.J. Hobgood (USA)

Hobgood's Teahupo'o Poise
C.J. Hobgood's submission to the 2014 GoPro Challenge Tahiti shows off his ease there.

With his upcoming retirement at the end of the year, this is Mr. Hobgood's last chance to get Medieval at the most evil spot on Tour. He's one of the best and has been for a long time. He puts himself in extremely critical places on these heavy waves and he's technically superior than most guys on Tour when it comes to reading late drops. In other words, C.J. has his Master's degree in hairball tuberiding. So look for him to flash his badass badge one last time in Tahiti, with all the motivation in the world to get a win in what's designed to be his strongest event. Start 'em.

Sit 'Em

Tier A: Filipe Toledo (BRA)

Toledo vs. Heavy Waves
Filipe Toledo's heavy-water skills were on display at The Box during the 2015 Drug Aware Margaret River Pro.

It's only a matter of time until Toledo finds his range in hollow waves. He had a solid performance at The Box during the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro and we've had glimpses of his brilliance over the past couple years in heavier surf. But for the most part his act has been in the air. No one questions his drive or talent, but it's no secret that Filipe is very happy to surf small waves (with talent like that, who can blame him?). Now that he's moved to San Clemente, Calif., where heavy water is tough to come by, it's going to take time and dedication to improve in bigger waves. For now there are plenty of options in Tier A, which makes Toledo a sit.

Tier B: Keanu Asing (HAW)

Asing Takes on Cloudbreak
Taj Burrow takes on Keanu Asing in the Round 3 wave-to-wave heat recap.

I like Keanu's approach in solid, performance-based rights. Places like Bells Beach, Australia, and Haleiwa on Hawaii's North Shore suit him more than places like Teahupo'o or Cloudbreak. His talent shines when he can rip into that inside rail. I'm excited to see how he fares at Chopes but Tier B is loaded with great options, making it hard to pick Keanu. Sit 'em.

Tier C: Glenn Hall (IRL)

Hall vs. Durbidge vs. Teahupo'o
Bede Durbidge takes on injury replacement Glenn Hall.

I feel like I'm always picking on Glenn, but I don't have anything negative to say about him! There will always be that one guy on Tour who has a ton of heart and competes through his skin, but is constantly pitted against a bunch of uber-talented freaks who make everything look way too easy. We will always hold a spot in our hearts for the underdog. It's one of the things that makes sports so much fun to watch. But yes, sit 'em.

Dark Horse: Ricardo Christie (NZL)

Christie Tames Cloudbreak
The rookie from New Zealand earned 9.57 for a meaty wave in Round 2 of the Fiji Pro.

Positioning in the lineup, wave judgment, and aggression on shallow reefs are not easily learned, and as soon as I saw Ricardo charging Cloudbreak in a freesurf I instantly knew that this guy has great instincts. Remember his big heat win at the Box over Toledo? Or his solid heat against J-Flow in Fiji (he lost a close one with a 9.57 and 7.90)? Christie will definitely be a dark horse with his mediocre seed and consequential place in the draw -- he's up against Aussies Taj Burrow and Joel Parkinson in Round 1 -- but I think he's primed to be the guy who unexpectedly turns a lot of heads. Start 'em.

Set your Fantasy surfing picks for the Billabong Pro Tahiti and watch the action unfold LIVE daily here and on the WSL app beginning August 14.

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 7:30 a.m. local time on the Dawn Patrol Morning Show. Follow Ross Williams on Twitter (@rosswilliamshi) and Instagram (@rosswilliamshawaii).