Supertubos is the ultimate platform for barrel riders and punt specialists. A steep shorebreak that resembles Stradbroke Island (Australia) or Pascuales (Mexico). Past winners include Mick Fanning, Julian Wilson, Kai Otton, Adriano de Souza and Kelly Slater. What do all these surfers have in common? They are all fast, light and resilient. They surf like gazelles. They approach the vert ramps with aggression and quickness. They adjust to Portugal's simultaneously exciting yet constricting pockets for waves.
Now, before you go locking in your players based on this, keep in mind that the current forecast looks a bit small so the backup site of Belgas could come into play. Located on the other side of the peninsula, this beachbreak behaves quite different from Supertubos. Popular with the local surfers, this fun stretch of waves still lends itself well to the nimble, but it definitely provides a bit more breathing room for the big fellas to move. Like France, there are tides and ever-shifting sandbars to consider as well.
And as a general rule, make sure you're lineup is up-to-date. With late injuries, event rosters are solidified in the dying hourss so make sure you check the website for updates to avoid keeping a surfer on your team who may have pulled out.
Tier A: Gabriel Medina (BRA)
Gabby has all the answers for the complexity the ocean will be dishing out in Portugal. I also love the fact that he's inspired again. He made me look like a legend when I publicly traded Owen Wright out for Gabby in my own lineup and then went on an absolute tear a France.
The kid has so much momentum right now it's a joke. His surfing is fresh again. You can see the spring in his step walking around the comp site. I love the fact that he mixes his sassy air game with his strongman rail turns. Plus, this is the closest thing outside of Rio to a home game for Gabriel. Speaking his native tongue and surfing waves that allow him to shine, Gabby will be more than comfy. Start 'em.
Tier B: Kolohe Andino (USA)
One percent? One percent of you are starting Kolohe at the moment? If that number holds, we Andino-believers will be killing it. Brother, like Gabby, has reconnected with his swagger. I know he didn't win the event in France, but he most definitely stirred the pot. His punts against Kelly were up there with the best highlights of the event.
Supertubos provides some of the best ramps on Tour and we all know Kolohe loves himself a good ole boost. Also encouraging is the fact that the judges will be content throwing scores at one maneuver rides being that the wave is short. Very easy start.
Tier C: Mason Ho (HAW)
Passion pick, I know, but if you think back to Bells, Mase took out Mick Fanning and Freddy P in small surf. I understand he's up against Gabby in the first round, who I also started, but if he gets knocked into Round 2 it will make for an interesting scenario.
Mason could be a major title spoiler for a top seed. Rather than succumbing to any pressure, I think he will relish the opportunity. Mason enjoys competing, but he has an uncanny way of breezing his way through heats. Never one to have a grumpy vibe in the water, it's almost as if he knows the ocean will deliver him the goods when he jumps in. Mason is by far the most original surfer amongs his peers. He's extremely stylish, comfortably creative and a total natural in heavy surf. I hope that one day he will qualify for the Championship Tour, as he would be such a great addition. Peniche will provide the canvas this Hawaiian needs to get trippy. Pits and punts are on offer and Mason will be psyching. Start 'em.
Tier A: Kelly Slater (USA)
Just in case you're not aware of his current mindset, I'll catch you up and you'll easily see why Kelly is a risky start for Portugal. First and foremost, he's still deciding whether or not to compete at all due to a couple minor yet nagging injuries: He hurt his shoulder during a freesurf before the event in France. I happened to be with him and I couldn't believe how lucky he was to get away with just a minor injury. On a chunky set wave, he hit the lip a bit late end came unstuck, ultimately landing square on his head on the middle of his deck. After being unconscious under water for around 10 seconds, he finally came to and swam to the surface. When I saw him he was in shock, rattled from what he said was "one of the worst wipeouts ever!" A few days later, he pulled into a big closeout and hurt his ribs. At 43 years old, these types of injuries take time and attention to fix and unfortunately time is of the essence during the European leg.
More than that I think some personal time is very enticing while a less than stellar forecast is not. So, based on that, let's let the king get some rest, unless of course he shows up for the event. Then who knows! He is always a threat to win. When it comes time to choose your team for Pipe, unless Kelly's arms and legs fall off, start 'em. But for now, it's a sit.
Tier B: Joel Parkinson (AUS)
Honestly, I think Joel is easily the most underrated guy on Tour at the moment. At No. 18 on the Jeep Leaderboard, it's almost criminal to have a surfer of his caliber in this Tier. But, it's really all his doing and I'm sure he's excited to have this foreign feeling of needing to get results to stay away from the dreaded No. 23 spot on ratings. I'm guessing he will be fine, making heats with a couple trademark swoops to get good enough points to stay on Tour.
But being away from the family is hard and it really makes it tough to sludge through heats, especially when the waves are average. In the Fantasy Surfing world it's all about the forecast. Joel will come to Hawaii and slice through with ease, but for now you might want to start a frothed-out youngster. Sit 'em.
Tier C: Ricardo Christie (NZL)
Ricardo is an amazing surfer. He's pretty crafty in the small stuff and can lay down great rail turns in juicy waves. I'm not sure if it's a nagging injury or just simply having tough heats but the big Kiwi has been having a rough rookie season.
As previously mentioned, Supertubos can be constricting for the taller guys but more than that I think momentum is such a tough thing to swing back in your favor. For his sake I hope he does go crazy in the back end of the year and get a seat on Tour in 2016 'cause the guy is not only a great surfer but, quite possibly, the winner of the Coolest Guy on Tour Award. Churrr
Dark Horse: Caio Ibelli (BRA)
Rated No. 2 on the Qualifying Series, Caio is most likely on Tour next year. He's another one of those gazelle-type surfers who loves himself a big punt. Freed up and giving it a whirl with the big kids, I think Caio has a great chance to cannonball this event. The beachbreaks of Portugal are a great platform for Caio to make himself known before he gets on Tour full time. He will be a tough draw for the top seeds, no doubt keeping the boys on their toes. Keep your eyes peeled on this kid. If not this event, he'll definitely make some noise next year.
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 8:00 a.m. local time on the Dawn Patrol Morning Show. Follow Ross Williams on Twitter (@rosswilliamshi) and Instagram (@rosswilliamshawaii).