In the year long race for the World Title, the Oi Rio Pro acts as the first hairpin turn. Bouncy Brazilian beachbreaks have their unique way of testing surfers' nerves and resolve. Add rabid fans, a festival feel, and the strongest local contingent ever assembled for this year's event and you've got a huge test for any would-be Title contender. Of course, it's just as challenging for fantasy players, who are trying to make sense of this year's rankings upheaval. The three tiers are as interesting as ever heading into this one, so whether you like to play it safe, roll the dice, or be the contrarian, we've done some digging into the details for your consideration.
Tier A (pick two)
Options: Julian Wilson, Italo Ferreira, Owen Wright, Michel Bourez, Adrian Buchan, Gabriel Medina, Griffin Colapinto, Filipe Toledo
Play It Safe: Gabriel Medina's hero status at home is bigger than ever, yet his 52.17 heat win percentage (HWP) at the Oi Rio Pro barely keeps him in the Top 10 of current Tour surfers. That said, he's visited the Semifinals twice, which is more than anyone else in Tier A. Meanwhile, Italo Ferreira is returning to this event after being injured last year. Italo's HWP is 60%, and he finished 3rd back in 2015. The left at Saquarema should play into his approach as well. And while Filipe Toledo finished in 13th last year at Saquerama, his 68.42 HWP is the highest of anyone in this tier.
Roll the Dice: Ace Buchan proved how dangerous he could be here last year during his runner-up finish, bettering a Quarterfinal appearance he pulled back in 2013. Owen Wright's last two Brasil appearances, meanwhile, have resulted in back-to-back Quarterfinal appearances. And while Griffin Colapinto's fallen back to earth a bit since his Gold Coast breakout, the first beach break venue of the year is as good a place as any to gamble on his spontaneous combustion. We'll know early as he faces defending champion Adriano de Souza in Round One.
The Contrarian Play: While he's the current Jeep Leader, Wilson's track record here simply doesn't measure up to his Tier A counterparts. His 33% HWP puts him three off the bottom in Brasil.
Tier B (pick four)
Options: Adriano de Souza, Conner Coffin, Tomas Hermes, Patrick Gudauskas, Frederico Morais, Michael Rodrigues, Wade Carmichael, Jeremy Flores, Ezekiel Lau, Mikey Wright, Jordy Smith, Kolohe Andino, Joel Parkinson, Willian Cardoso, Matt Wilkinson, Kanoa Igarashi, John John Florence
Play it Safe: Historically, Adriano de Souza is the most dominant surfer on Tour at the Oi Rio Pro, his record includes two wins, three Finals appearances and a 71.05 HWP, the highest of the entire field. The gritty Brazilian veteran loves to get things done at home, as we saw during his impressive victory last year, where he topped Medina, Yago Dora, Joel Parkinson, Wiggolly Dantas and Ace Buchan. And while John John Florence isn't having his best year, Brasil is one of his better stops. Bouncy unpredictable beachbreaks tend to be his element, and you can bet he'll be glad to get back into it after his underwhelming performance at the Surf Ranch.
Roll the Dice: Jordy Smith isn't the first name that comes to mind when thinking of Brazilian beachbreaks, but the big man has proven his versatility here. His 59 HWP is among the top five of active competitors and he has won the event here. Meanwhile, there's a huge swath of guys in this tier who don't have track records here, but deserve serious attention: Mikey Wright, Tomas Hermes, Wade Carmichael and Willian Cardoso are ready to mix things up.
The Contrarian Play: Matt Wilkinson's career HWP is a lowly 36.36 in his seven Brazilian appearances, which puts him near the bottom of the pack, but lest we forget he's a new man. Wilko finished with a very respectable third place there last year. His free-flowing style is a great fit for the bouncy left, and while his results have been mixed early on this year, his coach Glenn "Micro" Hall has him looking sharper than ever.
Tier C (pick two)
Options: Sebastian Zietz, Jesse Mendes, Michael February, Connor O'Leary, Joan Duru, Keanu Asing, Yago Dora, Ian Gouveia, Miguel Pupo, Wiggolly Dantas, Alejo Muniz
Play it Safe: Yago Dora is the obvious go-to pick of this group after his breakout performance here last year. Surfing as a wildcard the young high-flyer blitzed his way to the Semifinals after eliminating John John Florence, Gabriel Medina and Mick Fanning. That said, the situation is a bit different this time around. Last year he was surfing with zero pressure, which isn't entirely the case this time. The expectations will be high.
Roll the Dice: Wiggolly Dantas, Sebastian Zietz and Ian Gouveia all share respectable 50% HWP rates in this event, and are as likely to break through as any. But rookie Jesse Mendes is with a good look, too, with the primary wave being a left.
The Contrarian Play: Miguel Pupo is surfing with renewed motivation and confidence back home. Meanwhile, Keanu Asing's lethal backhand attack earned him a victory in conditions very similar to those we saw last year at Saquerama.
Watch the Oi Rio Pro and Oi Rio Women's Pro live daily May 11-20 on WSL.com and Facebook.