Ross Williams starred in Taylor Steele's Momentum Series and became a professional surfer in 1990. He spent 10 years on the WCT, four ranked in the Top 16.
The surf in Barra Da Tijuca is tricky. It's actually a powerful wave with tubes and ramps galore. I'm looking for surfers with cat-like reflexes who can respond to tight barrels and big air sections on a dime. Another thing to take note of, the ASP Fantasy Surfing site is constantly updating its percentages! This gives you great insight into how many people are picking who, allowing you to strategize accordingly for the Billabong Rio Pro. Play well, my surf nerds! Or should I say choose well?
When picking your team for Rio make sure you have the conditions in mind. It would be a mistake to simply chalk up this beachbreak as a small-wave wizard's paradise. It's actually a pretty hollow wave that offers plenty of power, making Rio a good location for all-sized surfers. Think of the guys who are good in the barrel and take full advantage of big ramps. This is where I insert Gabriel's name. Coming in to Rio with all the momentum of being the ratings' leader, Medina should be full of his normal machismo that will help him stomp clutch airs to the delight of the energized home crowd. I like Kelly, Kerr and Adriano too, but I think Gabriel is the most dangerous. He's already won an event and I really don't think he's even come close to maxing out on his potential yet in 2014. Start 'em.
Being that you have four spots to fill Group B, it makes it worthwhile to entertain names like Filipe Toledo and John John, but if you want a steady choice that will make fewer mistakes and even capitalize on their opponent's mistakes, then you'd be wise to put JW on your team. Julian won in Portugal (against Gabriel) just a couple years ago, and the waves in Rio have some similarities that adhere to his strengths. Despite a sluggish start on tour this year, Julian has produced some of the most exciting surfing in 2014. The A-frame peaks in Rio will be just the canvas JW needs to get his first win this year. Jordy Smith should be on your list, too, as he will be a good candidate to defend his title but I like the fire Julian has to get that W. Start 'em.
Jadson is the top pick in my opinion for Group C. At the time of writing this I can see that most of you are favoring Jeremy and Wilko. Jadson will be boosting all over the shop in Rio. He's got a very high percentage rate of making his airs, which makes him an easy pick for the punchy beachbreaks of Brazil. Jadson made a few heats early in the year but cooled off at Bells. I look for him to be well aware of the fact that Rio is a venue where he can beat anyone. That confidence should carry him to a solid result. Start 'em.
Excuse me? Did you say Kelly Slater? Before you get all fired up, let me explain my semi-risky plan for you. Last event I told you to try and be a little creative so that you don't share the same picks as everyone and make a major move when your picks do well. At present time, a whopping 66 percent of you have Kelly on your team! Major jet lag and thoughts of Fiji will have Kelly's focus clouded. All of the Brazilian WCTers will be reveling in their home field bosom. Get a leg up on your competition and put Gabriel and Adriano on your team instead. Come Fiji time everyone will have Kelly on his or her team, including me. Sit 'em.
Same principle here. Maybe not as crazy as sitting Kelly Slater, but at present time 30 percent of you have Owen on your team, which to me is a little surprising being that you have Nat at six percent, Pupo at eight percent and Seabass at one percent! I understand the high percentage rates of Jordy, Julian and John John, but to me Owen is not quite in the same boat as these cats. His backhand looked good at Bells but what concerns me is the size of Owens boards. He's a big kid but the volume on his shortboards is massive, which could hinder him in the quick A-frames in Rio. Owen is a savvy competitor with a smooth technique but he's not the fastest surfer on tour. Quickness is key in Brazil. Sit 'em.
At present time 12 percent of you have Dion on your team. Here's the thing about Dion: He's smooth and powerful but I think he needs an open face to really utilize this technique. With the super tight transitions in Rio, I'm thinking this will work against him. Now, Dion has had a knack for surprising people with his talent this year so don't hold it against me if he shows up and destroys, but I think it's more likely you'll see guys popping big airs past him. Sit 'em.
It's not as if Seabass hasn't proven himself. In 2013 he was right in the thick of things for Rookie of the Year, bagging three ninth places and three fifth places in route to 16th over all. My theory is that there's an easy fix to Sebastian's lackluster results. Seabass has a tendency to go on any little wave that comes his way. Everyone rips at this level, so when you are on waves noticeably smaller, you will definitely get lower scores. That being said, Seabass has the type of surfing that really suits the punchy, tight transitions in Rio, but more importantly the abundance of waves in the beach break setup may help dilute this problem area for him. He can keep his fidgety tendency and actually use it to his advantage. With his awesome tube skills and respectable air game, don't be surprised to see him go deep in this event.
Select your ASP Fantasy Surfing Team for the Billabong Rio Pro.