Bula! Fiji is possibly one of the best additions to the women's Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour. I'm so happy to see this event back on the schedule. I remember going to the Fiji contest as a wildcard trialist in 2004 and 2006, and there is a mixture of excitement and nervousness that hangs around the camps of Namotu and Tavarua.
The swells that hit the Fijian Islands are intimidating and every break is a wave of consequence. Add to that the fact that you need to compete at the highest level and set aside all hesitation. Hands down, this event will deliver some of the year's most exciting performances from the ladies.
Tier A: Tyler Wright (AUS)
This is a toss-up between Courtney Conlogue (USA) and Tyler. Courtney sat this event out last year due to injury, and while I think this wave is where she will excel, my pick has to be Tyler. Last year during a freesurf at maxed-out Cloudbreak, she was the only woman to paddle out and pull in on a couple of beefy nugs. The same day Anthony Walsh and Laird Hamilton shared a wave that had room for both guys, a SUP and a GoPro.
Tier B: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
Last year, Sally won this event. Malia made the Semis after almost breaking her hand in Round 3, surfing each heat afterward with more confidence and precision, all in the same day. Tatiana, meanwhile, was the injury replacement for Conlogue, and turned heads with her unbelievable competence and comfort at this wave. Plus, she won the GoPro challenge.
Given this toss-up for Tier B, I have to go with Sally. She's been a consistent point-earner this season and I know she is already in Fiji getting barreled.
Tier C: Laura Enever (AUS)
Laura, easy. After being eliminated at Snapper, she headed to Tavarua to chase a swell at Cloudbreak. There's that compelling footage of her charging at P-Pass and the fact that she needs a good result solidify her in Tier C. Laura will need to see this event as a good opportunity for her to climb the rankings and get barreled on her backhand.
Tier A: Carissa Moore (HAW)
I think Carissa will make the Quarterfinals, Semis or Final in Fiji. But I think Courtney and Tyler will really enjoy this event and put up some big scores. With big heat totals come higher points for your Fantasy team, so the standout performers will be more rewarding to start on your roster.
Tier B: Lakey Peterson (USA)
Another tough choice. I'm going to sit Lakey. She had a shocker at last year's event -- she couldn't find a wave and ended up losing in Round 2. I think she will do better this year, but with Malia and Tatiana also in Tier B I'm going to have to sit Lakey.
Tier C: Nikki Van Dijk (AUS)
This is a really hard sit because I think Nikki needs a result and she deserves to have a breakthrough. Her surfing and mental approach are all on point, but the opportunities have been a bit slim for her to capitalize. Yet while she's due a big result, I'm just not sure if Fiji will be the event. Then again, I hope I am wrong and she walks away with redemption for last year out at Cloudbreak.
Dark Horse: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF)
Sometimes you have to go with your intuition and put someone on your team who you feel in your heart can perform and smash through rounds. I'm feeling Bianca's vibe after Rio (where she finished Runner-Up) and I think she'll have a smile on her face every time she paddles out in the warm, Fijian water.
Rosy Hodge (ZAF) competed on the World Surf League (WSL) Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour (CT) from 2007-2010, before joining the WSL broadcast team. She weighs in on who she thinks should round out your Women's Fantasy Surfing lineup ahead of each CT event.