- WSL / Kirstin scholtz

Okay, as your humble analytical servant my goal here is to provide any insight I may have on who I think has an advantage in these particular waters. Who's in form, who's got that magic board, who is everyone talking about, and who is focused. In fact, these are my fantasy picks so you are basically looking at my hand here. No secrets, no poker face, I'm an open book and I'll be honest, it's a little bit like standing on a stage naked.

Wasilewski and Hodge Make Their Picks
Strider Wasilewski and Rosy Hodge share insights and preview picks for the first event of the season.

To be honest, I tend to make picks based on who I think "rips" at each particular venue. But something I've learned the hard way is sometimes the guys that rip get beat by those who compete smarter, or have an easier road to the finals. So when doing you're homework for your team be sure to look at my picks, then compare them with the WSL's number crunchers. Fact is this game is beautifully unpredictable. With the smaller swell forecast on the horizon and the idea of D'bah being a solid possibility, you'll need to think about the young guns who love to punt, fly and whip. Lets get this year started!

My picks...

Tier A

Filipe Toledo

Filipe Toledo
Filipe Toledo, the 2015 Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast champ.

Not much explanation needed here. Last year's Quik Pro champ and this year's favorite, Filipe will be really, really tough to beat. I'm thinking this year will be less about those barrels we've been witnessing the last couple of weeks and more about, well, all the things that Filipe loves to do in head high surf. He should own this event.

Italo Ferreira

Italo Ferreira
2015 Rookie of the Year, Italo Ferreira, eliminated Kelly Slater in Round 3 at last year's Gold Coast event.

I realize the risk leaving a Mick Fanning or Julian Wilson off the roster, but for the same reasons mentioned above with Filipe, I think Italo will have a big advantage with all the spring he has in his surfing. Based on the forecast, D'bah or "rippable" Snapper is whats on offer. Italo is fast, powerful and perfect under pressure making for a good time for his first CT win.

Tier B

Kelly Slater

Kelly Slater riding his wizard sleeve Kelly Slater has won the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast four times. - WSL / Kirstin

To be honest, picking Kelly is a little bit of a risk here. Obviously if the forecast was meant to be conducive with perfect tube riding then Kelly would be first on my list. But it's looking like a good forecast for the young guys who are comfortable doing big airs on every wave. Kelly will still compete smart and strong and with that I can't leave him off my list. I just hope he shakes off his jet lag cause he just got in today.

John John Florence

John John Florence of Hawaii surfs during Round 1 of the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast in Australia on Saturday February 28, 2015. Florence is a bit of gamble, the first competition jitters got the best of him in Round 3 at the 2015 Gold Coast event where he went down to Matt Wilkinson. - WSL / Simon Williams

Another easy pick despite his lackluster record at this venue. He's focused, motivated and healthy. His repertoire is deep, allowing him to lead the charge if we should move around the corner to the wedge factory that is D'bah. He's also added a little foam to his boards this year which should help with the smallish waves this week. If JJ can keep his brain switched on in the moment, keeping tabs on his competitors, he's a lock for a 3rd or better.

Nat Young

Nat Young (USA) impressing the crowd during Round 1 of the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. Despite a strong finish last season, the goofyfooter also didn't make it out of Round 3 last year. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

With the same theory as my choice in Kelly, I like adding Nat to my roster as to make sure I'm not just loading with young air guys. Nat is smart, strong and steady. It's like adding a little insurance plan to your fantasy game as he will produce stressless points for your team. Just as predictable as his back hand attack is the fact that he will be totally invested in his heat.

Jordy Smith

Jordy Smith showing some spray in Round 2. After missing most of 2015, and getting back into surf shape in Hawaii, Jordy Smith has arrived in Australia refreshed and ready for a solid 2016 campaign. - WSL / Kirstin Scholtz

The big cat seems like he's ready to tear it up in 2016. Rested, heathy and clear headed, Jordy is poised to reach that potential everyone pegged him to have all those years ago. Technically speaking, I like his approach for small Snapper or D'bah. For a big guy he's got a consistent air game and can switch gears to his power is a layback section comes his way. If the comp moves to D'bah we will be one of the favorites to win.

Tier C

Davey Cathels

Stuart Kennedy Stu Kennedy has been gifted the opportunity to compete at this year's event. Don't expect him to waste it. - WSL / Bennett

Tier C is where you really make or break with points over everyone else. I have a hard time not picking guys in this tier based on match ups in round one. Meaning, simply picking surfers based on how they surf versus their match up in Round 1. Last year this killed me. Having two of your picks in one heat AKA friendly fire, is tough to look past. That being said, with DC poised to make some noise in his debut (friendly fire free) and with the fundamentals needed for the forecast, I like this pick. I'll admit he's a bit of a passion pick as I'm a fan of his style and approach on a wave.

Kolohe Andino

Kolohe Andino
Andino knows how to push progression, he might be a solid performer for Tier C.

Although Kolohe is fresh off an injury, there's reports of him ripping the past couple of days at Snapper, so it looks like he's ready to go. Tier C is also a place where I like to pick surfers with a slightly higher seed so that if they do go down in round one at least they will most likely avoid the Top 5 in Round 2. Brother has the goods in the waves forecasted ahead. He will no doubt be quick and springy, making him a solid pick for a tier that frankly is surprising he's even in.

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