It's gonna be a good week!
As previously stated, I think it’s wonderful that the women will finish their side of the OK Fiji Pro at pumping Cloudbreak. That said, I ain’t exactly upset that the guys are the ones scoring this year.
The forecast for the men’s event is strong. The first three days offer up well-overhead surf and, after a slight break, more waves look to be marching up the Aussie-NZed chute. If I were to guess, the comp will likely run up to the quarters during the first round of swell and finish with the secondary pulse.
Selecting a team for Cloudbreak is more science than sentiment. Experience pays dividends at a wave of this caliber, especially with swell on tap. So, here are my picks:
John John Florence: 11.75 mil
John fell out early in Brazil, which hurt my team but helped in a number of other ways. For one, it opened up the world title race. Two, it gave a Yago a chance to shine (and Yowza!). Three, he’s now three-quarters of a mil cheaper, which will help throughout the rest of season (if you hold onto him).
John’s never had a CT win in barreling reef-break conditions — a stat that is bound to change sometime in the near future. Talent-wise, the only people that can touch John at Cloudy are Kelly and Gab, but as we know, it takes a lot more than talent to win an event nowadays. He’ll have to fight through the Ace Buchans and Jadson Andres (two wildly capable tube riders) if he wants to earn the taste of Fijian victory (a double-skulldragger).
Gabriel Medina: 10 mil
In the past three years, Gab has been the world’s best Cloudbreak surfer. Aside from his two victories, he’s pushed the boundaries of progression in sizeable, shallow surf. His barrel-to-oop last year, a head-scratching 6.97, was something from a different era. A future era.
Budget-wise, I had to choose between Owen and Gab. While Owen has had an exceptional year to this point, and has a striking record in waves of this sort, my gut tells me to stick with GQ.
Kelly Slater: 7.5
With waves on the horizon, it’d be foolish to look past Slater. If there’s one thing in this world that can save him from faulty boards and a bad back, it’s pumping Cloudy. Kelly may not win the whole thing, but if he does, would you really want to be the idiot who sat him out? This is his event, in more ways than one.
Ace Buchan: 6.25 mil
It’s a shame Ace did so well in Brazil, not because I dislike the guy, but because that second-place finish upped his Fantasy price significantly. When Kai Otton was on Tour, every year I would pick both he and Ace at Cloudy and Chopes, and to memory, those purchases often paid dividends. Hopefully Ace will keep his foot on the accelerator, or rather, the front-third of that shimmering JS. The man’s got giddy-up.
Mick Fanning: 4.5 mil
I’m not sure what Mick’s real price is, as I’ve had him since Snapper and will hold onto him through Pipe, but at 4.5 mil he’s a steal out at Cloudy. Evidence suggests that left tubes may be a weakness in Mick’s game, but if you watched the 2016 event you know he’s more than capable of nabbing nines and tens when the conditions are right. Even when it’s smaller, well, let’s just say his backside snap is nothing to sneeze at.
Jeremy Flores: 4.25
Jer’s got all the passion in the world and his surfing has never looked so fine! If it’s on, and it looks like it will be, Jeremy is one of the best backhand tube riders in the world. He’s also not afraid of anyone on the CT, nor anything the ocean can throw at him. Do you remember the wave he almost made at Teahupo’o during the Code Red year? Jeebus.
Italo Ferreira: 4
I can’t tell you how happy I am to see The Italian Ferrari back on Tour. With a healed ankle and renewed sense of motivation (nobody wants to rely on the injury WC for requal’), I can’t see Italo falling out before Round five. Fiji is his favorite place in the world, and the kid is shockingly good in forehand tubes. Do you remember, in his rookie season, when Italo smashed Slater at eight-foot Cloudy? Kelly remembers.
Nat Young: 1.5 mil
It’s tough to pick between Nat and Yago here. My heart says Yago, but my mind looks to seeding (Nat is number 30, Yago, 35) and history (Nat is a former finalist, while I don’t believe Yago has surfed in Fiji before).
While I like Yago’s first round one heat against Jordy and Kanoa, the idea that he might be paddling out to his first session at sizeable Cloudbreak in a jersey is too risky for me. You can’t just show up to that wave and get two good waves in your first thirty minutes… I think.
Nat gets the nod.