Passion Picks: 2015 Billabong Pro Tahiti

round1-3action_tahitibillabongpro_brentbielmann0878Photo: Brent Bielmann

How are we supposed to top last year in Tahiti? Frankly, I don’t think it’s possible. That was the single most entertaining event in WSL history. When you’re at the edge of your desk for Bede Durbidge and Dion Atkinson’s heats, that’s special.

While the wave forecast might not be flawless this time around, you do have and a great time zone for watching every heat and throwing money down on your favorite surfers to make you rich. If you haven’t already signed up, you can now make instant deposits using credit cards and FantasyGrudge will match you up to $50. Think your team beats mine? Come at me bro!

Owen Wright
Being at the past two events, I’ve noticed taht this guy doesn’t freesurf — unless it’s slabbing barrels. I saw him paddle out a total of three times without a jersey in over three weeks combined between Fiji and J-Bay (and one of those wouldn’t event be considered a session). Yet he’s already spent two stints this year in Tahiti doing laps at Teahupo’o. Owen’s gotta be on this team.

Kelly Slater
He should’ve won the event last year but very uncharacteristically blew his best wave in the final against Gabby. With Fiji behind us, I think this is Kelly’s best shot at winning another event. Gone are the dreams of Slater going out on top with a World Title but wouldn’t it be fitting to at least watch him win here one more time?

John John Florence
Kinda starting to feel like a dream team, ain’t it? Then again the picks that feel like sure things have a strange way of backfiring. Let’s hope not, because the lack of John John due to his ankle injury has been shitty.

Gabriel Medina
Hard not to pick the guy when he’s so damn cheap and low on the rankings. Gabby’s performance last year was spectacular and annoying at the same time. It was 100% incredible surfing and ridiculously perfect wave selection that got him all the way through the contest without falling one time until the final — where he only fell once. It was amazing, but he just didn’t have the x-factor shown by John, Kelly, Owen, or even Kai Otton that makes it as exciting for us fans. Still, you will not see him off many of my teams because of his value on FantasyGrudge.

Ace Buchan
I love it when I have a chance to pick Ace because he’s so fun to root for. One of the nicest dudes on tour but this has nothing to do with that. I’m putting Ace on because he’s just that good in left barrels. Consistently blowing minds out here. And he won this event two years ago.

Michel Bourez
I had a conversation with him about that head-first dive from the lip when he tried to pack a tow-wave in Round 5 last year. To me it was the scariest fucking thing I’ve ever seen. To Michel, it was standard operating procedure, “Bro, I’ve done that a thousand times. I knew exactly what I was doing. That was nothing.” This is not a joke. He doesn’t get phased by anything out here. Even after getting hammered on the reef earlier this year.

CJ Hobgood
The monkey is finally off his back! There will be no Ricky Basnett/Raioni Montiero year for CJ. But if you talk to him about it, Round 1 doesn’t really count and he still hasn’t officially won a heat unless he beats someone man-on-man. Well if there’s a place to do it Ceej, we know this is it.

Bruno Santos
There’s no event on tour with a better record for Wildcards than Tahiti. Bruno has won this event before (2008) beating the other Wildcard (Manoa Drollett) in the final. Sure the waves sucked for the trials this year, but Bruno is no joke in anything this reef dishes out. Top seeds are going to be shitting themselves on this matchup. Plus, he’s nearly a midget and will make a 6-foot wave look like it’s 8-foot. “The tube riding version of Hiroto Ohharra” a friend just told me.

Injury News:
John Florence– Ankle braces haven’t seen to phase him in the past. He was surfing near 100% at Lowers over two weeks ago. Nothing to worry about here.

Jeremy Flores– I’ve been in Indo and had no communication with the real world so I don’t know how Jeremy’s feeling, but my guess would be good to go. He has a freaky connection with this place. Almost like Raimana’s tethering out a Wifi signal from his brain to Jeremy’s.

Jordy Smith– He’s officially out. As if you we’re gonna look at picking him here anyway. No chance.

Matt Banting– Talked with him at the SuperGirl Pro in Oside before US Open. His knee is pretty tweaked still, but was aiming to be back for Lowers.