Travis Ferre, Editor - "What Youth"
Winner, winner: Kelly Slater. Ever since he has (competitively) ruined every generation I grew up in, dominating every rank I’ve observed for almost three decades, I have vowed to never cheer against him again as long as he’s riding a surfboard in a jersey. No Florence, Reynolds, Medina, Burrow, Fanning, Parkinson concoction will stop me from getting my hopes up against the world’s best and greatest of all time. Kelly Slater forever.
The Final: Who will join him you ask? Chances are high that it’s a Brazilian. And that stokes me. It created a weird winner circle when Adriano and Nat were up there together, so much Rookie and so much awkward, but Kelly knows the routine and if I had to choose a Brazilian to join him on stage, I’d have to go with the one who I could count on to bring the beer, and I am of course talking about Willian Cardoso.
The Darkhorse You'll Ride to the Podium: Nat Young. I have a lot of reasons really, some more political than personal, but the bottom line is that Nat is one of the hardest working, nicest humans who rips on tour. He showed every element that makes for a really fun competitor to watch. Resilance. Style. Against all odds, he pulled out wins at a wave that would be a nightmare on a backhand. And regardless of whether one of the Hurley trunk models are marketed by him, I am all aboard the Nat Young train. And the fact that that smile has come so far since his brace faced early days, I realize there is nothing more satisfying than a slimy smile after fighting your way to a World Tourh winner’s circle. Let’s make it a double, Nat.
The Big Name to Stay Away From: Joel Parkinson. Smooth doesn’t pay the bills in Brazil. Simple as that. I think even Parko would agree here.
A Rookie Who'll Surprise: Glenn Hall. For my money, there is nothing more satisfying than his post-heat interview. And his lowe center of gravity and feisty attack he reminds me of my favorite surfer at the cliffs in Huntington Beach. I love watching him surf. It’s like homemade cornbread.
Veteran: Kai Otton: Plain and simple, the dude makes heats. And I think it would be a good cover story for the mainstream magazines to talk about his hipster upbringing that that has all of a sudden become overshadowed by his very corporate approach.
Lewis Samuels, Surf Journalist
Winner, winner: Matt Wilkinson. Sure, Wilko may not win the contest, but given that 90% of the guys on tour are either married or spoken for, Wilko is the only sure bet to win in Brazil. Women all over Rio will be brushing Wilko's back-hair off their sheets by contest's end.
The Final: De Souza vs. Medina. The judges would be wise to arrange this outcome if they want to leave Brazil alive.
The Darkhorse You'll Ride to the Podium: Miguel Pupo. Between the rise of Filipe Toledo and swagger of Gabriel Medina, Smooth-move Poops has almost been forgotten. Expect him to thrive with the pressure off.
The Big Name to Stay Away From: Kelly Slater. Unless he finds a grudge-match to stir his competitive spirit, Slater may drift through heats in an existential funk, pondering how 25 years of ASP progress led him to stagnant windslop in Brazil.
A Rook and a Vet Who'll Surprise: Glenn Hall and Kieren Perrow. Watch their first round heats against the likes of Slater and Julian Wilson - you'll be downright shocked that Glenn ever made the tour, and completely baffled as to how Kieren Perrow is still on it.
Chris Binns, Editor - "Surfing Life"
Winner, winner: What the hell, Jordy Smith, why not? The man was superb at Bells and if you can come up with another word for mojo, Jordy has well and truly found it in 2013. Huge turns, a conjurer’s bag of tricks and a touch of showman are all you need to manufacture magic, and Jordy could well be sawing the opposition in half come competition’s end.
The Final: Yadin Nicol, Josh Kerr, Jack Freestone. One of the flyboys we’ve waited so long for is gonna streak to the sharp end, and the world will be a better place for it.
The Darkhorse You'll Ride to the Podium: Bede Durbidge has won here before, and after admitting he got too tense in ’12 he’s more relaxed than ever and determined to put his name firmly back into Top Five conversation.
The Big Name To Stay Away From: Would it be silly to say Kelly “Sore Back” Slater? Yes, it would be, after he paddled big Shipstern Bluff two weeks ago. If the big three is Kelly, Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson, it’s silly to say any of them. Gabriel Medina hurt his foot at Bells, and given it would take an injury to keep him from the finals in Rio, he gets the nod.
A Rookie: Filipe Toledo showed sublime skills in the not-so-suited soup at Bells last month. He’s nimble as hell, supreme above the lip, and has shown he’s not going to be overawed by playing on the mainstage. Got him in your Fantasy Team? At rookie dollars you’d be a fool not to invest.
A Vet Who'll Surprise: Raoni Monteiro showed the world he has the heart of a lion in taking out the reigning world champ at Bells, but he’ll be hurt he didn’t go deeper into the draw after surfing the heat of his life. Look for the lion to roar on home soil
Chas Smith, Writer/Filmmaker
Winner, winner: The smart money says Adriano de Souza. Currently sitting fourth place in the World Championship Tour rankings, fresh off a win at Bells and coming to the homeland he loves. But I am a gambler and smart money bores so I say the winner will be a large man from South Africa. It will be Michael Jordan Smith.
The final: The beach packed with rabid Brazilians, Filipe “Holy” Toledo will trot to waters’ edge to resounding cheers. He will have surprised, even beating countrymen Adriano and Wil-i-an along the way and the rabid Brazilians will want him to make history. Jordy will follow to jeers and will crush a nation. Final score? Filipe 17.76. Jordy 18.42.
The Darkhorse You’ll Ride To The Podium: CJ Hobgood. He is surfing so fine. He may even be my favorite surfer and he just put on a show in Brazil from Globe’s new film Strange Rumblings that the world will see this summer. The world just might see him shock all comers this spring in the ASP’s new film The Man Without a Sponsor.
The Big Name to Stay Away From: Joel Parkinson. He has won and he is done.
A Rookie Who Will Surprise: Nat Young. He is the goofiest foot but he made second place at Bells and the Surf Gods may want to see him make first place in South America.
Derek Rielly, Editor - "STAB Mag"
Winner: Gabriel Medina. I've been fascinated by Gabriel for approximately three years and finally I've succumbed to the fever. The range of expression in his surfing, the extra sauce thrown on the coping on his backhand, those flashbulb airs (pop!) on any lefts as well as discipline of surfing for Brazil will torpedo anyone who threatens his run to the win.
The Final: Jordy Smith vs Gabriel Medina. Didn't we just throw the injured Jordy (organic brain damage) aside like an old handbag when John John elevated himself onto the tour. But he's back, and don't Jordy just make a surfboard howl and move. His realism cuts through and, perversely, that great love you can smell on him, instead of distracting, appears to aid his focus. Books, strange worlds and weird sex are a lifetime ago for Jordy.
The Darkhorse You'll Ride to the Podium: Kolohe Andino. Something about this kid, something about his sudden dirtiness appeals greatly. When Kolohe first swung his suitcase into the tour's overhead locker, he was eggshell-white silk and satin and appeared virginal. Now he's a van-living, flannel wrapped hag with creases in his pants.
The Big Name to Stay Away From: Kelly Slater. Kelly puts oil on his body and takes bubble baths to keep it soft and in good shape. But Brazil, for reasons unclear to me, clutters Kelly's mind with negative thoughts and bad news. Brazil is a circus picture for Kelly and he'd rather stand outside the cages of the big lions.
A Rookie Who Will Surprise: Felipe Toledo. Felipe can't way to be on the stage – in the warm glow of the lights. He'll hear the applause and he'll know it's just for him and know the crowd really likes him and there'll be nowhere he'd he'd rather be.
A Vet Who Wil Surprise: CJ Hobgood. Fourteen-year tour vet Clifton Hobgood is always putting fresh things into his act to keep up his own interest. Clifton is a great star, so good they should make him use a separate entrance.