As we all look to the opening days of the Oi Rio Pro, the field has changed somewhat with a few injuries and other surfers withdrawing, opening up opportunities for a crazy amount of local surfers.

Kelly is out, still suffering from his foot injury, the result of a nasty wipeout at Boneyards during last year’s all-time Corona Open JBay. He managed to surf at Lemoore, and even managed a slow jog after the event, but he remains out of Rio. Alongside him, Caio Ibelli is also out of the event for a similar injury – a broken foot – sustained at Main Break, Margarets last month. Together, Miggy Pupo and Wiggy Dantas will replace them.

Parko is also out of the event, citing personal reasons. It might be that he is over the pollution, over the poor waves of Rio, tired of competing, or a legitimate personal reason. Either way, Mikey Wright replaces him, so it’s evens on the Brazilian influx in this encounter.

Then it gets interesting.

The official wildcard lands at the feet of Alejo Muniz, and the local trials wildcard winner will obviously be from Brazil. In the women’s event there will also be a locals winner of their trials, making it all in an additional four Brazilian surfers in the mix.

In what mix, I hear you asking. This mix.

The Jeep Leaderboard shows a Brazilian tie first in Italo Ferreira standing alongside Julian. Italo is joined by three more in Gabby, Filipe and Adrian, all in the top ten going into the event.

Italo Ferreira will be looking to break the deadlock with Julian Wilson and be the sole owner of the yellow jersey. Photo: WSL/Poullenot

The powerful Tomas Hernes and underdog soldier Michael Rodrigues are both sitting in the top twenty, and Willian Cardosa, Jesse Mendes and Yago Dora join them. That makes 14 Brazilians in the men’s event.

In the Women’s there is evergreen Silvana Lima and the aforementioned trials winner, as well as recent Brazilian convert, Tatiana Weston-Webb.

Which makes for a total of 17 locals getting a start, or 32% of the contingent, which pans out to a whole lot of ground support.

Tatiana Weston-Webb has given her allegiance to Brazil. Photo: WSL/Dunbar

We’re always going to be looking at the trio of Medina, Toledo and De Souza to fly the flag, but these days it is so difficult to discount any of the other surfers. Sitting at number one, Italo is an amazing surfer who regularly surfs out of his skin on his forehand or backhand.

Personally I think Yago Dora is the surfer who is going to blow minds at this contest, due to his unpredictability and wild imagination when surfing. He is one of the few guys on tour who constantly attempts the most unusual punts, and his strike rate is high enough to ensure that you can’t walk away from the screen to grab a beer if he’s surfing, or walk off the beach if his heat is coming up.

Wiggolly is the lionheart of The Storm, fighting till the end no matter what, and his only mistake is that his default setting is to surf as hard as possible at all times. If he were to temper it down a bit he might get through a few more heats, but his performance dial is stuck on full revs and that’s all he knows, and for this very reason so many people love his surfing.

Miggy Pupo is another surfer who has gained so much popularity by just being himself and surfing through all the noise. More workhorse than aerial aficionado, he is currently 5th on the WQS rankings and at 27 years of age has a lifetime ahead of him on the Championship Tour.

It’s easy enough to predict a Brazilian winner, possibly a runner-up, and maybe a third Brazilian surfer in the top four.

The forecast shows small, fun waves for the first week of the competition, with a slight possibility of the swell lifting during the end period, but not lifting too much. This plays even more into the hands of beachbreak-wizened locals, and while we talk up the Brazilian Storm, I think it might just turn into a total shitstorm for all the other nations’ competitors.

Forecast here: