Article

Bells Beach Picks

Shea Lopez on who to put on your Fantasy Surfer Team

| posted on April 14, 2014
Jordy Smith, putting his power on display at Bells. Photo: Joli

Jordy Smith, putting his power on display at Bells. Photo: Joli

Much to the chagrin of the ASP, this year’s event windows have yet to sync up with any truly great swells. Instead, Mother Nature provided classic surf on the Gold Coast just after the event ended, and it looks like the same will happen shortly in West Oz. But at some point, their luck is bound to change. In fact, if you look at the forecast for Bells, all signs point to an epic Easter swell. This timing coincides perfectly with the Rip Curl Pro window, potentially setting up a climatic finish on Easter Sunday. For the Top 34, Easter blessings will be plentiful as some of the holiest water in surfing awaits them at the Bells Bowl. Although the Bowl offers only minor barrels, the speed and transition of that section will allow competitors to display some of the finest rail work of the year. Bourez, Jordy, Slater, Parko, and Fanning will be clear favorites if this terrific swell forecast holds true.

My Fantasy Surfer team for the Rip Curl Pro is almost identical to my team from Margaret River, because the same on-rail surfing is most likely to prevail again at Bells.

Bede Durbidge:
Market Price: $5,750,000
Bede was terrific in West Oz when it came to heat strategy, wave riding, and taking down opponent after opponent. After struggling with back pain, Bede has clearly returned to form and you can expect more of the same from Bede at Bells—overpowering and outthinking his opponents, especially in conditions that play to his strengths.

Matt Wilkinson:
Market Price: $3,750,000
Wilko has been quiet, too quiet. With plenty of talent, Wilko appears to be in a sort of adjustment period with a new approach to competition. If he finds his rhythm and routinely loads up that big backhand blast—the one that is arguably the most impressive backhand turn from a goofyfooter on Tour—he will win heats at Bells. Years ago, Damien Hardman and Barton Lynch were surgical in their procedure at Bells. They were feared in heats there, and more often than not they dismantled their opponents with committed backhand surfing that suits Bells well. Wilko would be doing himself a favor to go have a talk with either of those two masters.

Dion Atkinson:
Market Price: $3,000,000
Dion was never a standout on the WQS. In fact, it took him years of battling in subpar conditions to make the Top 34. But what I find interesting is that when placed in good conditions alongside the Top 34, Dion is clearly one of the best in the bunch.

Owen Wright:
Market Price: $3,500,000
Owen can win Bells. But I’m assuming that he’s still capable of matching the perfect form and mental game he displayed while defeating Kelly Slater a few years back. Would the real Owen Wright step up and make some heats already?

John Florence:
Market Price: $6,500,000
John John…man oh man oh man. Twice now he has been dealt the hand of defeat in the early rounds. It’s a safe bet that John John will be out for blood when he enters the water for his next heat.

Michel Bourez:
Market Price: $8,250,000
Bourez won in West Oz because the physics of the Margaret’s line up were very much in his favor. The power at his disposal in waves like that was enough to garner a 9.37 in the semifinal and put Slater’s back against the wall—that’s no easy task. Sticking to the same formula, Bourez is primed to turn the lights out for many competitors next week.

Jordy Smith:
Market Price: $10,000,000
It was disappointing to see Jordy lose to Bede in good surf at Margaret’s. In an obvious oversight, Jordy surfed too far from the pocket and never committed to punctuating individual turns. Lesson learned. Moving forward to Bells, Jordy simply needs to surf like Jordy to succeed at the Bowl.

Kelly Slater:
Market Price: $12,250,000
Kelly has been putting on very well-rounded performances this year. Blending a consistent mix of both powerful and light-footed surfing, Kelly has been able to match the flamboyant youth on Tour, most of the time. But every once in awhile, even Kelly finds himself in seemingly unwinnable heats. This year Kelly’s blood was surely boiling as he watched Adriano performed flawlessly on his waves in their quarterfinal, while Kelly made agonizing mental mistakes on his own waves. And at Margaret’s, we witnessed Bourez dispatch Kelly by laying down turns with unmatchable power. At this point, Kelly is overdue for a stellar result.

The waiting period starts tomorrow for the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, so click here to get your Fantasy Surfer team ready.

  • tron

    nah, medina!

  • Mik

    The wind and the chop on the face were annihilated by Bourez at Marg. Amazing power and precision. Big statement for Firewire, too, because his boards not only handle the most aggressive rail work, but also turn on the proverbial dime, anywhere on the wave face. Still, Kelly surfed on the next level, and his heat with Parko was only close because the judges threw JP extra points.

    I’m not in anyway saying that Joel isn’t an amazing surfer, but I don’t think anyone on tour could have put together that power lip bash to stall for barrel, to doggie-door exit floater that Kelly lit up… Which should have been a 9.5, if not a 10, just because it was so crazily creative and instinctual.

    Bells will be interesting. Taj may redeem himself, because he was amazingly radical at MR and like many, he lost mainly due to the ocean’s fickle ways. And in that light, I would much rather have seen Indo be the second stop, cause MR is kind of a sketchy wave by comparison to what Indo offers in many many places.

    • Francis

      I could not agree more with your assessment of Slater’s stall to exit lip bash and I was blown away it the relatively low score he received for that. It looks more and more like the ASP wants to force a retirement on the greatest (still) surfer of all time. Surf contest judging is looking shadily similar to boxing judging. Could it be the betters are having a hand in the outcome?

      • Devan

        Why would the ASP want to force the retirement of, by far, the most popular and iconic figure of the sport? It’s all about the money and Kelly brings it in.

  • CMG

    Sorry, but you will regret for not choosing Gabriel Medina. You will have a surprise.

  • whamo

    I’d like to see Bells get big again, like the year Simon Anderson introduced the Thruster. How come they don’t hold contests at Burleigh Heads anymore?

  • superjuanito

    Michael Bourez is very good but he lost the semis, the problem is that ASP Mafia thinks they can do this and nobody is going to notice it, but just check ASP page on Facebook, 95% of the comments says Bourez lost the Semis and people are getting piss with this ASP cheating ways…….they did it last year with Mick Fanning too……….will be a moment that the people will rebel so bad against this, I don’t even want to imagine the scandal……

    • Ben

      I don’t think the ASP is cheating. The problem is the judging criteria and scoring scale itself. Surfing has changed completely. The judging/criteria/scale should reflect that. Unfortunately it does not.

      The only way to fix this reoccurring problem is to completely scrap the current judging scale and devise a completely new way of scoring waves. The end of this year the entire top 34 surfers and ASP should get together and brainstorm to find a better more relavent way to score waves on the ASP World Tour

      • superjuanito

        I would love to think that, but I can’t……I saw it in the comments of the people that are narrating the heat, is like they told them, ok Mick Fanning have to pass, inflate the comments and we inflate the points……ASP do that…….

  • Otaviano Taiu Bueno

    well, for a nonbrazilians choice is pretty good! But I supose that Adriano and Gabe are not joking this time!

  • mark bledsoe

    kelly appears to be swimming against the current this season so far…but he obviously still has the chops to turn that around..will be interesting to see how that goes…a much bigger concern for me,an american surf fan,is the number of u.s. surfers on tour…seems to me our best younger surfers are more interested in the freesurf/start-a
    -garage band sort of thing…and those that are determined to slug it out on the q.s. find themselves up against much more battle-tested aussie and brazillian surfers…and just don’t measure up…i hope this changes soon,as we are maybe two years from having only two surfers on tour…nat and kolohe…c’mon now,does gary elkerton have to step up and call us ‘softc#@ks’ again??

    • Hugo

      of course more Aussie and brazilians are on tour, most of the QS stops in the US have been eliminated. While there a lot of QS contests in Brazil, and Australia. Favoring local surfers, the ASP is just screwing up US surfers by making it much harder for them to qualify. The ASP bashed the lowers pro, which was the last remaining contest in california, its no wonder why American surfers rather free surf than join the lackadasical ASP and their crap judging. We have talent the coffin brothers, dane reynolds, the gudausakas brothers, kanoa igarashi, cam richards, the geiselman brothers, Gorkin, etc… there are a bunch of guys in the US which display loads of talent but the system favors Aussies and Brazilians over them. There should be QS contests at Steamer Lane, Pleasure Point, Rincon etc…, but they won’t don’t because the ASP is run by Aussies who favor their own.

    • Hugo

      We are two years away from having only two americans on tour because the ASP is biased toward aussies and brazilians. Thats where the bulk of QS competitions are, its easier for them to qualify. All the QS that used to be in the US are gone, this means there are less opportunities for our guys to qualify surfing places like Lowers (the Lowers pro was eliminated from the QS). Our guys just get tired of the QS and decide to free surf. I mean we have enough talent, the gudauskas brothers, the geiselman bros, kanoa igarashi, cam richards, andrew doheny, dane reynolds, bobby martinez, gorkin, rob kelly, the thompson bros, michael dunphy, the coffin brothers, luke davis, taylor clark, pat curren. The talent is there i think the system is the problem.

  • Bill Davis

    Slater won the heat. I watched it again today. If Bourez gets points for falling(and it was a fall) then Slater should have gotten points for his falls which were great waves scored too low. From an unbiased standpoint, I find it hard to take the ASP serious anymore. No matter how you slice it the wave was over scored.

  • aspwedge.com

    “Wilko appears to be in a sort of adjustment period with a new approach to competition.” Wilko’s new approach to competition is to approach it as competition

    Can’t wait to see what Dion can do once we hit the Pacific leg.

  • Gus Hansen

    Adriano can do it, you know. Meling, Bede and Seabass will make good heats. Bourez is on fire. Raoni will finally perform well, remembering last year. The best goofies: Medina and Pupo with his wide carves. Alternate is Dion. Yes, I’m brasileiro and my guys will claim all the way!

  • Hugo

    There will be few americans on tour because the ASP is biased toward aussies and brazilians. Thats where the bulk of QS competitions are, its easier for them to qualify. All the QS that used to be in the US are gone, this means there are less opportunities for our guys to qualify surfing places like Lowers (the Lowers pro was eliminated from the QS). Our guys just get tired of the QS and decide to free surf. I mean we have enough talent, the gudauskas brothers, the geiselman bros, kanoa igarashi, cam richards, andrew doheny, dane reynolds, bobby martinez, gorkin, rob kelly, the thompson bros, michael dunphy, the coffin brothers, luke davis, taylor clark, pat curren. The talent is there i think the system is the problem.

  • frothdog

    margs was a real let down, in terms of the wave, there are so many better venues for a CT contest world wide. the biggest let down ..again.. was the judging, there is something really wrong with the system, when everyone watching recognizes the bias but nothing is done about it. If you know surfing it is really frustrating and reduces the enjoyment of the contests immensely.

  • Gino

    For those of you whining about Slater getting not getting help from the judges this time are kidding themselves. Slater has been getting help from the judges for years. Remember when the judges gave the 9.5 at J-Bay against Andy years ago? He fell on his last turn on that wave.

  • notionless

    generally speaking in terms of strategy; is it better to have a more rounded team (utilize almost all the team slots for a full variety of valued players) or grab only a few expensive players?