Shea Lopez on who to pick for your Fantasy Surfer team
Hells Bells is coming. Snapper didn’t deliver, but we can already see the Indian Ocean storm charts are predicted to brew up a one-two punch of solid swell for the Victorian coast during the waiting period. For the second year in a row, it looks like Bells will be the highlight of the Australian World Tour leg.
When Bells is in classic form on those special contest mornings, no environment is more charged. You can feel it just walking down those very famous steps, parting the always intoxicated and frenzied crowd, then finally jumping into the pounding shorebreak as AC/DC’s famed anthem blares over the event sound system. As a rookie, that was enough to leave me weak in the knees, guaranteed to blow my first wave of the heat. But I wasn’t surfing anywhere near the caliber of the two rookies I have on my Fantasy Surfer team for Bells: John Florence and Kolohe Andino. John is molten hot after winning at Margaret River and destroying Kolohe with a near perfect 19.70 out of 20 heat total (an obvious choice here). Kolohe, on the other hand, hasn’t had the best go in heats or with critics (everyone’s a critic) since Snapper. If Kolohe wants to get anywhere near the top of the ratings this year, Bells has to be a great result for him. Because, like everyone says, Tahiti, Fiji, and Pipe are not his ideal venues—Bells is.
My next four Fantasy Surfer picks are all very well-rounded surfers and all regularfoots. The only goofyfooter that would be a sure pick for me would be Occy, but sadly, we will not have the pleasure of watching him at Bells as we did at Margaret’s last week (where he finished third). Similar in size and power to Occy, but also capable of matching anyone trick-for-trick, is Jordy Smith. I remember watching AI grow from despising Bells and surfing sub-par there to focusing, learning, and destroying people once his talent could be properly channeled in the many different faces of Bells. Jordy will have a heat or two, and possibly even an entire event that will stand the test of time at Bells. The other three picks for my team are Julian Wilson, Brett Simpson, and Mick Fanning, as they are all more than capable of putting up Slater-stopper levels of performance—Slater still sets the pace everywhere with real waves. It’s a bummer that I couldn’t work his hefty 12 million dollar price tag into my Fantasy Surfer budget. Taj and his $12.5 million price tag was too high for me as well.
Finally, I saved my last two spots for specialty location surfers Taylor Knox and Adam Melling. These guys are incapable of doing a proper air, but the rest of the world is incapable of surfing as powerful, precise, and on-a-rail as them. When the Bells bowl turns on, there is no canvas in surfing better suited to huge, arcing carves that expose a surfer’s weakness, literally.