France Preview

Shea Lopez on who to pick for your Fantasy Surfer team

| posted on September 25, 2012

When the elements come together, France offers some of the best beachbreaks the world has to offer. Photo: Joli

Recently, I began, for the first time, to feel that pro surfing may be a lost cause that I’ve been foolishly attached to for too long. This past Sunday I shifted my attention to something I hadn’t followed closely in some time: the mother of all mainstream, prime-time sporting events—NFL football. Three hours later I found myself in the same emotional state as before. But the NFL taught me something about being a fan: regardless of the sport you chose to follow, glaring errors will be made, controversy will arise, and hardworking athletes will get the shaft.

And that is why I’m still here, albeit late, to bring you my Fantasy Surfer Preview for the Quik Pro France. Because even though it can be frustrating, I’ll always be the biggest fan of excellent surfing. What brings the largest smile to my face is the resurgence of Kelly Slater. He continues to re-write surfing history. Heck, he’s even re-writing human physiology. Our sport, as large as we perceive it to be, is relatively small. The World Tour audience makes up only a fraction of the world’s surfers, and most will never consider it a sport. But with Kelly as our ambassador, that perception starts to change and surfing seems as much a legitimate sport as any. That is the power of our 11-time world champ. And if he can effect the broader perception of surfing, imagine how that power affects his fellow competitors. Joel Parkinson, Mick Fanning, Taj Burrow—these are the most affected surfers, the ones who have been routinely victimized by the champ. The least affected are those too young to understand or necessarily care—surfers like John Florence, Gabriel Medina, and Owen Wright. Looking at the ratings, I see that recurring theme, and I see Kelly systematically eliminating his competition en route to a 12th world title.

When I picked my team for this event, I had dumpy shorepound in mind at Le Graviere, and I hope I’m right. My Fantasy Surfer team’s morale is at an all time low right now and could really use a boost.

Kelly Slater:
While Jordy was laying down the biggest turns ever seen at Lowers, shifting everyone’s focus away from Slater, Kelly was putting the finishing touches on a competitive masterpiece. You didn’t see that, did you? Not many people actually appreciate all that Kelly does or has become. But don’t worry, he can’t possibly still be winning titles at 50, can he?

Mick Fanning:
He draws from a tremendous personal strength achieved through a lifetime of steady improvements. I see him as Kelly’s main threat in the title race. Is Mick in first right now? I hardly noticed. His first two titles were very well deserved, but if he wants to pull off a third against an in form Kelly, something magical will have to happen for him as well.

John Florence:
In dumpy beacbreaks, kind of like the stretch of sand from just east of his house to just west of it, looks a lot like Brazil. In case you weren’t paying attention, he won there this year. It’s a lot to ask of young John, but to see him in a world title race with Kelly, and to have it come down to Pipeline would be the dream scenario for the surf world. A win here makes that a lot closer to reality.

Jordy Smith:
Emotionally, Jordy has been riding a very intense ride since Lowers. In my own experience, I remember feeling wronged after placing second in the final of a WQS at Durban one year. My next competition was the World Tour event at perfect J-Bay, where I arrived with the intent and focus I seldom could maintain at the time. I earned a 5th place finish against the world’s best and a perfect 10-point ride—the only one of my career. Being slighted so heavily recently, Jordy will come in with laser beam focus. His intent: to surf even better than he did at Lowers. Imagine if he pulled off his finishing moves on his rides at Lowers—rides that already contained more moves than Joel. Can we please lower the scale for average surfing now? Jordy’s degree of commitment is what sets him apart, and hopefully he commits to radical surfing the rest of the year. Jordy is much more aggresive and outspoken than his South African sensibilities allow for.

Gabriel Medina:
While we are on the subject of scale: Medina air after his heat against Michel Bourez was a proper 10-point ride. So was Kelly’s at Bells. That’s the standard to score a 10 or even close to it, because a lot of those 9s and high 8s are a far cry from what is truly possible when the guys connect. Medina’s heats are as fascinating as they are entertaining. When he surfs he is like a batter sniffing pitches, waiting for one he likes to hit it out of the park. His slugging percentage is way up there.

Pat Gudauskas:
I watched every wave Pat rode at Lowers, and the only mistake he made was which waves he chose in those heats—the actual surfing was top notch. By not riding the best waves though, he left the door open, which you can never do against competitors at this level. Even the smallest lapses will lead to defeat. Through the remainder of the year, we will see if Pat can take his talents and translate them into enough heat wins to requalify.

Dane Reynolds:
If the event flows smoothly—if Dane’s heats aren’t too early or postponed through too many lay-days—Dane will be dangerous once let loose at Le Graviere when it’s doing its thing. A Dane Reynolds vs. John Florence heat live will look a lot like a scene from Dear Suburbia, and will look similarly great on everyone’s computer screens. Surfing needs Dane to take the same path as Jordy at Lowers—to put the hammer down and show everyone where we thought the Tour was headed when Jordy and Dane first qualified.

I only have enough money left for the other wildcard, and I’m hoping for Joan Duru or Marc Lacomore to get a chance. Either are solid picks, and surfers solid enough to compete with the Top 34 at Le Graviere.

Click here to choose your Fantasy Surfer team for the Quik Pro France.

  • michael

    DANGER for the win!!

  • danilo

    Fuck! Jordy is an animal, what he did really was the best thing i ever seem at lowers! But i rather prefer pick my brazzos crew, guys like medina and adriano (and the rest of the crew) you may not underestimate them. I hope Adriano take it man, but Madina’s airlines show must prevail!!!

  • McCovey

    I’d also like to see Duru, but I don’t see him listed among the trialists on the Quik Pro France site. Patrick Beven is another surfer who has done some damage over the years at this event. And Ramzi Boukhiam has caught fire lately.

  • Kelly

    How were the essay’s in the last forum on the Hurley Pro judging?! Judging was pretty good guys, relax, and enjoy the surfing. Parko beat Jordy because he had speed, power, flow and finish. Jordy had power.
    I pick Jordy for this event too. Hope he can harness the anger.

  • Steve Wimer

    The real question is will the surf go off? I hope they get sunny weather and big bombs.

  • Danny

    Shea, I really appreciate your features. Just wasn’t sure about about the one about Lower’s judgment.

    I really did not though the judges did a good job. I agree in holding back in the airs and reward great “basic surfing” (power, flow, rail etc etc). The judges really went a little crazy last year with the airs. BUT, for me, they missed the mark one more time at the Lowers Pro. This time they rewarded too much “conventional surf”. That’s why Parko was having 9’s every heat for repetitive (albeit extremely well executed) surfing. If you check Parko’s best 10 waves of the Comp. they are basically the same.

    They were even rewarding wave and last maneuver. That’s not even early 2000’s that’s 80’s/90’s surfing competition.
    That’s the only explanation that I can think of for Jordy losing to Park and Julian victory against Jadson.

    I really hope this time they can find the equilibrium. Reward waves (hello! It’s not Pipe or Tahiti we are in beach creak now) and complete last maneuver (unless is a proper crazy maneuver obviously) shouldn’t have so much weight.

    Cheers and keep up the good work!

  • Tim Hahne

    I agree with Danny. Hetor’s arial was massive but to give the heat to him when Andino clearly out surfed him was a crime… Something wrong with the system. And Adriano clearly won his heat. All said I enjoyed the Lowers contest, some great surfing.

  • Bernard

    Don’t expect Duru to be doing good, if he’s not doing drugs he’ll be sucking dicks, that what he does best

  • Bushy

    Continue to put Pat G on this list, I suspect out of loyalty and blind hope. He may rip and be the nicest guy you ever met, but he doesn’t win heats at this level and he is exactly where he should be on the ratings.

  • Bushed

    Pat G only costs 3 million on Fantasy Surfer. He is on that list because he is the best option for 3 million dollars.

  • Dan

    What about Freddy P being added for just 1.5 M? How does he surf in beachbreaks? Is he worth adding at the back end to open up salary to also get a heavier hitter (someone like Taj, Adriano, Owen or Medina) on board?