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Shea Lopez on who to pick for your Fantasy Surfer team

| posted on September 30, 2011

Julian Wilson is looking more focused and well-rounded at every event. It's been a quick transition from prodigal grom to World Title contender for the young Australian. Photo: Joli

And the party don’t stop ‘til six in the morning…

Unless you are rampaging around the south of France, in which case the party may just go on for days and days. All the while, centered in close proximity to the main contest site at La Graviere, you have Dick’s and Rock Food—two of the more disarming venues for pro surfers to party at. History is rife with prime examples of overindulgence and debauchery at these fine establishments. Hopefully all the WT surfers can hold off on the festivities for a few days, as we have a nice swell forecasted for the start of Hossegor in what looks to be yet another quickly run event. Early reports have claimed the swell and sandbars to be firing for weeks. Last year’s event was one of the best of the year, and with any luck—the ASP has been riding quite a wave of luck lately—this year will see the same stretch of sand deliver all the excitement and perfection we’ve been accustomed to as of late.

I made a few minor adjustments to my Fantasy Surfer team to allow room for John Florence and Brett Simpson. Besides those adjustments, I’m sticking to my prized ponies that have been performing exceptionally. The one guy I wish I had budget for is Mick Fanning. As a grom, I remember him being the fastest, most explosive surfer in the world. As a pro, he’s been a deadly sniper and two-time World Champ. In this latest phase (the Slater re-invent yourself phase, recently debuted at lowers) the best from him may still be to come as he combines youthful flair with the mature competitor he has become.

Whoever you choose for your FS team, remember this: As the season comes to a close, it may be time to take some risks and switch up your team if you hope to make any major climbs in the rankings. Heitor Alves’ recent 3rd and 5th place finishes did wonders for the few who had him on their team, just ask Kelly’s girlfriend, Kalani Miller. She rode the strength of Heitor’s big results all the way to 2nd overall on FS.

Here’s my Fantasy Surfer team:

Brett Simpson
I’ve had Parko on My FS team all year—and so has everyone else. He’s the most owned surfer. The switch to Simpson was a direct result of watching their last two heats in NY and Lowers. Simpson held nothing back, while Parko was surfing the same as the previous 10 or so contests he’s been in at Lowers. Simpo’s two losses to Parko—NY by .06 and Lowers by .2—were not a proper reflection of the action in the water. Sometimes it takes awhile for the judges to recognize a surfer’s jump in performance. Simpo has jumped ahead to the lead pack.

John Florence
If I had to surf a heat against John next week in Hossegor beachbreaks that either closely resemble Beach Park or even Off The Wall, I’d be riddled with anxiety. The majority of WT surfers that saw him tear into crumbly Lowers walls last week have been saying their prayers in hope of not drawing John in conditions that actually suit him. There is much more going on behind those eyes than appears.

Gabriel Medina
He’s been labeled the star of the class due to his many successes in Junior and Prime events. I’ve watched him surf and been left in amazement at the complexity of his moves, yet I still prefer Pupo’s surfing to his. Wherever your personal subjectivity on surfing lies, you can’t help but keep your eyes glued to the water every time either surfer is in a heat. Medina made my FS team over Pupo on the strength of his results in Europe—a lot of 10s.

Taj Burrow
Is loving life! He’s no longer under the World Title microscope. He’s traveling the world with his one true love, Johnny Cannon, and he knows his late season roll is about to get started at any event. Surfing as well as he has, Taj has to win an event this year. It is only a matter of time before the inevitable happens—he doesn’t have to surf against Slater. Then, and only then, maybe Taj will get a chance to wear the No. 1 jersey.

Josh Kerr
Same goes for Kerr! Except ixnay on the World Title bit, replace Johnny Cannon with Nikki Kerr, and he knows as long as there is a decent air wind or a tube, nobody is favored against him. Not many people can potentially post two 9s against you in any size surf.

Owen Wright
It has been a very predictable climb to the top for the man that never breaks form, or character. Owen is the only surfer I’ve ever seen that appears completely unfazed to be surfing against Slater. His experience competing against The King this year will set him up for some very smooth sailing in the future. For now, Owen must find a way to surf beyond himself—in the very same fashion Kelly has been able to all year—if he has any chance at snatching the world title from Ke11y.

Kelly Slater
There will always be moments in your life you look back and reflect on. When Kelly looks back at some of the crazy situations he’s gotten himself into and out of during competition, I wonder, does he think, “Damn, I just got extremely lucky,” or “Damn, I am as incredibly good as people say I am.” Whatever he’s thinking doesn’t really matter though—it is his actions that count. And all that action has lead to some of the most incredible contest surfing to date. With his feet firmly planted on the best looking traditional thruster he’s had in years, his 11th World Title party is only a few more mind-blowing performances away.

Julian Wilson
Julian is the first. The first of the new young dynamos that will change the way contest surfing is done. Innersection favorite Albee Layer said something to the extent of, “Turns are just used to set up an air or tail throw.” Julian does this with more explosiveness and creativity than anyone else. The time has come where, similar to skateboarding, you must show a complete mastery of numerous moves, not just the off-the-top, carve, cutback combo. I missed the part where he looked ‘crabby’ during a smooth switch-stance transition out of a board varial and into a stock backside 180 air reverse. I think everyone at home did as well. Julian makes me want to watch pro surfing.

Log on to Fantasy Surfer now and pick your team before the contest begins on Tuesday.

  • jose

    When did Parko’s surfing become so stale? Yeah he’s not as progressive as some of the young guys but his power surfing and style are insane. Also his Triple Crowns attest to his skills in solid surf. Yeah JW was ripping at trestles and NY and his heats against Parko could have gone either way. But let’s not forget how insane and difficult Parko’s turns are. Progressive surfing is the future but power surfing is too. And I agreed with Parko JW’s varial -although super technical- had no flow which made it awkard. The progression of the sport has been insane but surfing is not skateboarding and no turns are not, “Just to set up an air or tail throw.” Or something to that extent. Shea in an effort to sound relevant, I suggest you don’t leave out power surfing.

  • shea

    Parko is still the best when it comes to large open-faced waves — Bells, Haleiwa, Sunset, J-Bay. On a mushy 2 foot wave at Lowers I want excitement factor, Julian has plenty to spare. All that excitement is also solidly based around a powerful rail to rail connection between any number of moves he can do. No, he does not have the style of Parko or Bobby. But have you ever tried to do a proper aerial with both feet on your tail pad? It is nearly impossible and results in landing into a hideous layback nearly every time. How many airs do Parko and Slater attempt where they spend more time laying back in the white water than actually above-the-lip? Ask the same question of any of the new kids and the answer is hardly ever.

  • http://www.yankaus.com Mik

    I agree with Shea: Julian Wilson is the complete package. He definitely is a power-surfer. AND has a completely masterful range of above the wave maneuvers. Parko is epic, but he absolutely has to progress into the air. He can definitely punt, but he looks tentative landing, and that is costing him. In life you have to move forward, or get left behind. BTW: Taj ref: who is Johnny Cannon?

  • Ronnie

    Who Cares? Kelly’s gunna win. His 1 point per ride overscores will always get him through. However, if the surf pumps and they get quality waves, Parko’s surfing will be the benchmark. It’s funny, I have never ever heard a good surfer dis Parko’s surfing. To not recognise how good Parko is shows a lack of understanding surfing itself. But go on people, start dissin him and expose yourselfs as the kooks you are.

  • jose

    As i stated in my previous post Julian has been ripping and I have become a fan. Progressive surfing is the future of surfing but my point is that mainstream surfing is starting to overlook power and flow. Instead taking to the air has been much more applauded. That has left many of the young guys without the knowledge of how the rail works. Yes kids do crazy airs now but it’s all relevant. I see many 15-20 yr. surfers in NJ doing airs KPerrow, Davo, Damo, Ace don’t do. But those same kids don’t do the turns those guys do switch stance. I get it, the Mod. Collective movement is today’s surfing. And every old guy,surf pundit, pro surfer better get with the times or fear the fate of Kong or Richie Collins.

  • Bill Robinson

    Parko’s surfing is the most stylish and his turns are beautiful but it seems to be lacking some of the power as of late, especially when compared to Fanning, KS, or Adriano

  • shea

    Jose, There is plenty of 15-20 year old budding pro surfers that have power and flow to spare. And if they don’t yet, it is just a matter of time before the power comes with age and size increases. Conner and Jack Freestone already have it. Kolohe, Gabriel, and John Florence are close. Luke Davis and Evan G. will be there soon enough. The Mod. Collective movement wasn’t anything new surfing wise. The goal was to introduce a new, exciting group of young surfers and their abilities to the public similar to Momentum way back. Guys have been doing airs and tail blows since…well since I was just a grom watching John Holeman surf very similar to the kids of today. That was way back in the 80′s when Holeman was landing full rotation airs regularly as well as coming very close to pulling 540′s and numerous flip variations. Being well before the digital era, the majority of his best surfing went undocumented. I am ecstatic that enough surfers around the world are surfing at such a high level that it is no longer enough to surf safe and solid to win heats/events. When I was on tour the majority of heats came down to who caught the better waves not did the better surfing. That ratio has been trending closer and closer to the better, more exciting surfing on display winning with every passing year. Kelly made a major statement for power surfing at lowers when on the last exchange Owen went air to tail-kick and Kelly went power hack to vert lip-climb, tail-kick for a higher score and the W. Power and flow aren’t going anywhere except into the repertoire of every kid around the world. Just look at Dane and Jordy for prime examples of powerful, explosive, aerial surfers that combine the best of all the excellent surfing they’ve grown up watching. Rest at ease Jose, for there will never be a world champ that can’t ride the tube or put in on rail. Kids at your local beach may be a different story altogether though. They don’t have to surf to a set judging criteria that will always include the necessities of speed, power, and flow.

  • shea

    Johnny Cannon is Taj’s trainer/friend. Nothing romantic there, just a lot of good times traveling the world together.

  • Marcus

    I don’t know how he fits all those surfers in, maybe if I gave up Mick and Joel, but I don’t see doing that.

  • Ronnie

    It’s Gannon.

  • Sam

    Aye, sand is looking good. Swell small though so pick your small wave, punting specialists!

  • jane

    parko did the best turn of the event in his heat vs j wilson… and crabby was the right word for the weird, switch, wide- stance transition of j’s … if tricks are everything, why not juggle chain saws at j-bay, or do a head stand at chopes? style counts heaps, and just because it comes from skateboarding doesn’t mean that it necessarily fits. most of the modern stuff is insane, but some of it will not stand the test of time.

  • Elliot Bates

    Yeah I agree with Ronnie, Slater is going to win with his over scored surfing. Ok yes quite often he does crazy stuff and lands it, but recently he has been given super high scores for nothing particarly special.

  • JEff

    Kelly has been overscored a couple of times lately I agree. But he is still so much faster and powerful than the rest and is actually underscored when you think about how much better he is. I was at lowers and Kelly was flat out the dominating surfer. Julian was the only guy even close to his amplitude. JW is the real deal and will probably be the next guy to dominate surfing….that’s if Ke11y ever retires.

  • dp

    ya shea…
    i enjoy reading you articles.
    its nice to have insight from a former vet. on the tour.
    not just guys who think they know whats up…hah
    looking forward to the next.

  • Del

    Really Shea???Yes, heitor was the dark hoss to have in the last event and u are correct in that to draw seperation from everybdy else one needs to have a creative pick or 2 that isnt on everyones team.Sooooo u really think John John or Gabe are those guys???U just put together one of the most trndy teams possible.Good luck to u all the same, but dont plan on catching Kalani at any point(or me)….Perhaps the heitor for france will be fred p or a tiago,both quik riders who need results and are capable in solid surf,let alone the obligation the event owes to tiago for all the people and press that will be supporting him down on the beach for this euro leg.If it turns out to be a john john or gabe or simpo,then everyone is a winner…and is there ever a time when everyone is a winner…

  • Mike

    Parko= looks dated and was over scored.

    Simpo= underscored, needs to get boards dialed again.

    JW= underscored, future World Champ x????

    Owen Wright = Damien Hardman with Airs, although not as powerful.

    Slater= as many as he wants!!

    Parko dated himself and looked petty dissing JW.If the judging criteria was based on PURIST then Knox,Curren and Occy would be battling.

  • DaytonaJim

    It’s great that surfing has progressed so much that incredible technical airs and power gouges are competing neck and neck as to which is the best. I can remember being limited to watching the Bud Pro Tour on ‘hot summer nights’ on ESPN, and marveling and Beschen doing a 1/4 turn tail slide at Trestles. That seemed progressive at the time. Guys like Jordy, Dane, and old man Kelly (I’m the same age) embody both side of this debate. I’m a Kelly fan, but honestly I don’t care who wins. It’s great to see them all pushing each other to the next level and beyond. The way waves are being ridden in some contests now is comparable or better than surf videos from 20 years ago. It’s a great time to be a fan of surfing. Oh, and keep up the good work Shea.

  • http://timhamby.posterous.com/ Tim

    Gimme a break! … I don’t think it’s fair that we have to compete against Shea, any other former or current CT’ers or Kelly Slater’s girlfriend in Fantasysurfer! What’s up with that?!!! Smacks of Federal Reserve / Wall Street insider cronyism. No offense Shea- just because you’re on the take doesn’t mean you aren’t nearly always spot on with your calls- you are. You’re also a damn good writer (and surfer) to boot. But, I don’t think you guys should be allowed to compete.

    As for the surfers- Kelly’s clearly best. Over-scored occasionally? Perhaps just a bit. But get real. No one matches Kelly’s speed / flow / power / style and successful progressive moves. No one’s even close. There’s a reason why he has 10 titles and it is not over-scoring. I compare Parko to Mick. Neither are top aerialists, but plenty good enough when taking into consideration their flawless styles, technique and power. No way I’d let go of either of them, especially with Hawaii coming, where tricks will be forgotten. I compare Owen Wright to Julian Wilson- both solid all-around surfers, whether progressive small-wave surfing or barrel hunting and power carving in heavier waves. I have all 5 of these guys on my team, as well as Josh Kerr, Michel Bourez and Gabriel Medina (thanks for the Medina tip in your Quik NYC picks, Shea- you’re still a cheater!). I’m currently sitting in 116th place and shouldn’t have to be battling you or Kelly’s girlfriend to move up the rankings. Neither one of you guys needs another trip to Fiji or Tahiti- I do!

  • shea

    Tim, it is actually pretty cool that you get to compete with some of the best surfers in the world and possibly beat them. I’m struggling this year at 93. Couple good events and you pass me. I’d have to talk to the people running FS first, but for next year, it would be cool to list all the pro surfers and their teams separate so everyone could see who they choose and how they are faring. btw you are spot on with the rest of your post.

  • Tim

    Shea,

    That’s a great idea- one I’ve also thought about. The thrill of potentially beating a pro could only be realized if their info was made public. As a Joe that’s been playing Fantasysurfer for 4 years now(?), always finishing in the top 1-2%, it would definitely provide more incentive to keep plugging at it… Even just listing the top finishers (per event and/or cumulatively) as the original site used to do, was worth something. Could also award top 100 (50 / 25 / 10?) (errr…. 116!) players with something token! Looking forward to France, the final three events and more of your insights.

    Thx,
    Tim