Pipeline Masters Preview

Shea Lopez on who to pick for your Fantasy Surfer team

| posted on December 06, 2011

Wildcard surfer Jamie O'Brien will be looking to derail any World Tour competitor in his path once the Pipeline Masters gets underway. Photo: Maassen

The forecast looks like perfect Pipeline will roar to life for three days like we have not witnessed since 2000, when Rob Machado defeated Mick Lowe in an event blessed with epic 8- to 12-foot conditions every day. Picking my team was easy as pie: I simply made a list of who is not only the best at surfing big Pipe, but also has the ability to compete within the ASP format presently.

Of special note: Before you make your own team, many wildcards have yet to be decided. These wildcards have the potential to play a major role in the way this event unfolds. Check back in to Fantasy Surfer for up-to-the-minute information as it comes in.

My FS team, as of today, will be:

Kelly Slater: He’s the best tuberider in the world. Just ask J.O.B. if you have any questions.

Jamie O’Brien: He takes off switch on waves at Backdoor that most will not attempt to ride regular, and gets spit out!

John John Florence: He’s Gumby in the tube with cat-like reflexes and the knowledge from growing up watching the above two surfers toy with Pipeline like it was their personal playground.

Hobgood Twins: If it is big hairy lefts, these good ’ol boys will be putting on the performance of their careers. They have only gotten better and more comfortable with the lineup year after year since their first visit at the age of 15.

Freddy P: A real Top 10 surfer without a question—so what if he can’t do a twirly bird, air revo. This very-soon-to-be father, and competitor on the bubble of WT requalification is licking his chops at the opportunity to shine on his terms in his backyard.

Evan Valiere: If you haven’t heard of him before, then you are missing the big picture of what surfing really is. Evan is a surfer that embodies all that is great about surfing—and he’s no slouch at Pipe. He’s the darkhorse threat to win it all.

Michel Bourez: Spartan is smiling and laughing right now in anticipation of what awaits the world, and his fellow WT competitors on December 8.

Pipeline is the one wave in the world that is as beautiful as it is frightening, dangerous, unpredictable, and challenging—and it’s all so close to the beach that spectators can read a person’s emotions through their facial expressions while in the lineup. Teahupoo was so perfect that anyone with the desire to paddle in and get to their feet was having success, but Pipeline requires much, much more in order to ride the place to perfection. The North Shore is the ultimate proving grounds, and the Pipeline Masters is the Crown Jewel of The Vans Triple Crown for good reason.

Enjoy the show and pray for everyone in the event to return to the beach safely throughout the competition.

R.I.P. Andy Irons
R.I.P. Sion Milosky
R.I.P. Malik Joyeux

  • Wyatt

    Here I was, surfing for 25 years, assuming I understood the big picture of our pursuit. But gosh darnit I hadn’t heard of this Evan Valiere fellow so it seems I was misguided. UGH! Thankfully, I can study up on the dude and – hopefully, soon enough – will see the “big picture of what surfing really is.”

    Thanks Shea!

  • Mik

    I haven’t surfed Teahupoo, but I have surfed Pipeline, and of the two, Teahupoo seems far more intimidating because of the mass of lip sucking overhead. Which tends to make my mind contemplative about life and death. So from the perspective of limited experience, I think that the entire top 30 has a relatively equal shot at it, since one of the most intimidating factors of surfing Pipeline today is the crowds, and the locals that implement “crowd control”, and both factors will be nonfactors during the event. And all of the WCT pros rock. Hard. For what it’s worth, my picks are: Ke11y, Taj, and Kai Otton—on the podium, in some order. Ke11y because he’s Ke11y and he’s a virtuoso at Pipe. Taj because he is exceptionally good backhand, and his boards work better than anyone else’s (including Ke11y’s, whose mind compensates by working better than his boards). Why Kai? He’s an underrated goofy-foot charger who could break the stranglehold that regular-foots have inexplicably held for the past decade (?). I just dig his entire approach. I recently had the chance to see him free surf in SF, and the more I see, the more I like. Power, style, insane ability to find a tube, and come out. One of the Billabong crew in Santa Cruz likens him to Tom Curren, but maybe with some of Slater’s inventiveness?

  • Shea

    Mik – you couldn’t be more correct about Kai Otton, he’s a class act and an unreal surfer.

    Wyatt – I look forward to you reporting back on what you learn of Evan Valiere. I’m sure you already know and are just being an asshaole at any chance you get.

  • Tobias

    I like your picks–particularly Evan Valiere. Too bad he’s up against Freddy P in Round 1. …Too bad for Freddy P, I think.

  • Jim

    Way to call ’em out Shea. People sure take things a bit seriously these days (Wyatt). Give the writer a break already.
    Overlapping heats, sucking barrels, the world’s best surfers, and a webcast…stoked with anticipation to say the least. With all the controversy about the tour and it’s changes, mother nature has dealt out some good conditions in the events in the 2nd half of the season. Just enough to make us all just shut the hell up, soak it in and wish we were there surfing ourselves (well maybe not Chopes….I’ll leave my balls in my purse for that one).

  • stevo

    lookout for kersey. the kid from the “ker-azy kronicles”

  • andre

    Good write, shea.

    Its very difficult to pick up some, all this guys are so good at these days.
    Lets us see if Gabriel is good at pipe outcontrol situations!
    I hope nobody gets hurts!
    I cant wait to see that thing began!!!
    A L O H A ! ! !


    Evan Valiere – great pick! Lets see how he does against Kelly in Round 3

  • Steve Wimer

    You left Owen Wright off your list.