Shea Lopez on who to pick for your Fantasy Surfer team
If you’ve ever seen or surfed Supertubes going off (like it’s forecasted to be next week there) then you would have most likely experienced some incredible beachbreak tubes and howling offshore winds. This combo will see the Tour return to the fundamentals—pulling in, coming out, and maybe carving the crap out of the shoulder. Watching all the airs has been great, but nothing beats Supertubes’ bone-breaking peaks detonating just off the beach in a way very similar to Off The Wall or Puerto Escondido. I vividly remember Owen Wright’s heat where he blew out his eardrum and tweaked his shoulder when he failed to make the drop on one of the many waves where the bottom falls out when you least expect it. Owen went all-in at that event, charging every suck-out he could find while breaking every board he owned.
After my worst performance EVER on Fantasy Surfer last week, it was time to shuffle my team around again and hopefully turn things around with a big finish as the year winds down.
Most notably would be the removal of Owen Wright from my squad. Just when I thought Owen had it all figured out, in France he was hesitant in his heat against Jordy, and then surfed that heat as if he never really cared. Jordy also stuck a huge backside 360 air first wave to rattle his cage a bit. His replacement: Joel Parkinson—he’s been the poster boy for the old guard, getting swept aside the last couple events. But, what everyone forgets is that when it’s big and hollow (or big and mushy like Bells) very few surfers are even close to his equal. Parko will still be schooling everyone at the remaining Dream Tour locations.
Next, I remembered why I hate having Dane on my FS team—in a heat, he can’t complete a ride to save his life, creating way too much anxiety for me every time he catches a wave. So I replaced him with Michel Bourez. After a volatile run across America with a couple poor results, a seasons-best 5th in France sees him at 11th on the World Title rankings. With proper decision-making, there is no reason why Bourez can’t take home a win with the solid swell forecasted.
Taj is out as well. I’ve watched him surf too well for too long and somehow keep coming up short. Instead, I went with the proven two-time World Champ Mick Fanning. Even though Taj is a superb human and the judges’ blatant push to get him past Travis Logie in France had nothing to do with Taj as a person, I wanted him off my mind so I’d stop getting mad for Travis every time I replayed that heat over in my head. Mick gives my FS team a huge boost when the waves get serious—if you’ve ever watched him surf Off The Wall, you’d know why.
Brett Simpson and Pat Gudauskas have been pretty much interchangeable on my FS team since they both got on the WT. Brett has been surfing marvelously lately, but unfortunately that hasn’t translated to the best results over the last three events, as he hasn’t been able to get the score from the judges or stay on his board when it mattered most. Pat won the Prime event at Ballito in waves that John Florence called “faster and longer than Backdoor.” Since then, it has been a rocky road for the King of Cool as he has experienced the worse slump of his career. A tactical mistake last year in Portugal kept him out of the Semis, so this year’s event is a great opportunity for him to begin a late-season charge that would start him working his way up the WT rankings again.
John Florence was second to Pat at Ballito—that was his first non-victory of the year in serious barrels. I don’t even have to say anything more about his tuberiding skills, just make sure to watch his heats.
Josh Kerr is another no-brainer for my FS team when it comes to dredging sand-bottom pits. The Gold Coast has heaps of them, and Kerr knows just how to ride every variation a wave might throw at him. He’s also exciting as hell to watch surf heats.
Over the course of a year on Tour you remember all those moments where things could have, would have, should have gone differently. When Julian Wilson was anxiously waiting to get off the scaffolding in France—tapping his fingers uncontrollably on the railing—you could see how distraught he was about letting another winning moment slip away from him. If a few things were to unfold differently this year, Julian would be challenging Slater for the World Title right alongside Owen. Nevertheless, it has been a most impressive rookie year for Julian.
A bad surf forecast here and things may have been different. Barring a Bruno Santos upset—not really an upset though when Bruno beats somebody in hollow surf, it has been happening to the best of them for years—Kelly should cruise through the remainder of the year getting barreled and putting it on a rail faster, harder, and deeper than all the others. Having Kelly and Taylor on Tour still is great for keeping the kids in check and reminding the judges how it can be done when it’s time to lay it down. There are some sections made for airs and some made for deep cuts to the face, and I cringe when people go for airs when they should be gaffing instead.
Those are my eight surfers that fit the $50 million Fantasy Surfer budget. Here are a few surfers to think about for your team that won’t break the bank. They have either already performed well at Supertubes or should have no problem with what they find in the surf there:
Kieren Perrow—He’s a complete madman in the thick and hollow stuff.
Dan Ross—Licking his chops to ride a bigger board in bigger waves.
Raoni Monteiro—Brings the passion of his home country to every heat he surfs.
Tiago Pires—Local knowledge and incredible skills are a deadly combo.
Ace Buchan—Smart, precise, and gifted when it comes to surfing in any conditions.
Damien Hobgood—Smart, precise, and gifted when it comes to surfing in any conditions.
Fred Patacchia—Brings the passion of his island to every heat he surfs.
Gabriel Medina—On a roll and looking like he can make his surfboard do whatever he wants.
Alejo Muniz—A win in the Prime event at Fernando de Noronha to start the year in similar thick beachbreak is all I needed to see in order to consider him a serious threat at every stop on Tour.
Kai Otton—Loves this shit, hates losing—good combo.
All that’s left is to hope the swell forecast pans out as expected. We’ve all been pretty spoiled lately with the quality of swells gracing WT events this year. Definitely one of the best seasons I can remember.