Santa Cruz Preview

Shea Lopez on who to pick for your Fantasy Surfer team

| posted on October 23, 2012

Evening light at Steamer Lane. Photo: Craig

Watching the final day of Portugal, I was impressed with a number of performances as well as the large and attentive crowd, very much engaged in the action. With Kelly Slater’s early exit, the event offered a view of what the Tour will look like one day, sans Slater, and its clear that pro surfing has a bright future. With shocking regularity in heat after heat, any ride that had a chance of being one of a surfer’s top two waves was met with a claim of some sort. But you can hardly blame the competitors for emphatically claiming anything and everything they rode with the raucous crowd only feet away. After all, competitive surfing exists to entertain, and getting the crowd involved should be priority No. 1—after, of course, proper judging. On that topic, I will only say this: People consciously have their favorites and subconsciously this will factor into their decisions. I’ve been around long enough to know that as close as we get to systematic and unbiased judging, human nature prevails time and time again—and that’s a fact.

So please forgive an 18-year-old kid for not being able to bottle up his emotions when he felt—along with everyone else who was watching—he was robbed of a win by the judges during the Rip Curl Pro final. To his legion of fans and his adoring family, this is on par with a bad call deciding the final score of a soccer game. I’ve seen plenty of surfers cry and destroy things after heats—even world champs—and all of them many years his senior. What this release of emotion ultimately signals, however, is a young man who will not be happy with anything less than a win, and he plans on taking multiple World Titles back to Brazil.

But right now Gabriel and the rest of the Tour are putting the past behind them to focus on a new location to hone their craft. For many competitors, this may be their first experience in Santa Cruz, and they will be attempting to find a comfort zone in the ever-changing lineup at the Lane. Thinking back to days of PSAA Bud Tour events there, the locals were incredibly dominant. It was often the guys you had never heard of who were able to find the gems among the myriad of peaks.

For my Fantasy Surfer team I chose guys that have a nice balance of experience with the location and cold weather and/or are not afraid to show up early and surf their brains out in preparation.

Gabriel Medina:
Hard work pays off…or burns you out. At just 18 years old, the latter is highly unlikely for Gabriel, so if you are in Santa Cruz you will see young Medina surfing all day, everyday until he catches a plane to Hawaii—and he will not be a happy camper on that flight unless he has won Santa Cruz.

Julian Wilson:
With the bittersweet taste still fresh from his victory in Portugal, Wilson will be ramping up to prove his victory in Portugal was just the beginning of a series of podium visits. If the well-rounded and grounded Australian can figure out the wave and toy with it like he’s one of the local air guys, we could be looking at back-to-back victories for him.

John Florence:
John will be ready. The Lane is just another familiar childhood playground for the lifelong O’Neill team rider.

Jordy Smith:
Like John, Jordy benefits from riding for O’Neill and having years of experience in the area. In Portugal, Jordy surfed his way to a loss by not holding his priority at the end—a mistake I’ve watched him make multiple times now. If the waves produce, I expect Jordy to go far and give it his all.

Mick Fanning:
Under certain conditions at the Lane, Mick becomes as dangerous as he is at Snapper, Bells, and J-Bay. His consistency when conditions aren’t ideal makes him even more of a threat to gain valuable points before the Pipe Masters and the conclusion to the 2012 season.

Adam Melling:
If you’ve watched him surf on his frontside in solid waves, then you’ve already stopped reading this and coughed up the 3 million dollars to put Adam on your team.

Matt Wilkinson:
Wilko has been pinned up against a wall all year unable to record the results befitting of his talents. But as a WQS winner at the Lane, and the owner of the most radically unique backside attack on Tour, Wilko has the odds in his favor this time around.

Kolohe Andino:
Riding a healthy surge of results coming back from injury, the 18 year old has the momentum to securing a spot in next year’s Top 34. After countless trips to Santa Cruz, this event offers an almost Lowers equivalent advantage for him. You can plan on seeing Kolohe get his tail high on every lip that bends his way.

Click here to pick your team for Santa Cruz now.

  • Alan

    beautifully written: “—he was robbed of a win by the judges during the Rip Curl Pro final.”

  • Eesha Williams, editor,

    This is much better than any other media coverage of the Medina/Wilson judging debacle that I have seen. But it’s still a cop out. Why not call for the judges to be fired? They richly deserve it.

  • Jason

    Medina may have been robbed but he is still a spoiled rich kid whiner.. The judges should keep baggin him..and maybe one day it will build some character. Adriano + Favela = Man.

  • Mik

    Surprisingly, in a surf region where there are very few, and very fickle quality Lefts, The Lane is a place where goofy-foots have excelled and won events. Nat Young, Nate Yoeman, and Anthony Rufo have all won at the Cold Water Classic. The rights can be surfed vertically with power, backhand, so this might be a big opportunity for the goofy-foot pack. Tthat aside, I expect Kelly to be pushing really hard for a win here, and look forward to seeing my home break surfed at levels I seldom see. Welcome to Santa Cruz boyz, one of the coolest places on earth.

  • bruno

    Yeah Shea, nice piece of writing. the kid made a mistake and shouldn´t be judged the way he´s been lately by thousands of people on the surfsites. EVERYBODY makes mistakes in their lives and it wouldn´t be different with Medina. like you said, he´s destined to be champion and second places don´t suit him.

  • Renee Guercia

    I have to agree with Bruno, everyone makes mistakes, but isn’t that how we learn. Maybe its my age, and the amount of mistakes I have seen many successful people make when they were in the beginning of their budding careers. What has me upset is the “cruelty” in the comments, I never saw that type of brutal reaction before. The surfing community has always been a more peaceful and “cool” group of people, not vicious. It is fine to have an opinion even a negative one, it’s in the delivery though. Don’t judge people like that, you may think you know what someones life is all about and you may not at all. Medina will be a champion one day, I am sure, as he is a talent. Please be kinder with your comments, because in life you will find what goes around comes around. By being calmer with your comments shows real character and true sportsmanship!

  • Renee

    Definition of SPORTSMANSHIP

    : conduct (as fairness, respect for one’s opponent, and graciousness in winning or losing) becoming to one participating in a sport

  • Jason

    The surfing community has always been a more peaceful and “cool” group of people, not vicious… And you surf where?

  • Matt O’Brien

    What I found the most “troubling” aspect of Medina’s “loss” was not that he cried, BUT that he showed a TOTAL lack of sportsmanship for not congratulating Julian AND staying on stage to show that sportsmanship when the “winner” was announced. Fact is, Julian didn’t judge/score his own wave, so to treat Julian with total disrespect IS what I find appalling. Regardless of his age, nationality or “how many world titles” the kid “will bring back to Brazil”. As for the racist and ridiculous comments concerning Median, I thought that was waaaaay out of line. Kinda like being pissed at the guy who “won” even though that “winner” didn’t do it to himself. I am sure that Median will NEVER play defense like HE DID in those final minutes of that final (or any heat) EVER AGAiN. Once bitten, twice shy!! Slater wants this win, so I say he will win.

  • Renee

    Your right Jason, I guess I have a past recollection of what was and not what is today…..I have experience that I am sure exceeds yours and I don’t begrudge your opinion, I just think it would be really great if people would just think before they speak. I have been around serious sports figures most of my life, and the behavior amongst professionals and “amatures” are two different things. Say what you want just do it in a way that’s not so cutting that’s all I mean. Surfing is a great sport and it should reflect good people.

  • Roberta

    Agreed with Matt. I don’t blame the kid for crying, and love to see the Brazilian fire but never have I seen a surfer actually walk off stage during the awards ceremony, especially after his shady priority tactics of half-paddling for a wave so that Julian straightens out but not really paddling so as to maybe not actually lose priority. Andy and Kelly stayed on stage for the champagne for each other.

    Anyway, while Medina’s forehand is probably second to none, his backhand- though having impeccable placement- is flicky and consists mostly body-board style sliding around. Not a threat at the Lane unless he just catches the Middle Peak lefts and learns to air over kelp patches…

  • Jason

    You don’t begrudge my comment but you call it “vicious”..hmmm. If you have been around professional sports figures than you obviously know how egotistical they can be.. Medina is on the CT.. He is playing with the big boys and he is going to have to start acting like it. This is not the first time this has happened…and I’ll will go as far to say that I don’t think how he acted was a mistake.. He is a kid.. but his actions reflect what he has learned and what he has been taught thus far in his almost 19 years..and just as you would appreciate people think before they speak..I would appreciate they think before they act! You have a lot of groms looking up to this kid..O’Brien is spot on…No one should be generalizing and using slang terms (Brazzo’s) against anybody and I certainly did not. Look the kid surfs AMAZING..No one is going to question that. He has got a lot of work to do though and so does the ASP. I apologize if this commentary is to abrasive.. but Kelly didn’t get where he is without learning humility.

  • Renee

    Jason, I wasn’t referring to “your” specific comment as vicious by the way, I am sorry you thought that. I believe it was yesterday that I was reading a bunch of posts which were really horrific, just way too harsh…. as far as ego’s amongst sports figures, yes that statement holds true to some degree, I guess we could go round and round….I have a gentler nature then most people and at times I hope that people can see where I’m coming from that’s all…..

  • mark

    The top fantasy surfers are the top title contenders and Santa Cruz favors their forehand approach. The fact that Shea only includes 1 is laughable at best. Just because Melling and Wilkinson need a result doesn’t translate into them being event favorites. Odds of Julian pulling off 2 victories in a row is so ridiculously low for any first time winner it is almost easier to exclude him (only Slater statistically is better than improbable). Medina… well his goofy approach may present a handicap but he may be a stronger contender given the judges may feel like they slighted him in the last event and try to over-compensate. Kolohe is a SC sentimental favorite for Shea surprised he didn’t go with Patrick G. Sooner or later the judges are going to have to give him the nod for his heroic early round performances.

    1. Joel Parkinson- most beautiful regular foot surfing approach (think this is his year)
    2. Ke11y Slater- the King
    3. Mick Fanning- judges love his power approach
    4. John John- complete package & mentally tough so far
    5. Jordy Smith (been underscored the entire year, Oneil sponsor, has a strong record at this spot)

  • Jason

    and I’m sure they do Renee. Kelly for 12 in ’12 yeeew

  • rick

    id love to know where Shea sits on fantasy surfer rankings, guaranteed he is nowhere near the top 100.

  • Evan

    Medina is a little brat, hopefully the other pros are bagging on him for acting like such a sore loser.

  • goof troop

    putting alot of faith in the regularfoots is not wise. the lane is a perfect wave for backhand power. bobby martinez won it, miguel pupo last year, and wilko the year before. wonder what wildcard oneill is gonna put up, most of their guys are on the tour. its likely that a local who stormed thru the trials will take down alot of your expectations. the lane is a tricky spot, and dont forget the middle peak left and air section.. this is gonna be good, hope for swell. go goof troop

  • Renato

    Very well Lopes! After this article i became your best fan. You, otherwise you fellow sean, have balls to say the truth about gabs, its without question that he won at peniche, clear as cristal water. And i am sure he’s with blood at his eyes coming really hot for Santa Cruz.

    aloha and piece at world, justice at surf competition

  • Ben

    You keep forgetting Parko… if it’s good, look out. He’ll make the men look like boys with buttery-smooth lines.

  • Jaffa

    Robbed? Really? Based upon watching the last 3 events online it would appear evident that any sort of barrel or cover up will always score more highly than most moves on an open face. Medina had one barrel BUT he was not very deep as evidence by the nose of his board always showing. Yes it was close and maybe he should have won but claiming he was robbed is outrageous – statistical it could have gone either way.
    And BTW, like any sport you are a fool if you don’t study and understand the judging. Slater does and the likes of Parkinson do as well – evidenced by their focus on barrels at Lowers and France. They know where the biggest scores comes from.
    If Medina is the future of surfing then I’m changing channels…….

  • gus

    by far the best analyses of the wct events, like always, by the way.
    cleary, you are, intelectualy speking, in a diferent level.
    comparing your articles with articles from guys who actualy live of writing i felt sorry for them….

    english isnt my first language, so “pardon” any mistakes

  • Fernando

    Thanks Shea for such beautiful words: ” So please forgive an 18-year-old kid for not being able to bottle up his emotions when he felt—along with everyone else who was watching—he was robbed of a win by the judges during the Rip Curl Pro final. To his legion of fans and his adoring family, this is on par with a bad call deciding the final score of a soccer game. “

  • David Nelson

    No one likes a sore loser.

  • Doug

    The Lane (please commentators – do NOT call it “Steamers” as you have in the past!) is my home break and while I typically dread the inaccessibility brought on by a contest, I really look forward to seeing the best in the world come here to compete. But remember what happened last year when the surf went so flat they had to move it to Waddell where Gabby could fly off the crappy 2 ft. mush puddles and send our local hero Nat to the showers.

    We need an adequate window of time to make sure that the CWC is held at and stays at the Lane in good conditions. If I’m gonna be sidelined from my favorite break at least let me see the best of the best rip it to sh*t out there!

  • Maz

    We’ve all been sore losers.
    Being a hyped 18 year old wunderkid – and most definitely the biggest talent in surfing today – does not make it easier. He’ll learn, and he’ll probably apologize to Julian one day.
    But before you get carried away with bagging Medina, think back to the awards ceremony at Bells, with Kelly grabbing Mick’s bell and ringing it – before Mick even got the chance. Everybody knows this is a massive no-no, and it showed up Kelly as a very sore loser.
    Good article btw, Shea.

  • Kyle

    Shea Lopez, you are the man!!!

  • Luciano

    Gabriel can accept defeat. He has no problem with that. Gabriel LOST to Kelly Slater a few months ago in Fiji and there was no commotion. He actually twitted this after LOSING: “Congrats to Kelly”. Enough said to those calling the kid a “bad loser”. Thing is that GABRIEL DIDN’T LOSE in Portugal, he was ROBBED. Robbed blind. Losing a heat and being robbed are two very diferent things. Being robbed at the one thing that you love more than anything else and the one thing you put all your efforts into can only be really sickening.

  • André Fraga

    I think it’s absurd that some people have been saying about the Medina, it was stolen, the judges gave the victory to Jules, because they wanted to, just that! The reaction of Medina was according to their outrage, with the act of stealing the judges!
    I’m Brazilian, and I am ashamed that this committee has omitted the name of ASP!
    The JAFFA of this here in the comments, questions that the Medina is the future of surfing he would be changing the channel, but I’ll say, GABRIEL MEDINA is the PRESENT of surf, no longer the future, and will swallow the gringos like you on the tour, as is already doing!

    Does anyone know what does the acronym ASP? If you do not know, I teach to you all, Australian Surf Protection!


  • Me, Myself and I

    Walking out of the stage?

    I remember a certain multiple title holder that lost a certain final due to bad judging.

    I reckon he threw his board against its opponent wall-poster that was mounted on the beach and them ringed a certain Bell even though he lost it.

    Yep, you tell me what shows lack of sportsmanship…

    BTW, I don’t think that people commenting on his act has ever competed on its own life. EVER.

  • ricardo leyraud

    The best coment came from Luciano, it”s totally different to lose and be robbed.
    And maybe the latin attitude is quite different from an anglo saxxon, especially cause it was not the first time that he had bad results in the judges hands.
    His feelings explode at that time, cause it was choking on him, for sure he knews how to misbehave some other times, and i think that it isn”t happen again cause he learnd how to play the game, I don”t think ASP will change dramatically to be without interests.
    And the ASP there”s no interests in a third world champ. I understand, but is a long theme to discuss here.
    Even Rip Curl, why is Dillon Perillo on his ads at the magazines, i never saw a Medina picture on it !!!!! am i wrong ? MONEY TALKS !!!

  • Bruno Murtinho

    Medina wasn’t pissed at Julian. He was pissed at the judging panel/ ASP. Period. He didin’t stay for the champagne ’cause he had nothing to celebrate – and he did great by doing so! It was about time for the surfers and the surfing community to take a stand, otherwise ASP will continue to mess up results like it always did: Phil Macca (Trestles), AI (J Bay), Taj (Trestles), Owen (Rio), etc! It was great to see that an 18yo kid was brave enough to do it! The top pros will never defy or stand against ASP! And btw, what Gab did (leaving the podium) happened before in tennis, soccer, rugby and even at the olympic games. So why should it be different with surf? Sportsmanship when you’ve just got robbed in broad light! The kid did great just like the prophet said, “Get up, stand up! Stand up for you rights!” And by doing so, he’s doing it for all ASP surfers, for the fans and for the sport itself.

  • Pierre Malraux

    Quit Seah Doherty and his racist and narrowed comments! Long live to Shea Lopez!

  • Jason

    It’s going to come down to Pipe… then we will see who the “present” of surfing really is. Freaking hilarious… When Medina doesn’t win 11 titles are people going to really say it was the judges fault?

  • Bobby M

    How many twitters did Julian received from others ASP top surfers after his “win”? Matt Wilko, Tiago Pires and… Not one more! Not even his australian mates! At least not through twitter, as is usually happens! Everybody was ashamed about it! Period.Shame on ASP!

  • Bert

    Boo Hoo…a pack of 5 (shocking not 8) traveling Brazzo’s got out claimed. Its really ironic actually.

  • negative

    That final the waves and conditions were terrible. All I saw was pretty bad surfing. In good waves they both rip.
    Usually the person with the highest score tries to maintain priority in the last few minutes to win. In that final Gabriel appeared to by trying to block Julian from about half way through the heat. And it was a long heat. I thought that was a strange strategy to be focusing so much attention on the opponent rather than himself.

  • Joe

    Very good summary of wct portugal, much better than that other muppet. You couldn’t have explained it any better

  • Bushy

    Parko needs a good result here otherwise Slater will pysch him right out of it at Pipe if it’s close going into last event.
    My money for the win is on Jordy Smith – he is looking sharp, but he will need to avoid those tactical errors that seem to be holding him back.
    Anyone know who the wildcards are?

  • Bruno Murtinho

    @ Bert:

    “I’m an Australian surf journo and I think Gab was robbed blind,” tweeted author and former Surfing Life and Tracks editor, Tim Baker.

    American Matt Warshaw, author of the Encyclopedia of Surfing, poignantly wrote on his Twitter, “Even adjusting for bias, adjusting for lingering Brazilian dislike from rest of surf world — Medina STILL won that thing.”

    Only Brazzos?

  • Jack sfuentes

    The air reverse is an incredibly difficult move, but if you do one on every wave it starts to seem banal. Who would the judges score higher for doing an air reverse gabe m. Or Taylor Knox? And about gabe acting like a child, well he is… Hopefully this will be a good learning experience for him ( shit happens to everybody), and he can grow from it. Just think if a regular joe loses a promotion to who they feel is a lesser candidate…..if they acted like that what would happen? The axe…..

  • ginz

    If its not a 10 do not even think of claiming there should be no place in pro surfing for petty claiming. Shane Dorian pulls into 30 ft Jaws comes out and does not claim. Lets start a Wall of Shame Claims