Vive le Francais! Many surfers will either make or break their season here on the European leg. With deux 10000 point QS events and duex tour events, there are big opportunities for surfers to qualify or re-qualify over the next month. Jack Freestone has already done his qualification credentials a world of good after winning the Azores event and backing it up with a 9th at Cascais. Kolohe has hit some great form in Europe and Caio Ibelli flexed a little muscle over quality opponents to earn his 2nd place. Many other surfers are pushing hard here in France before the Hawaiian leg offers them one last roll of the dice.
The Quiksilver Pro presents fantasy fans with many more questions than answers this season: How do I choose from the stacked Tier A group? Are there any quality Tier C options left? Will John John be intimidated by drawing Glenn Hall in R1? Will Slater really ditch the Euro leg? Will the contest window provide surfers and fans alike with those epic beach breaks we know and love? How do you pronounce Caio Ibelli’s first name? Will we see many topless Mademoiselles during the live feed? Will we see boobs on Wilko’s wetsuit?
Let’s grab some bread and cheese, open up a cheap burgundy and analyse the merde out of this contest, pardon my French.
The Holy Trinity
For those familiar with my pieces, you’ll be well aware that I like to cross-reference the conditions, surfers’ current form and heat draw as my 3 main criteria for selecting a fantasy team. I’ve decided to delve a little further into each of those areas this article and give you some suggestions for all of them (those wanting a reminder of the basics, my Fantasy 101 article can be found here):
The forecast is still long-range at this point, but it looks as though most of the focus will be on a storm system coming through in the second week of the waiting period. There will be an update soon, which may give us a clearer picture after Sunday. It’s important to remember that the event in France is notorious for its on-again/off-again nature; big tide variations and shifting sands can mean that conditions change considerably during the course of a few hours. Surfers who can stay focused during repeated breaks and ‘on-hold’ sessions with generally fare much better.
Another way to analyse the conditions is to look at each surfer’s success at this event in previous years. Some surfers stand out as proven performers in these variables.
Bearing all of this in mind, here are my nominations for strong ‘conditions’ surfers for France:
Mick Fanning – White Lightning has struck here 4 times. He is super-focused and proven.
John John Florence – In the previous 3 years, JJF has finished 1st, 5th and 3rd at this event. His focus is a concern, as is his form, but he is an excellent all-rounder who can perform in all conditions.
Kelly Slater – In the past 5 years, Kelly has gone 5th, 5th, 1st, 5th and 2nd. Will he show up though? He’s currently playing in a golf contest at St Andrews.
Adriano de Souza – He’s not been as successful here as some of his peers, but he is focused, flexible and consistent enough to provide you with confidence in these conditions.
Gabriel Medina – Gabe loves France and France loves Gabe.
Dane Reynolds – Dane has no pressure these days. He’s not super-proven and focus can be an issue, but he is definitely an all-rounder and he was runner-up to Slater in 2012.
Form (by Tiers)
Mick’s form is great right now (not that I need to tell you that, but I think it’s worth mentioning under the subtitle ‘form’). He is a lock for me. The judges seem to be loving his surfing too, which can’t hurt.
Gabriel has moved up into the top tier and his form should continue to build. I think he’ll do well in France.
Adriano is solid as always and would be a very safe bet in the top tier, probably more so than Filipe, Owen and the rest of the otherwise quality Tier A options.
*Julian has been sliding lately and it would take a brave person to select him over some of the other Tier A surfers.
Nat Young was surfing very well at Lowers and, if not for a contentious interference call, he could have done even better. I think Nat is getting his groove back and looks good in this group.
Nobody seems to dig Ace Buchan. In his last 3 events he has had a 3rd and a 5th finish. He may not have the flair and he started the season poorly, but he does have some form coming into France. He has won here before as well.
Italo and Wiggolly have been in everything this year and should do well in Europe as well. My only concern for these two is the way they faded in intensity after the long run of lay-days at Lowers; they will have plenty of them again in France and will need to maintain their focus a lot better at this event.
Pupo is surfing well at the moment, with a reasonable 9th at Lowers and then a 3rd at the QS Azores event.
Joel’s 5th at Lowers made him a great pick in fantasy, but his overall form has been hard to predict. To be fair, Joel has often been in the top 4 options of the Tier B group, but you never quite know what you’ll get.
*Kerr has had a disappointing year. Despite ripping the shit out of boat wakes, he hasn’t shown enough form in recent times to justify a place on my team.
*John John’s form has been pretty putrid since his injury; if current form alone was all that counted, then I’d ditch him like a bad habit (he’ll be on my team though).
Most of the Tier C surfers with form move up from this group quite quickly (see Pupo and Bourez). There are slim pickings here, I’m afraid…
Kolohe looked good at Trestles. He then backed that up with a 5th at Azores and a win at Cascais to take the lead in the QS rankings. He definitely has the best form of this tier.
Seabass got a 3rd place at Azores and jumped 65 places (to 31st) on the QS rankings. He didn’t fare quite as well at Cascais though.
Alejo Muniz is currently first on the QS rankings and, as such, seeded higher than both Dusty and Simpo. His recent results at Azores and Cascais haven’t been amazing though.
Caio Ibelli (it’s pronounced Kye-oh by-the-way) was ripping at Cascais and wouldn’t be a bad pick.
*Richardo Christie and Brett Simpson have had a pretty poor year on tour. Add to this the fact that they both got eliminated in consecutive R1 heats (Azores and Cascais respectively), and you have some serious form issues.
This factor is probably the least important of the three. It is also the most prone to 11th-hour changes through withdrawals, so it should always be considered with an eye on the WSL site. Now that the final draw has been locked in, here are my picks for each heat:
Slater | Pupo | Owen | Toledo | ADS | Fanning | Medina | JJF | Buchan | Nat | Andino | Parko
Everybody keeps ignoring Ace. He and Nat Young were great <10% options last event. One of the big factors in finding surfers with low percentages is the ‘rollover’ element; many teams will remain unchanged or people will be reluctant to make sweeping adjustments from their previous event because they don’t want to take too many chances. This means that surfers who have changed tiers since last event (Medina, Pupo, Kerr, Bourez) will automatically start the contest with zero owners and many (less astute) players will miss them. Here’s my pick of the sleepers at time of writing:
Medina (8%) – I’m sure this low percentage won’t last; he’s a great option for France.
Kerr (9%) – Kerr rips, no doubt. He’s a risky play with his current form, but he could pay off.
Pupo (4%) – Miguel looks like a decent pick here, and not many have him at this point.
Ace (8%) – Surely people will start picking him soon.
Reynolds (3%) – Dane looks reasonably good in a weak Tier C field.
If you love running with the pack, Parko (44%), JJF (50%), Filipe Toledo (36%) and Mick Fanning (49%) will make you feel like a part of the zeitgeist (note that they have all been in their current tiers for a long time).
By the Numbers
The draw switched so many times at Trestles that my article looked like a Brett Simpson heat. I’ve added all of the last-minute changes as best I can (no thanks to Jordy and Banting) to show the draw as it looks with all of the surf-stats projected totals:
|6. Kelly Slater 82.77||19. Jadson Andre 81.03||31. Brett Simpson 49.63|
|5. Julian Wilson 97.98||20. Miguel Pupo 88.35||32. Aritz Aranburu 64.02|
4. Owen Wright 73.96
|21. Sebastian Zietz 69.74||
33. Dane Reynolds 81.04
|3. Filipe Toledo 103.44||22. Adam Melling 56.93||34. Tomas Hermes 23.09|
|H5:||2. Adriano De Souza 106.96||23. Keanu Asing 56.65||
35. Caio Ibelli* 17.1
|1. Mick Fanning 104.06||24. Michel Bourez 76.36||36. Maxime Huscenot 16.95|
|H7:||7. Gabriel Medina 113.38||18. Matt Wilkinson 52.89||
30. Dusty Payne 57.77
|8. Jeremy Flores 91.8||17. John John Florence 105.62||29. Alejo Muniz 57.33|
|H9:||9. Italo Ferreira 89.92||16. Adrian Buchan 85.06||
28. Ricardo Christie 57.83
|10. Nat Young 85.78||15. Bede Durbidge 84.93||
27. Glenn Hall 46.98
|H11:||11. Josh Kerr 69.05||14. Kai Otton 70.20||
26. Kolohe Andino 70.91
|H12:||12. Wiggolly Dantas 94.73||13. Joel Parkinson 72.88||
25. CJ Hobgood 53.73
If you were to use this data in isolation, the following would be the best possible team:
Tier A: Medina – 113.38, ADS – 106.96
Tier B: Florence – 105.62, Dantas – 94.73, Ferreira – 89.92 and Pupo – 88.35
Tier C: Reynolds 81.04, Smith – 80.08, Andino – 70.91
This team has a projected score of 750.91, which is a little lower compared to the previous two events. It has no R1 clashes and looks to be a reasonably solid team. It does have 5 of the 8 surfers on my Wash-Up team though, so alarm bells should probably be ringing for many of you.
The WSL fantasy Surf-Stats Numbers team will be running with these 8 surfers (even with the clashes) in the Surf-Stats Clubhouse group, so you can test your own picks against the numbers men (there’s more about how to sign up and try your hand at beating this team at the bottom of the page). Hurry up before France locks! [Password: fantasy]
Team ‘Fantasy Wash-Up’
The less said about my result at Trestles the better. Here’s the Wash-Up for France:
Mick – Fanning will be champ this year; he’s on my team. Adriano probably offers more upside in regards to his great chance of doing well with far fewer owners, but Mick’s popularity is completely justified in my opinion.
Medina – It was hard to go past Adriano, but Medina’s form has been great and he looks super hungry. His super-low ownership percentages help me balance Mick’s popularity.
JJF – Seriously, he has to come good soon, right? Right? I can’t not pick him, but now I grow nervous with his selection in my squad. His previous results at France were enough to get him a spot, plus it’s important to remember just how well he surfs. At 50% owned I know that it’s not just me getting burned if he bombs out again.
Pupo – The guy has a lot going for him: solid projections; good form; low ownership and a good heat draw. It’s hard to take him over his contemporaries Italo and Wiggolly, but I’m going for a sleeper angle here.
Ace – I’m putting my money where my mouth is and picking serial sleeper Ace; watch him tank.
Nat – Nat is a great, versatile contest surfer. He lost his way through the middle of the season, but I think he’s back on form and ready for some good results.
Kolohe – Humble pie: that’s what I’m eating. I blacklisted Kolohe last event and he proved me wrong. The blacklist is, at its heart, an emotional response to a problem. I can’t really make ‘blacklistings’ permanent though as emotions change. Kolohe has been tearing his way through the Euro QS events on the back of his form spike at Lowers. He is guaranteed a spot on tour next year through his QS ranking, so he can surf without pressure in the remaining WSL events. I honestly think he is a lock-in for this event. Welcome back to the flock, Brother (seriously though: if he bombs out, he’s done).
Dane – I know he’s always a risk, but I think he’s one of the better options in a fairly poor group.
I’m no misogynist. I haven’t been ignoring the women’s tour out of a belief that they are inferior nor out of a sense that nobody cares; I simply haven’t had time. I have a team though, and I am happy to share it with readers from this point onwards; may I present “Hell’s Belles” for France:
Sally Fitz – I’m picking her to win partly because I want the title race to be a 3-way nail-biter in Hawaii. I also think she has the versatility to go all the way here. At 15% she’s the biggest ‘sleeper’ option in Tier A.
Lakey Peterson – Her recent form’s been good and I think she’ll finish the year well. She’s on 40% of teams, but I think she’s worth the popularity.
Bianca Buitendag – One of the most consistent performers on tour this year and only owned by 17%.
The new draw has Steph and Nikki in Tier B, so I’m running with Dimity (14%). Lima is tempting at 1%, but she’s too rocks-and-diamonds for my liking.
The Surf-Stats Numbers Team will be running with the following data-approved women’s lineup:
Carissa Moore (99.74 projected points)
Lakey Peterson (90.04)
Bianca Buitendag (83.81)
Silvana Lima (56.71)
The Hell’s Belles team can be found in the Surf-Stats Clubhouse on the women’s WSL fantasy site. Join up, challenge the rest of us, and celebrate women’s surfing.
The blacklist was my way of getting back at the surfers who had scorned me in contests past. It was supposed to be permanent, but that seems a little ridiculous in hindsight. The list will ebb and flow like the French tides, and surfers will be forgiven and/or punished as I deem fit. Here’s the current list:
- Wilko – Don’t get me wrong, I like Wilko; he’s funny, he rips, he likes a funny wetsuit as much as anyone and he can even pull out a decent contest result from time-to-time (usually about one each year). The problem I have with Wilko is that he never blows up when I pick him. In fact, his very selection seems to guarantee an early exit. Wilko is on the blacklist for the benefit of us both; I hope he does well, but I’ll be leaving him off my team.
- CJ – CJ doesn’t need to do well. He’s retiring. I’d love for him to do a Freddy and pull the pin after a 10, but I doubt it will happen.
- Dusty Payne – I had Dusty at 2 of the first 4 events. It’s my own stupid fault, but he is definitely listed.
- Simpo – I’ve just lost faith with Brett. He’s a great surfer, but he is toxic for fantasy. I’ve been steering clear of poor Simpo for two years now.
- Micro – Glenn Hall accounted for JJF last event, arguably the most talented surfer on the planet. He then proceeded to get knocked out in his next heat. Well done Micro, but you’re still blacklisted.
- Richardo Cristie – I wanted Richardo to do well, I really did, if for no other reason than out of love for my NZ brothers. He fully deserves to do well, but his results have been horrific. Sorry, bro.
- Adam Melling – Melling is on the cusp of re-qualifying through the QS, but his form on the CT has been too sub-par for too long.
- Jordy – You’ll have noticed a distinct lack of Jordy references in this article. Why? He’s dead to me this season. I seriously doubt that he’ll compete again this year, and yet he refuses to rule himself out until the last minute. Every time. It makes writing a contest analysis a fucking nightmare.
Now that you know the team break-downs, it’s time for you to create a team that will wipe the floor with mine and hold me to account. The easiest way to prove your dominance is to sign up to the clubhouse (password ‘fantasy’). Inside you’ll find The Fantasy Wash-Up team, the Surf-Stats Numbers Team, Surf-Stats Gut Instincts and the teams of any other readers willing to throw down the fantasy gauntlet. The winner of each contest will get a shout-out in the wrap-up article and bragging rights until the next event. The reigning champion, Felonious Crunk, is still bragging to anyone who’ll listen and, to be honest, I’ll just be happy so long as he loses. We are also looking at some possible prizes in the future, so watch this space.
Lastly, I have set up a page that links all of my articles and connects you to the WSL fantasy universe. If you like what I’m doing then like The Fantasy Wash-Up on Facebook and get some fantasy goodness in your newsfeed.
As always, feel free to comment or leave your team selections below.
See You in the Clubhouse,
The Fantasy Wash-Up
The Fantasy Wash-Up (Balyn McDonald) grew up on the east coast of Australia, nourishing his passion for surfing through a diet of empty beach breaks, Taylor Steele VHS cassettes and poor amateur competition results. If you buy him a beer he’ll most likely bore you with the reasons why goofy-footers have it harder on tour. He has recently spent more time building his fantasy team than actually surfing, a fact which is particularly sad considering he is only ranked 952nd. His surprisingly good surfing/WSL tour related Facebook page, The Fantasy Wash-Up, can be found here.