I’ve hesitated to write this article for a couple of days. Part of the delay had to do with the craziness of this time of year, but motivation was also lacking due to my disappointment at Mick’s loss. As a writer/commentator I try to limit my biases (except towards the 8 surfers on my fantasy team), and I pride myself on celebrating good surfing regardless of its source. That’s why my growing favouritism for Mick (who wasn’t even on my fantasy team) took me by surprise.
Say what you like about Mick, there was a certain feeling of destiny about him winning the Title this year. After the tragic loss of his brother Peter - and his subsequent clutch wins - I honestly believed that the fickle finger of fate would wind up pointing straight at Mick and naming him as the champion.
It wasn’t to be.
Take nothing away from Adriano though. After going 3rd, 2nd, 1st on the Australian leg of the tour, he was always in a prime position to take his maiden Title and, after stumbling at Fiji and Tahiti, he silenced many of his critics with a crucial win at Pipe. Adriano worked very hard for this Title and through consistency and focus, he can rightfully claim to be counted amongst the elite list of World Champion Surfers. Parabens Mineirinho!
Fun Fact 1: What do the Pipe Master, Triple Crown Champion, Rookie of the Year, World Champion and top-ranked QS qualifier all have in common? They are all Brazilian. ADS, Gabe, Italo, ADS (again) and Caio respectively are all flying the flag proudly and, while I’m not huge on nationalistic sentiment, it certainly makes for an interesting snapshot heading into 2016.
Fun Fact 2: How do you suck the oxygen out of a guy’s World Title celebrations? Create the most game-changing prototype in human-made wave making, that’s how. Less than 9 hours after posting this lovely message:
“There is no substitute for hard work and desire. Natural talent on its own has proven many times to do many great men no good. There is only one way to win a world title each year and this man figured out the riddle ahead of the rest of us this time. There is no one more passionate or applied or willing to go the extra mile and weeks on the road to win. Congratulations on achieving a life goal today, my friend @adrianodesouza”
Kelly Slater promptly shat all over de Souza’s limelight by announcing (via video part) that his 10-year project of building a world-class wave pool was finally at the ‘sharing’ stage. Surfing (and some mainstream) media promptly lost their shit and, what with the biggest opening weekend for a film in cinematic history, Adriano’s story was soon shunted to the rear.
There is even talk of making Kelly’s wave pool a future destination for the World Tour. I don’t know enough about anything to comment on that, but I do know that the ability to generate high-quality, consistent waves in areas that don’t necessarily get natural waves will be a massive boost for any surfing-in-the-Olympics bid.
Shall we look at the Fantasy Wash-Up from Pipe? Yeah, why the hell not…
My fantasy hat truly goes off to EduardoMattei_dut, the winner of the WSL fantasy competition for 2015. He averaged 568.13 for the year, a quantitative standard that I only managed to beat 4 times all season. I’m not sure if the WSL site even offers prizes, but surely his efforts deserve something. Maybe a few waves at Slater’s new pool would do?
Congratulations also go out to: curvesurf, winner of the WSL women’s competition; BlakeT1985, winner of Fantasy Surfer for 2015; Manocket, winner of the inaugural Surf-Stats Clubhouse league; awesomes, the highest scorer in the Pipe contest (with a score of 644.85 – the perfect team) and; Austin’s Picks, the highest scorer in the Surf-Stats clubhouse (contact fantasurf.com to claim your prize).
More generally, a fantasy result at Pipe was mostly about being on your game and adjusting to the draw. For every Mick Fanning (53%) and John John Florence (56%) there were choices that caught many napping; Mason Ho was owned by 0% due to Owen’s late withdrawal, Slater was owned by 15% because he had dropped down a tier and consistent Pipe performer Josh Kerr was owned by only 13%.
Here is the best possible team:
The perfect WSL Fantasy Total was 644.85 and didn’t include event winner Adriano de Souza (90.40 points). This team was actually chosen by event winner awesomes, so kudos there.
Here are my reflections on the contest in a nutshell:
- The Title race lived up to its hype for the most part; it was only truly decided in the dying seconds of the last semi-final. Gabriel’s air antics robbed us of a world title shoot-out in the final, but Mason nearly snuck out of one to give it back to Mick. It was tight.
- The waves on the final day didn’t match the intensity of the Title battle. Surely they could have juggled the contest better and wrapped up a day earlier? It is always a pity when the best waves of the contest occur well before the final. Maybe we need to look at the influence that local ‘rules’ play on the Pipe contest (finishing by 4pm?) and how they impact the World Title? Surely the WSL should be seen to be the ones in charge here…
- While the waves may not have lasted for the finals, we were treated to one of the best heats in recent memory between Mick, Kelly and John2 during R4. Those waves and that surfing embodied everything that can be great about a Pipe event.
- I can’t decide whether I like Mason Ho’s claims or post heat interviews better. Is he having a serious crack at the QS next year? The tour needs more characters like him.
- How good is Jack Robinson? The kid’s 17 and already making a name for himself where it counts. Is he having a serious crack at the QS next year? I think he has a bright future ahead if he can negotiate the QS slog.
- Surf-Stats did a great article detailing some of the events that aligned with WSL’s #youcantscriptthis promo. I thought that I might take the liberty of adding to it: Owen being knocked out of the Title race via a heinous wipeout injury; Nat Young being knocked out via Glenn Hall; Gabe deciding the World Title with a full-rotation reverse air at Pipe; Bede shattering his pelvis and compromising his professional surfing career; Mason challenging AI’s ‘shotgun’ as the best/worst claim in professional surfing, and John John failing to live up to his incredible talent. Wait, scratch that last one.
The Fantasy Losers:
Here are the surfers who burnt us with their mediocrity. The biggest surprise for me was Owen at 16%; obviously there are people who don’t read my FB page regularly…
Total score: 85.19 - Ouch.
The Fantasy Wash-Up’s Team Breakdown:
I did OK. I jumped 67 places back to 621st overall, but fell way short of my top 500 hopes. I had half of the top 8 possible surfers on my team, so I didn’t do too poorly.
- Gabe was great. I was very confident of his success and he didn’t let me down.
- John2, Slater and Kerr were all solid enough; no surprises there either.
- Flores was OK (4th best tier A option), but paled in comparison to Mick.
- Taj totaled 1.83 for 2 waves in R3. No, I don’t know how either. Parko was the safe pick here.
I rolled the Wildcard dice in Tier C with Jack Robinson and JOB. Jack lost by the narrowest of margins in R2 and Jamie basically forgot to turn up in his R3 heat. My Tier C selections for Portugal were CJ and Mason; maybe I needed a little more faith/consistency. It was nice to see Ceej do well.
As far as my advice: I warned against Toledo, Smith and Wiggolly (form) and I recommended John John, Slater, Joel and a Wildcard for the conditions. However, I also suggested Nat, Taj, Kolohe and Dusty in places, so I guess it all evened out.
The Surf-Stats - Numbers Team, representing the projected totals of the cold, hard data, predicted a total of 800.17. While this score was actually impossible, it was still a good team. 6 of the 8 best surfers were selected, with Jordy and Nat the only disappointments. The Numbers Team placed 3rd in the clubhouse and scored a very decent 534.68.
Overall, the Numbers Team’s 3rd (out of 34) in the Surf-Stats Clubhouse was the best of the Surf-Stats teams, besting the Surf-Stats.com GI (Gut Instincts) team (19th, 428.14) and the Fantasy Wash-Up (10th, 481.24).
World Tour Wash-Up:
Since the 2015 season has run its course, I thought it would be fun to offer some of the Tour surfers personalised awards that reflect their year:
Best Post-Heat Interviews:
Best Single Manoeuvre:
I have to give it to Medina for his no-hands, full-rotation, backhand reverse monster in R4 at France. Italo’s effort in the Portugal Final was pretty incredible too, but Medina gets this one for getting a more complete rotation.
Best Single Wave:
Tough call. I’m going with Filipe’s 10 in the Portugal Final. It was in the sort of junk surf that required him to really work the wave and manufacture something from it (unlike Pipe, Tahiti etc.), and yet he did it so effortlessly, all the way to the beach. Great wave.
For sheer drama, emotion, waves and surfing all bundled into one session, you can’t go past the John John/Slater/Mick heat from R4 at Pipe. John John vs. Gabe in R3 at Tahiti and the Portugal final were also fantastic.
Matt Banting. If Jordy had gone deeper into the finals at Pipe, or if Jordy hadn’t been injured, or any number of other situations, Matt would have been guaranteed a spot on Tour next year through an injury replacement. As it currently stands, he’ll probably be reliant on injuries and misfortunes to get a solid shot at requalification through CT events. He’s a great surfer and he’s done nothing wrong to be in this spot; I hope he gets a proper chance (although Bede’s injury could be a foot in the door for Banting – we’ll wait and see). Other nominees for bad luck were Bede, Owen and Mick.
Adriano. With only 3 13ths as his worst results, Adriano was a machine. His title is a testament to his hard work and consistency.
Filipe Toledo. From 17th and a best result of 5th in 2014, Toledo managed 3 event wins and 4th place overall this year. If he can continue to develop his big wave game, the sky’s the limit.
Tied between Toledo and Gabriel. Toledo had this in the bag until Pipe. Gabe’s SF air to beat Mick, followed by a very, very nearly successful backflip in the final put him right back up there in my mind. These two are pushing each other and I love it.
I’m not even sure that this is a category, but here goes. Joel Parkinson. Technically, Bourez slid further down the rankings, but he was injured for 2 events. Joel has been on auto-pilot since his Title win a few years back. He is still one of the best surfers in the world, but raw talent and style alone don’t win events or Titles anymore. Just ask John John, or Adriano for that matter.
Most Likely to Succeed:
This is for the QS guys, as in who will most likely win the ROTY award in 2016. Jack Freestone. Jack has a pretty complete contest game and he is still getting better. I think Caio will be the one most likely to challenge him for the Title.
Least Likely to Succeed:
Matt Wilkinson is on my radar as least likely to requalify in 2016. Jadson, Keanu and perpetual fringe requalifier Kolohe are all eligible, but Wilko has Micro Hall as his coach next year. Case closed.
That’s it for 2015. Thanks for reading; it’s been a blast getting this up and running this year and I look forward to a full season next year. Feel free to comment, especially on my awards, and check out my Facebook blog if you haven’t already as it’s the only place that I’ll be posting over the season break. Have a great Summer/Winter and catch a few waves if you can.