The new season can be summed up as such: a clean slate. Welcome to a new year with new surfers and a new shot at fantasy glory.
By now many of you will have given, at the very least, a passing thought to the final make-up of your fantasy surfing teams for this, the first event of the new season. We’re going to help you look a little deeper at both the numbers and surrounding factors that can make/break your team and, hopefully, guide you to a massive score.
Analysing the conditions means having one eye on the forecast; if you can know whether the event surfers are going to be pulling into a Snapper beast behind the rocks, or hopping their way through to Rainbow then you can predict who will thrive for each contest. The other way to analyse the conditions is to look at each surfer’s success in this event in previous years; if they know how to win here, they obviously suit the conditions.
Given that the short-term forecast (there has been no official contest forecast as yet) is for smaller waves, it’s probably a good idea to rid your mind of the footage of Superbank gold that Mick, Adriano and the rest have been serving up via social media these past few weeks. There is a (slight) possibility that there will be some fun 4-6’ E swell pushing through onto the world famous sand bar in around a week, but we’ll be keeping our eyes on the forecasts and our fingers on the trade button. Here are our nominations for strong ‘conditions’ surfers for this event:
Taj Burrow - For a Yallingup lad, Taj certainly feels at home in the water at Snapper. The new dad has a lower seeding (pardon the pun) than usual coming into 2016, but don’t let that fool you; Taj is a serious contender. With a past title win under his belt, solid 1-4’ AHS stats, the third highest AHS for this event, the second highest average of total points for this event and consistently finishing in the quarters or higher for the past 4 years, Taj is the definition of a well-rounded and statistically significant ‘conditions’ choice at the QuikPro.
Mick Fanning - Look at the image below from aspwedge: Mick is consistent at the QuikPro. He knows the break like the back of his hand knows the feeling of punching shark skin. Mick may be part-time on tour this year, but we’re betting that he will be as focused as ever to use his local knowledge and experience to go far in this contest. Mick has the added bonus of scoring our highest overall AHS (15.02) over the past 2 seasons in 1-4’ waves and the highest AHS for this event overall during the same period, making him ideal for these conditions in our eyes.
Filipe Toledo - Filipe found another gear in 2015, and his campaign started here at the Gold Coast. Toledo was on fire in the less-than-perfect conditions and, at an average of 14.55 in 1-4’ surf, he represents a very safe conditions selection for this event with current forecast modelling.
Ace Buchan – Poor Ace has the third-lowest AHS in 1-4’ waves over 2014/15, plus he has the worst average for total event points AND the worst AHS for this contest over the same period. Things don’t bode well for Ace.
Jadson Andre – Jadson’s stats don’t fare a great deal better than Ace’s over the same 3 categories as listed above.
While form is difficult to gauge at this stage of the season, it is always worthwhile to note the surfers with some extra swagger in their bag leading into an event. QS events, momentum and even freesurfing can all play a small role in helping you narrow the field (although, as Mike Jordan points out, highly edited footage should be viewed cautiously).
Gabriel Medina – Nobody had a stronger finish to the 2015 season than Gabe. After starting his post-title season with what could possibly be called a success-hangover, Gabe cleaned up his act and dominated the run home. Medina’s form is back and I doubt he’ll repeat 2015’s poor QuikPro result.
Kelly Slater – Now hear us out on this one. Kelly has been criticised somewhat these past few years due to his event (and world) title drought, but - while there is no denying that his contest dominance has not been quite as unquestionable lately - there are still two factors that are worth considering: a) over the past 2 seasons NOBODY has a higher AHS than Kelly (13.98). Nobody. That’s in all conditions and all events. He has been throwing down the scores consistently without competitive reward and that can’t last indefinitely; b) While they weren’t WSL tour events, the 2 biggest contests over the off-season were the Volcom Pipe event and the Eddie invitational. Kelly was solid in both, taking out an all-star cast in the former (honestly, it was better than half the tour events of 2015) and a providing a solid showing in the latter. Slater has form. (That sentence itself is so obvious that we can’t believe we would even need to type it out.)
Matt Wilkinson – There have only been two 6000 point WQS events this year, and the first of these went to Wilko. Matt surfed very well across the event and should be coming into the QuikPro with some positive energy. He’s had a few good results here in the past too.
John John Florence - See Kelly Slater’s paragraph above, then consider this: JJF has the 2nd highest AHS (13.92 – a fraction behind Slater) over the past two seasons, he surfed incredibly before his quarters loss at the Volcom Pipe event and he WON the Eddie. If we are recommending Kelly, then we have to recommend John2, no? Here’s the thing about John John: he always surfs 1-2 heats that are in a class above the rest of the field in each event, but he can’t seem to maintain his form throughout an entire contest. Florence has form, but he needs to keep it consistent.
Adriano de Souza – We know, we know; he won Pipe and the title. His form is actually great. BUT… remember that time Gabriel Medina won a wold title and then had an immediate form slump afterwards? Yeah, we do too. Adriano is a seasoned campaigner and a hard-working competitor, but be cautious.
Wiggolly Dantas – Wiggolly was in serious contention for the ROTY title last year, with some very impressive performances. Then he went 25th, 25th, 25th, across the European and Pipe contests. That’s not a great set of stats to carry into a new year. It’s worth noting that Miguel Pupo pulled the same 25th place hat trick as Wiggolly at the end of 2015.
This factor is probably less important when compared to conditions and form, but it should still be a consideration. It is always prone to 11th hour changes through withdrawals or inclusions (i.e. wildcards being added, come on WSL) so it should be considered with caution. Here are our stand-outs (best chance of a R1 win) for each tier, which can be read also as Top/Middle/Lower priced surfers for Fantasy Surfer:
WSL Tier A: Filipe Toledo / Mick Fanning
WSL Tier B Taj Burrow / Kelly Slater / John John / Nat Young
WSL Tier C Miguel Pupo / Davey Cathels
We like to offer a few suggestions that may not be on everyone’s radar. Any success that involves deviating from the popular vote will provide a huge advantage for players willing to take the risk.
Usually the athlete performance page on the WSL site gives you a ‘percentage owned’ column to use as your guide to finding sleeper picks, but it seems to have dropped off the page this year. Since the fantasy surfer page doesn’t provide this data either, we will have to make some sleeper picks based on intuition:
Top: Julian Wilson – there’s a bit of buzz around Julian as we head to Snapper, and it would be easy to look past him for the obvious big names at the top of your team. Julian could be a great point of difference.
Mid: Taj Burrow – with Slater, John John, Joel, Jordy and Kerr in similar prices or tiers (depending on your chosen game), it could be easy to overlook Taj as he kind of fell off the radar at the end of last year. We think he’s a solid selection.
Low: Davey Cathels - We like Davey’s chances in his R1 heat, and his QS stats for point breaks and 1-4’ waves have him in a reasonable place numbers-wise. Pupo, Banting and Freestone may be the popular guys at the low end, but Davey could just surprise a few people. His low seed could hurt him if he loses in R1 though.
This team represents all of the above information: statistical analysis, conditions, form, heat draw and intuition. There’s no algorithm for all of these factors together, but that’s what makes it personalised. We’re a little disappointed to see just how similar it is to the numbers team, but we’re not going to make changes just for the sake of being different. The Tier C surfers deviate somewhat from the projections; there is a little faith at work in backing these two surfers.
Using our sortable stats and a few other algorithms, I have come up with the following ‘numbers’ teams for the QuikPro event. It’s a pretty solid line-up and I can’t really second-guess the numbers in many of these selections. There is only the one clash too, with Joel and John John facing off in the super-heat of the round:
Fantasy Surfer Instincts
For FS, it’s about balancing event performance with season value. Normally we’d shy away from selecting all 3 surfers in a R1 heat, but the potential for all of the H12 surfers to do well at both event/season levels is too strong to deny. Joel and Davey probably represent the biggest risks statistically, but calculated risk is always a part of the game.
Fantasy Surfer Numbers
We had to run our data analysis a little differently for FS, and this is what our spreadsheet suggested. It’s a fairly well-rounded team, but some of the budget surfers seem a little risky. Excepting the alternate of Melling, there is also only one clash in this team.
When performing data analysis, you usually assume that your values cluster around some central data point, but sometimes a few of the values fall too far from the central point. These values are called outliers (they lay outside the expected range). Outliers can skew your statistical analyses, leading you to false or misleading conclusions about your data.
For each event in 2016, we will produce a list of ‘outliers’ that represent some kind of anomaly within our selection analyses. Maybe there are factors that a spreadsheet can’t detect, maybe all of the numbers point a god-awful result at an event, or maybe their recent form simply contradicts their previous averages.
Here are our outliers for the QuikPro 2016:
Ace Buchan – we were quite surprised by how poorly Ace was represented by the spreadsheet. It’s just too much of a risk to suggest him for anyone’s team
Jordy Smith – sitting as a mid-range pick, Jordy doesn’t represent a huge risk for anyone willing to take a chance on him. However, after a lengthy injury lay-off and an average Hawaiian season, we just can’t see enough to recommend him until we’ve watched him surf a few heats this year.
Adam Melling – simply put: Melling has the worst set of data for small surf. He also has a low seed so it’s all uphill for Adam in this event.
Alex Ribeiro – Alex is recovering from an injury he sustained while freesurfing in Sydney. His numbers don’t impress enough to overlook the injury.
Now that you know the team break-downs, it’s time for you to create a team that will hold our selections to account. Sign up to our WSL Surf-Stats group (password - SS) or the Fantasy Surfer Surf-Stats clubhouse (password – SS) and challenge yourself against us and our readers. We will give a shout-out to each winner and analyse their team.
As always, feel free to comment or leave your team selections below.