“Now I’m just thankful for every comp I get to get in and hopefully, if I do get back on tour next year, I can take the same mentality and do it”
– Sebastian Zietz
Is 2016 going down as the year of 'mentality' in professional surfing? Wilko has seemingly changed his and has been rewarded with the strongest start to a season he's ever had. Seabass adjusted his, and the results have followed. Slater’s has gone off the rails, and so has his mojo.
Expect a lot of talk about 'mentality' as the year wears on…
Is there anyone within the surfing community not feeling the stoke for Seabass right now? OK, OK, the final was a little questionable, but surely he was a worthy winner. Often as sports fans we have teams, players, or countries that we support in big events when 'our' team isn’t on the field. World Cups, Olympics, finals series, whatever, we all have an underdog or a back-up that we like to get behind when our 'first choice' isn’t playing. Well, for the Margies event, Seabass was the official ‘back-up’ surfer for Surf-Stats; despite having him on NONE of our teams, we were celebrating each victory and watching with interest as he edged towards the impossible – a maiden event win after falling off tour. Zietz was tearing it up all event and deserved his victory; well done ‘Bass.
Here are some observations after event 3, the Drug Aware Pro:
- Wilko can lose in 2016. Actually, I was surprised to notice how few people are talking up Wilko to go all the way this year. It must be disappointing for him, given his excellent form and the fact that he’ll still be wearing the Yellow Jersey in Fiji unless Seabass or Italo can win in Rio.
- There were some very dubious judging calls at this event. I’m not calling conspiracy, I just want consistency; are they rewarding surfers for getting the biggest sets, or not? Is there some kind of scaling-up for waves caught in the final two minutes? Is there a different scale for forehand/backhand surfing? Are barrels not worth as much these days? Is one big manoeuvre really that much better than 4 really solid ones? Who knows. I'm just glad my livelihood isn't in the hands of such subjective outcomes.
- The men’s top 12 looks like the cantina scene from Star Wars. Go on, have a look at them; you’ve got none of the past 3 world champions present, former tour-slacker Wilko is miles ahead of the rest (I'll admit, I'm still getting used seeing him there), the surfer ranked 2nd isn’t even on tour (nor is Stu in 12th place), there are two rookies in there and, despite 3 right-hander events in a row, there are 4 goofy-footers in the top 10. You can’t script this.
- For some reason R2, H1 (Jeremy Flores vs. Jay Davies) was removed from Heat Analyser. You can still watch the highlights here, but you can’t see the whole 30 mins. Was this done to hide something?
- Some of the old-school are working their way back into contention. Joel, Jordy and Julian have been sneaking their way back up the rankings and at least one of them will feature heavily when it comes to the pointy end of the season. All three of them have a ‘throw-away’ score already though, so they will need to be consistent.
- Leonardo Fioravanti is definitely one to watch. It almost seems commonplace nowadays for me to mention in my wrap-up a dark horse who took out the big names, and thus Leo gets the honours this time. He defeated Slater (yawn), ADS, Ace, and Nat before finally losing to an on-fire Julian. Leo is a great asset to the sport and a genuine talent; I can’t wait to see more of him on tour. After just one event he sits at 21st in the rankings, putting him above Flores, Kerr, Taj, Slater and even Keanu Asing.
- Italo is looking like he could be the real deal. He turned a lot of heads last year with his ROTY performances, but I think he could genuinely be a contender in his sophomore year. Can you imagine three different Brazilian champions in as many years? Phenomenal.
Best Possible WSL Team
This team, with a score of 783.66, was a little more conventional than the previous 2 events. It still had its fair share of risk though; Leo was the only Tier C surfer to make it past R3 and was owned by less than 1% of players; Seabass (owned by less than 8%) was in a talented Tier B pool and would have required you to overlook Kerr, Slater, John John, Medina etc.; Nat and Italo used the lack of Box heats to their advantage with some solid backhand surfing. Well done to anyone who had a few of these picks.
Worst Possible WSL Team
Here are the WSL fantasy surfers who were as useful as a mint-flavoured suppository:
Davey, Stu and Conner all fell back to Earth, Keanu, Kai and Ribeiro continued to have poor years, Slater stunk it up and Kanoa did OK, but struggled in the bigger, windier conditions.
We also have some new leaders to congratulate:
Surf-Stats FS group event – XASP killed it at Margies with a score of 1054
Surf-Stats Projection Reflections:
For the first time this season, the Surf-Stats teams out performed the numbers teams. Not that the scores were amazing, by any stretch:
Surf-Stats WSL: 501.68 (12th out of 40 teams in the clubhouse)
Numbers WSL: 438.34 (28th)
Surf-Stats FS: 649
Numbers FS: 588
Our pre-Margies projections were again mixed: we recommended Jordy for form and Leo for both form and as a dark horse (Melling was a dark horse recommendation too). We warned against Keanu, Ribeiro and Slater for form and also warned against Wilko at this venue. None of our conditions picks did well, but this isn’t surprising given that, from the top 8 possible event surfers, only Julian and Nat had made the quarters before (once each).
Fantasy Betting Market
With Taj the latest to announce his impending retirement, I’ve created a completely fictional market to predict the next possible source of retirement news:
Matt Wilkinson quits before Rio, opting to finish on a high a la Freddy P - 1000:1
Mick Fanning extends his ‘gap year’ indefinitely to run a shark conservation NGO - 200:1
Kelly Slater decides to pull the pin on a stellar career before suffering another R2 loss – 50:1
Dusty Payne rebels against the spate of dodgy WSL judging calls by refusing to compete again – 20:1
Alex Ribeiro swallows his pride and quits to let Leo Fioravanti have a crack at the tour full time – 5:1
These winners are in the running to claim the overall SS awards at the end of the year:
Biggest single manoeuvre: we know this is unconventional, but I’m giving this to John John’s flip while freesurfing shortly after R1 was called off. Also Kolohe’s alley-oop is worthy of mention. Caio’s clutch tail-high reverse misses out partly as it was on a smaller wave.
Best wave: I have to give it to Jordy’s 9.37 in R3; it had a massive full-rail turn out the back, a barrel through the inside and two solid tail wafts over the shallow sections. Basically, it was a perfect Main Break wave.
Best heat: R2, H5 – Ace Buchan vs. Dusty Payne. The average wave score for this heat was 8.98. I actually think that Dusty was cruelled by the judges a little in this heat, but it was a cracker regardless.
Biggest disappointment: Two words – NO BOX. I guess I could add North Point in there too, but nobody really thought they’d run the event there, did they? Also, notice how I didn’t mention Slater here?
Most impressive: Leonardo was solid and certainly looked comfortable amongst the elite of the WSL; I’m sure we will see plenty more of him soon. However, this award belongs to Sebastian Zietz. He was dropping scores in the excellent range all contest and it was great to see him win his maiden event. His post-win interview was a pretty good performance in itself too.
We have a few weeks until the Oi Rio Pro, but watch out for our sortable data tables and projections before then as they will drop a little earlier for those keen to do their research.
We are also looking for a contributor for our next 'Notes from the Line-Up' article. If you are a Rio local with your finger on the pulse and you'd like to give us the low down on how the contest is shaping up, drop us a line via this site or social media. We'll interview you and give you a shout-out for your troubles.