Can you feel it? The pre-Gold Coast buzz of a new season just about to pop its cork? Sure, the WSL may have lost its CEO and main sponsor. Sure, the forecast is for yet another pumping week of surf prior to the desolate wasteland that is the waiting period forecast. But, BUT, all is forgiven in the frenzied anticipation of a clean slate. No?
What is there to look forward to, you ask? Well, there’s the fact that we have the best surfer in the world as the reigning champ. How will he go with the pressure of a title off his shoulders? There’s the return of Mick, Owen and Bede, and all of the unknowns regarding their potential. There is also the self-anointed pressure of Slater’s ‘last run at the title’. Throw into the mix an exceptional group of rookies, the wild rumours around reduced tour numbers next year and the perpetually failed hopes and dreams of the tour’s talented bridesmaids (ahem - Jordy, Julian, Felipe…); it’s hard not to be a little excited.
Then there’s fantasy surfing. Unless you won something (your clubhouse, a trip to turtle bay, all of your friends’ money), the chances are that you don’t even recall where you finished last year. Why? Because we’re starting anew, dammit, and anyone – ANYONE – could be lucky enough to come out swinging and smash the first two events. Just ask Wilko. The chances are though that, unless you have some solid strategies to get you through the whole season, you’re just going to fade back into the pack. Just ask Wilko.
That’s where we come in.
We crunch the numbers. We look at the conditions, the form, the draw, the details. Do we predict every winner 100% of the time? Hell no; that would be boring as shit anyway. We’ll paint you the big, messy, complicated picture though, and the rest is up to you. Maybe if you squint your eyes and tilt your head just right, you’ll find something that makes sense.
Let’s start with the facts: this contest is held at a right-hand point break that rarely – especially over the past few years – sees anything over 6’. Those are the parameters. To assess a surfer’s ability in these ‘conditions’ you can look either at their past results at this very event, OR you can look at their results in all right-handers, point-breaks and waves up to 6’ in height. That’s what we do here. Scroll down, sort through the columns, see what sticks out. Or just let us sum it up for you below…
The official forecast for the event sucks both because it looks like the conditions will be very small, with localised wind-swell with and little long-term relief, and because it’s currently pumping. Really pumping. Snapper, Kirra and Dbah are all firing, and guess when the swell dies? Tuesday. It’s been a broken record of disappointment these past few years and it’s playing our song again. Point is: pick for small, weaker waves.
Based on the break features and the surfers’ past results, here are our nominations for strong ‘conditions’ surfers for this event:
Averaging results from events over the past three years, Mick has the best AHS for 1-4’ waves, point-breaks and right-handers. Need we say more? We’re going to. It’s his home break. He’s won here before (2007, 2005). He has the second-highest AHS for this exact event. AND, he almost always finishes in the quarters or above (his R3 loss to Seabass last year was the exception). Fanning is made for these conditions.
Joel has won the event twice and finished runner-up twice as well. He has the 2nd-highest AHS for point-breaks, 3rd for rights, 5th for 1-4’ AND 4-6’ conditions, and has the 6th highest event AHS. Joel is a member of the snapper boardriders and owns the take-off area behind the rock.
Gabe won here (over Joel) in 2014 and has a bunch of quality AHS stats for these conditions: 1st in 4-6’, 3rd for the event, 4th for points, and 7th for both 1-4’ and right-handers. Medina hasn’t consistently done well here every year, but he has the stats to represent a solid choice for the forecast.
Filipe won in 2015 and was the form surfer before he was injured in his semi-final last year. He’s universally admired for his small-wave game (2nd in 1-4’ AHS) and he’s rated 3rd and 5th respectively for point-breaks and right-handers.
While Kanoa had one of his rare R3 wins last year at Snapper, he did so with a very low AHS (10.3). Add to this the fact that he has the lowest AHS for rights, points and 4-6’ waves from all of last season, and you can see why we’re wary.
Ace beat Kanoa in R5 last year. It was his best result here in a long while. Ace ranks lowest overall for AHS at this event over the past 3 years (9.8), lowest for 1-4’ in the same period and 3rd lowest for right-handers. Maybe wait for Margies on Ace.
We can’t use our stats at this event for any rookies. Nor do we have any event history to reference. You’re flying blind on this one.
It’s hard to look at form too closely after such a long off-season, but there are a few points worth considering when looking at who’s bringing the mojo to Snapper this year
John John Florence
John won nearly everything last year. He rose to the lofty expectations placed upon him in the same year he claimed he would start taking it seriously. In the last 8 events, he only missed the quarters once (13th) and made 4 finals. Will we see the same, loose, newly-crowned champion who killed the Portugal final last year? We can only hope so.
Jordy had very strong end to the year, with a 1st, 3rd and 5th within the final 4 events. He had his most consistent season in years and looked focused.
Mick had the highest AHS of the 2016 season. He qualified for the 2017 tour with only 5 events. That was during his ‘gap’ year. Now that he’s focused on another title, he’s going to be an extremely formidable competitor at every event.
Sure, QS success doesn’t translate to CT results, but Connor beat every single one of this year’s rookie class in the cauldron of a QS season. He will have a solid seeding (24th) and should feel confident coming into his first event.
Bede’s comeback story from an undeniably major injury was one of the best in 2016. I’m seriously hoping that we see the same competitive machine that regularly churned out solid results and rewarded the fantasy-game faithful. The thing is though, he hasn’t had any big results since his return (QS or CT). Nor has he proven himself through rigours of a whole season. We suggest a wait-and-see approach on Bede.
Did you read Bede’s blurb above? Double it and insert Owen’s details. There were some consistent reports last year that Owen would never wear a singlet again. He ripped in his R2 QS win a few weeks back, but that was it. I want Owen on my team, but I’m keeping my powder dry for now.
Ace finished 2016 with the following array: 13, 13, 25, 25. Not pretty is it? He hasn’t been pumping out any QS events either…
Hear us out here… Leo was storming his way through the QS last season, leading for most of the year and snaring a 5th at the Margies CT along the way. The second half of the season was different; he got a 73rd at the Vans US Open (in small surf), a 25th at Cascais and a 33rd at the Vans World Cup. He still had some OK results, and certainly didn’t stink it up, but he is the only 2017 rookie not to win an event on last year’s QS. Not even a 1000-point event. Strange.
While much less important when compared to conditions and form, the draw should still be a partial consideration. Having 3 surfers in a R1 heat, or worse 2 surfers facing off in R2, is bad form. If you want to play around with heat win and R2 possibilities, we recommend wslbracket.com as a fun way of predicting possible result match-ups. Be aware though that a single change from your projections can alter the following round entirely.
Our R1 “heat of death” nomination for this contest is H7: Slater/Fanning/Flores
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. Since the % owned feature from the WSL and FS games are invisible until lock-out, we are simply predicting who we think will be low in the popularity stakes.
Kolohe is hard to pick against the likes of JJF, Slater, Jordy, Medina, Julian and reigning champ Wilko, but he was runner-up last year and finished 2016 his season strong (3rd, 3rd, 3rd). He’s a risk, but that’s what dark-horses are all about.
Wiggolly Dantas has the top AHS at this event over the past 3 seasons. He is 4th in rights and 6th at point-breaks. He could be a handy point of difference.
World Junior Champ Ethan Ewing got 2nd at the US Open last year. He won the Burleigh Pro in very small conditions last year as well. Oh, and he’s from the Gold Coast. Get on the 2017 ROTY while he’s still cheap.
For each event 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 this event, or maybe their recent form simply contradicts their previous averages.
Here are our outliers for Pipe:
How does Julian not have a title yet? This time last year Julian posted a web clip of himself absolutely ripping and I fell for it, regularly selecting him when he had poor results. This year, he’s done it again, but the clip’s even better. Can he live up to his ability once that contest vest is on?
Conner rips. He’s classic in all the right ways. If the surf stays small though, he’s going to have a hard time pushing that knife through 1’ butter.
Adriano de Souza
ADS is a pretty safe bet here actually, he’s had some good results and he doesn’t have many weaknesses. We have a sneaking suspicion that the judges have gone off him though. We don’t have any definite proof, but just watch this space.
Where does Kelly fit into all of this? The conditions certainly don't help him, and he hasn't had a great result here in years. He ranks well in 4-6' (4th) and Points (5th), but sits in the middle for most everything else. He's hard to pick, but just as hard to leave out.
Mikey Wright looked good last year, and he's been tearing up Snapper this past week in preparation; he could be a great selection. The elephant in the room is obviously the other w/c: who are they? Jesse Mendes is leading the QS at the moment and wouldn't look out of place, but maybe some local ripper could get thrown a spot. Watch carefully for an opportunity to pounce.
As the trials-winning wildcard, Nat had to wrestle his way through similar conditions to that which we will likely see throughout the contest window. Nat's no tour slouch or green rookie; you're getting a CT surfer for a low-end trade when you choose Nat...
Here are our “numbers” teams: a selection overview based purely on our projections. If you really want to see/beat our non-numbers team, join the clubhouse (it’s not that hard – in both cases).
WSL numbers team
Mick, Gabe, JJF, Joel, Filipe will be on tons of teams. Wiggolly, Mikey and Ethan may not.
Fantasy Surfer numbers team
Similar to above, but Filipe makes way for Duru. Sleeper pick?
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 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 own team selections below.