Image: Connor O'Leary laying down some Saquarema rail in 2015
If there's a more challenging event to forecast this season, I'll be amazed. We still have a much-derided Brazilian event this season, yet we have a venue that has been untested on the CT tour. Sure, there are QS stats available, as well as transferable data from similar conditions, not to mention all of our data from previous Rio events at other venues. And yet, they are all far more approximate than we usually like. For a stats site it hurts to say this, but Rio 2017 is the most 'gut feel' event we've seen for a while.
That said, there's plenty to look at stats-wise, and we're keen to test our projections against a new venue. Let's take a look:
The WSL's forecasting uses the word 'fun' a lot in its early modelling, which is basically code for small. Coastalwatch is predicting much the same conditions, however Nick Carroll goes into a bit more detail regarding the break and also throws a few vague predictions out there as well.
For this event you can basically expect typical beachbreak conditions, with a longer left and a shorter, punchier right. Both Nick Carroll and Lipped's Cahill Bell-Warren have likened it to Australia's North Narrabeen, which may paint a clearer picture for some.
Here are our hits and misses for the Saquarema event, based on conditions, previous CT Rio results and some QS data.
John John Florence
John's won the Rio CT event twice in the past 5 years and has the second-highest event history average for the same period (Jack Freestone has a second-place average based off his one appearance last year). Even if you ignore the success at the previous venue, he places first for 4-6' conditions, second for beach-breaks, and third for both left-hander and left-right breaks.
Mick's history in Rio is OK (3rd, 3rd, 25th, 9th in his past four appearances), but his conditions data is pretty solid: He's 1st in 1-4' surf, 2nd in left-right breaks and 3rd in beachbreaks.
Jeremy didn't have the greatest run at the previous venue, basically averaging a 13th when averaged across the past 5 years, but his results at the Saquarema QS event are above all others, with the best winning percentage rate and the top AHS among all current tour surfers. His best AHS average data for similar CT conditions is 8th-highest for both lefts and 1-4' waves, but otherwise he's pretty middling. Picking Flores based on QS data is a chancy risk at this new venue, but it could pay off.
Gabe / Filipe
Both surfers metaphorically trade blows when it comes to data analysis for this event. Filipe wins AET, while Gabriel has a higher EAHS. Filipe wins narrowly in 1-'4 waves, but Gabe does the same in 4-6'. Gabe wins beachies, Filipe in left-right waves. Medina wins convincingly in lefts, while Filipe has a much stronger event history in Brazil (winning the Rio Pro in 2015). These guys are too hard to split; maybe you should choose both?
Wiggolly / Wilko
Both surfers have won the QS Saquarema event over the years. Food for thought.
The Spartan has the worst average in beach-breaks and left-right conditions, as well as the 4th-lowest AHS in 1-4' waves. The thing is, he won the Rio event in 2014 and placed 9th in his other appearances (at a different venue, admittedly). I'm not sure what to think of Michel here.
How does a two-time US Open semi-finalist have the lowest AHS in 1-4' waves? He's also 3rd-lowest in 4-6' conditions and beach-breaks. What gives?
Hear me out on this one: Ian competed at the QS event at Saquarema twice (2014-15) and didn't make a single heat at either event (he finished 3rd in both of his 4-man heats). We don't have much usable conditions data on Gouveia, but we were locking him in as a dark-horse option before we saw his QS winning %. Now we're not sure.
John John Florence
John's 2017 AHS is a phenomenal 16.83. His win percentage is 87.5. He is tour leader. He hasn't finished worse than 3rd all year. It will take a brave or foolhardy fantasy surfer to leave him off their team.
The surfer with the next-best AHS for the season is none other than Mr. Unfulfilled Potential himself. To be fair, Julian has lost narrowly in some very high-scoring heats this year and, had the fickle finger of fate pointed his way, could be placed much higher than he currently stands. If Julian can maintain that AHS, he will win a great many more heats before the year is out.
Jordy built nicely through the Bells event, peaking at just the right time. Jordy's reputation in lefts isn't great (for good reason - he has the lowest AHS on tour), but I think his newfound focus and self-belief could be enough to overcome the stats.
Jadson could be a smoky here in Rio, but with the lowest AHS of the 2017 season, he'll have to overcome whatever's been holding him back so far.
Kerr / Leo / Ewing
What do Mikey Wright, Jacob Wilcox and Jesse Mendes all have in common? They've all won more heats this year than the bottom-placed tour surfers listed. Josh has looked deflated, Leo has looked hot-and-cold and Ethan has looked both unlucky and overwhelmed at times. All three have a ton of potential, but they are definitely in a slump.
Stu's 13th at the Gold Coast represents his only win of the season. His AHS places him below both Ethan and Leo for 2017 as well.
While only a minor consideration when compared to conditions and form, the draw should still be a partial influence. 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.
Italo is still out, Nat is in. The main trials are yet-to-run, so we are still waiting for the last entry. We know that they won't be seeded above current QS leader and 2017 Rio Pro wildcard Jesse Mendes though.
Our R1 “heat of death” nomination for this contest is H1: Medina / Morais / Ewing
Our "is this 2017 or 2007?" nomination is H9: Joel / Mick / Bede
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.
I think that most fantasy players will leave out Caio, and I can see how his top-seed peers would have more appeal, but he looked great at Bells and could be an excellent point of difference for those who don't mind the risk.
The mid-tier surfers group is stacked with talent. Connor O'Leary could go nuts in these conditions, but Frederico also stands out as a great option.
Joan Duru has done his time in the European beach-breaks. This event screams QS vibes to me, and Joan is a QS veteran.
He's been off the boil, there have been whispers about his knee, he has never done particularly well at his home event. Do you dare leave him off though?
I've been heaping the pressure on Ethan because I love his surfing so much, but his results haven't justified the expectation. I will mention these two points though: 1. This event is quite similar to Ethan's home break of South Straddie (same goes for Bede), 2. Ethan made the final at the US open last year, in small, changeable beach-break conditions. No pressure.
I have a gut feeling that Mendes could do well here. I've been looking for data to back me up, but I can't seem to find anything solid. Mind you, he won a heat at Margies when he wasn't supposed to, so...
Will he show up? Is he 100%? Can he match it with the young guns if it's small? Will he ever respond to my messages asking for an interview? So many important questions.
Here are our “numbers” teams: a selection overview based purely on our projections. They rarely suck, but they don't predict the dark-horses either. join our leagues and see if you can wax them:
Three surfers in H1? Well, we're guaranteed at least two surfers into R2. Slater and Mick made the cut, as did favourites JJF, Medina and Filipe. Joan and Ethan appear yet again.
Zeke replaces Filipe due to salary restrictions in the only change from the WSL team.
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.
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