The trials are done, the forecast is coming into focus and the metrics have been updated; let's do this:
The WSL forecast doesn't looks fantastic. There is the potential for the WSL to run the first few rounds on a mild-mannered SSW swell in the first 3 days, possibly getting us past R4 if they can run some on Friday. After that, it doesn't look too impressive. Mind you, last year's forecast was similar, but we were pleasantly surprised by some excellent conditions at the end of the waiting period. Our fingers are crossed, but we won't be selecting a team based purely on big-wave reputations.
As for the break itself, you can expect a short, intense left-hand reef-break that can range from playful when small to life-threatening when big. Barrels are definitely the main scoring option, but there is potential for more manoeuvres when the swell backs off. Unlike Fiji, locals and trials winners have traditionally done well here. Regardless of conditions, Tahiti rewards surfers with good wave selection, the ability to adjust their surfing and, of course, a solid left-hand reef game.
John's stats for this event are impressively dominant considering the fact that he's never won here. He tops the big 3 conditions factors for this event: EAHS, lefts and reefs. He also tops 8-10+ conditions, while taking second in 6-8', 4-6' and fantasy AET points. His only real weakness is a 'lowly' 6th place on the 1-4' stats.
Medina has the best average placing out of any surfer in the draw, which is reflected by his top AET ranking. He tops the 4-6' stats as well, which matches the current forecast beautifully. He ranks second in reefs, 2nd in lefts, 3rd in 6-8' conditions and 5th in 1-4'.
Owen doesn't dominate many of the wave height averages (which are taken across all conditions), but he certainly scores well where it counts: 3rd in Lefts, Reefs and fantasy AET points, as well as 4th in EAHS.
As the lowest-ranked full-time surfer, this is hardly surprising. Ewing's averages in lefts and reefs, while limited in their quantitative significance, tell a sad story.
The jujitsu enthusiast and soon-to-be dad ranks lowest for an EAHS and second-lowest in lefts. His average in reefs is slightly better, but unless he can go right he'll be struggling.
Wildcards are always a risk at this event, so we don't want to write off Taumata, but his 2015 event yielded some low heat scores, which in turn impacted his averages. He charges the big stuff, and he knows the wave, but his historical data looks a little bleak.
Filipe was en fuego at J-Bay, and looked similarly unstoppable at the US Open until he decided to push priority boundaries against his new favourite competitor, Kanoa. Filipe doesn't have great stats at this or similar events, but sometimes form can overcome such obstacles.
Speaking of Kanoa, any win at a QS 10,000 is a major confidence boost, and Kanoa's came at just the right time. Can he build from here?
Julian is like the ultimate dark horse this season; he's sitting at 8th, surfing well and yet flying well under the radar. His past 3 events have been 9th, 5th, & 3rd, and he hasn't had a 25th all season.
Ace could be a great mid-tier pick out here, but he'll have to overcome a mini-slump; he has scored two consecutive 25ths at the last two events, including an early exit at the Fiji Pro. His 2nd at Rio seems a distant memory now and he'll be hoping to draw on his impressive EAHS (3rd best overall) in order to bounce back.
It might seem contradictory to put Kanoa on both sides of the form coin, but hear me out: Kanoa's win at HB is hardly relevant to the conditions he'll face at Chopes. Sure he'll have some confidence from his result, but that runs contrary to his four 25ths for the season, including 3 in the past 4 events.
Kerr, like Ace, has a solid history of performance at this event. We're not ruling him out. His form in 2017 justifies his position in this list though, with five 25ths and a winning percentage of just 8.33 for the season.
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.
Slater is out, Nat is in, trialists Aritz and Taumata have also been added.
Our R1 “heat of death” nomination for this contest is H3: Owen / Italo / Kerr
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.
John and Owen are going to dominate this event, especially in the WSL game. Wilko is solid, and Julian/Joel could do well, but they are hardly sleepers. It comes down to Filipe/Jordy/ADS for the true contrary option at the top, and we're backing Jordy this time.
The middle tier is where the big points are won and lost in fantasy, so it's tough to lock in a true sleeper here. Medina, Flores, Ace, Mick, Michel, Italo and maybe even Connor will be popular, so we're going to back Joan for a quarters or better sleeper result.
Ian Gouveia surprised a few with his 9th at Fiji, so I'm not sure if he'll be a sleeper. Aritz has a tough seeding, but his barrel riding and EAHS could really push him to the fore.
Aritz Aranburu / Taumata Puhetini
Aritz is especially dangerous here; he has made a few rounds in the past and he is very handy in these kinds of conditions. Taumata could surprise a few, especially if the conditions are testing.
How can a tour leader fly so far under the radar? Wilko lost his yellow jersey at this time last year, but I honestly think he's learned more from those losses than he did from his back-to-back wins at the start of 2016. Wilko deserves to be taken seriously.
At what point do you stop referring to a surfer's potential and start looking at their results trend? Josh should do well out here, but he should have done better all year.
Mick's won here before, and his stats say he'll do OK, but there's something missing from Mick's competitive surfing this season. Is he motivated? Is he really pushing? It doesn't seem so.
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:
All three favourites, plus former winners in Mick and Jeremy. Slight risks with rookies Leo, Frederico and Ian.
Same as above, except that Freddy makes way for Ace.
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 leader.
As always, feel free to comment or leave your own team selections below.
Lastly, a big thanks to all of our readers who have donated via the PayPal button. Surf-Stats is completely run in my spare time and funded at my own expense; those donations keep my domain and hosting fees paid and also help me justify the nights spent on spreadsheets. Plus any donation, however small, will help me convince my wife that people actually read this shit.