That's almost the beginning and end of the preview for this event.
Whoever wins it will be one of the few who can ignore the distraction of Mick's retirement, whoever knocks him out of the contest will be the eternal villain, and if Mick takes the whole thing out, Torquay will be bedlam.
Regardless of where he finishes at this year's Bells, Mick's had a stellar career and, by all reports, will retire as one of the most respected guys on tour. Nobody can seem to write a Bells preview without using the word iconic, or historic, but Mick's relationship with this place seems to be both. It will be fascinating to watch him push for a record 5th title here.
If that's not enough, then I'm not sure what else I can possibly tell you. It's a right-hand, partially reef-bottom point break that traditionally favours deeper/heavy water surfers who can draw out their bottom turns, time their and hold their rails. Recent years have also shown that there is a place in the Bells contest for rewarding progression, depending on the conditions and the way that it fits into the overall wave. Think Filipe's 10 or John's 9.97 last year.
It's worth noting that surfers with success at QS events such as Sunset or Haleiwa are generally well-suited to the break. This surely bodes well for the dazzling rookie, Griffin.
The early official forecast points to:
A good size SW swell is aiming to kick things off around the 29th-31st, with more sizable swells likely to follow. Conditions for at least the first few days of the window are looking favourable for the most part.
So, knowing what the conditions will most likely offer, we can look at the surfers who stand out in points, rights, 4-8' waves and, historically, do well at this very event. This gives us our...
I thought I already wrote about Mick? Oh, right: stats.
With Kelly out, Mick has the most Bells wins of any surfer in the 2018 event (4). He has a career average place of 4.29, meaning he is all-but guaranteed a quarters-or-better finish. Mick has the 2nd best AHS for the event (behind Jordy and a one-event-5th Cardoso) with 15.64 across 31 heats. He ranks 2nd in AHS in both rights and points as well as 5th for 6-8' waves and 6th for 4-6' waves across all conditions.
If anyone suggests that Mick is just a sentimental pick, they're tripping.
Did you see that Kelly named Joel as the most classic surfer at Bells. It's in the Slater hyperlink above. Was it a two-finger farewell salute to Mick? Or what is genuine respect for Parko?
The truth is that Parko hasn't set Bells alight in the past 5 years like he did in his younger days, with a 5th, 2x 9ths and 2x 13ths. In the 6 years before that, he won twice and never finished lower than the quarters. His AHS data puts him 3rd overall in rights and 6th at points, while his event AHS has him 11th, between Caio and Adriano.
For his price/seed, he's still a solid option, but most teams will have him.
Until last year, Jordy was the best tour surfer to never win Bells. Now he has, and his stats just keep improving: 2nd-best AHS in 6-8' waves, and 5th in 4-6' conditions. At 16.21, his event AHS is impressively makes him the only surfer to break the excellent range. He ranks well (4th) in both points and rights as well.
Filipe dominates our points averages, while his event AHS continues to grow.
Matt won in 2016, and yet he has one of the lower AHS totals for this event. He also averages a place position of 15.67.
The Kirra finalist has a way of proving people wrong, but he hasn't had a great history at this event; Ace has never made it past the round of 16 in 11 attempts. His AHS scores aren't terrible though, so maybe he's been unlucky.
It’s hard to look at form too closely so early in the season, but there are a few points worth considering when looking at who’s bringing the hot streak to Bells this year
This kid's everywhere right now, and it's easy to get swept up in his hype. He's been dropping clips, winning heats and smiling the whole time.
How good was his surfing at Kirra? Bells isn't traditionally one of his best events, but maybe 2018 isn't one of his traditional years.
Italo may have only managed a 13th at the Gold Coast, but he has the best AHS for the season thus far.
We warned of Wilko's late-2017 form going into event 1. Then he bombed out there, too.
Ditto as above for Zeke. Can he build on his 2017 Bells success?
John John Florence
One poor result does not a form slump make, but it was his worst result in 18 months and it came on the back of some concerted effort in preparing for Snapper. Bell's isn't really his best event, so his response to a 25th place last event will be telling for his season overall.
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 a recipe for a bad fantasy score. 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 expected results can alter the following round entirely.
Our R1 “heat of death” nomination for this contest is H1: Toledo/Griffin/Mikey Feb
Update: Carl and Mikey have been added as wildcards.
In the women's draw, there are no weak heats. H2 in particular should be a banger.
We like to offer a few suggestions that may not be on everyone’s radar. Any success that involves deviating from the popular selections 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.
The 'tiers' are off between the fantasy platforms for this event. The WSL's choice to seed their fantasy surfers purely on their current rank is contradictory to their actual contest seeding and makes for a marked difference to the FS prices. That said, I'm going to continue backing MRod, as I think he's a genuine threat this year.
Tomas Hermes had some waves at Snapper where he really drew out his bottom turns and held his turns nicely. Bells almost demands such an approach. On that tenuous basis, I'm picking for a Hermes upset or two in this event.
We're one event in, and already 2018 is looking like the year of the hungry grom. For that reason, I'm going to continue my dark horse theme and go fully left-field for the lower tier: Lennox ripper Mikey Mcdonaugh will surprise everyone with a few heat wins. At least nobody else will have him.
There's always a few surfers who represent some kind of anomaly within our selection analyses. Maybe there are factors that a spreadsheet can’t detect, or maybe their recent form simply contradicts their previous averages.
Here are our outliers for Snapper:
One word: Sampson. Has the magical power of Wilko's hair only now been revealed? Has his parole-hearing trim left him a weakened shell of a competitive surfer? We'll see...
I know that I should have trusted him more at Snapper, but the boys at Lipped (tune in if you don't already) seem to think that the amount of jet ski assistance at Bells (and particularly Winki) will be less than that at the GC. Just sayin'...
Is this guy the real deal? It's too early to know for sure, but there's a lot to like about the 2018 ROTY (he's won already, right?). Will you have him?
There's not a great deal of risk in picking the reigning champ, but he's playing with boards and shapers this season, and Bells needs you to have your equipment dialled. I'll be interested to see what he rides...
Cardoso / Carmichael
Both surfers have the surfing to match this wave, and yet there just isn't enough data/experience to recommend them outright. Which one, if any, will you pick?
Carl Wright is not the long lost sibling from the famed Culburra family. He's a local Victorian with plenty of Bells experience and modest bag of tricks. He's a barrel pig though, and if Bells looks like it could offer some overhead tubes, then he could be quite the dark horse pick.
Mikey is on the other end of the spectrum; he's young, he has a full bag of tricks (including a rail game that's been refined on the point at Lennox Head) and tons of potential. He could very easily find himself overwhelmed on the big stage so early in his career, so there's always a risk. There's a short clip of him here if you're interested.
Both wildcards will have terrible seeds, so there will be no easy heats for them.
Teams / Clubhouses
We won't be selecting any 'numbers' or 'stats' teams at this point in the season, as we are putting all of our focus towards our own game. Rest assured, when FSS is up and running, we'll have plenty of clubhouse options (and prizes to match).
Have you registered for Fantasy Surf Sessions yet?