Billabong Pro Tahiti: Fantasy Surfer Gut Picks 2014
The swell is coming. The time is near. Here are our Fantasy Surfer Gut Picks for the 2014 Billabong Pro Tahiti at Teahupo’o.
$10m+: At this level, any of the guys could take it. Parko-yes. Taj-a bit of a darkhorse, but yes. Mick and Kelly-hell yes. We pick Mick and Kelly.
Mick Fanning: Mick is a warrior. He’s been here and done that. He’s also a workhorse and is in top physical shape (we saw that pay off at J-Bay in the deeper rounds). Make no mistake that Mick sees a fourth World Title as a major milestone–a title that would put him one up on Tom Curren and Andy Irons, and would put him one away from Mark Richards. Mick has two event wins this year, but also has two throw-aways. Mick can’t afford another soft result. He won’t get one here.
Kelly Slater: It’s no secret that The King hates losing. He hates losing at ping pong. He hates losing at surf contests. And our guess is that he hates nothing more than losing surf contests in epic conditions. There’s a lot of talk out there in internet land about if this is Kelly’s last year on tour. We think it is. And we think he wants to go out with a bang. He’ll be emotionally invested in this one. We can’t wait to see those crazy air drops.
$8m/$9m: We love the guys in this range. They are gunning to join, no takeover, the Big 4. Bourez has had less than stellar results here in the past, but he has momentum, is surfing better than ever, and is running for the title. ADS has been consistent has hell lately and has been steadily improving on backhand barrels. Nat reminds us a bit of a goofy-footed Mick. Jordy is always a threat, but hasn’t proven to be the most strategic or consistent with a jersey on (especially in backhand barrels). We’re going with Medina and Kerr.
Gabriel Medina: Gabby might not be as experienced as some of the others in this price range in solid Chopes, but he learns, adjusts and adapts quickly. He also has talent, drive, good heat strategy, and a solid support crew. Also good to note: he got a perfect 10 in 2012 and made it to the Quarters. He’s more mature now and is running for the title. Our gut says he’ll go deep.
Josh Kerr: Josh came up the ranks in the World Air Show Circuit and became known as an aerial specialist. But he’s also a beast in big barrels. Josh has had a respectable season (currently sitting in 10th) but we don’t think he’s happy with his results. We expect this family man to come out charging hard–like he did in his 3rd place finish in the mega swell of 2011.
$6m/$7m: It’s a small group in this range this time out. We expected Julian to be in the range above at this point. As much as we’re looking forward to seeing how he responds to falling more spots down the seed chain than any other surfer not named Kai Otton, our guts point to JJF and CJ.
CJ Hobgood: It’s no secret how good this guy is at big left-hand barrels. Full of experience, CJ seems to have hit another gear of competitive drive this year. It’s been a long time since he won the World Title, but in conditions like we’re seeing forecasted, he’s as good as ever. We’re looking forward to watching CJ charge.
John John Florence: We don’t know if JJF lacks competitive drive (like Dane), strategic smarts (like Jordy), or if he just can’t bring his interest up enough for sub-par conditions (ADS doesn’t have that problem), but he hasn’t been able to put together the heats required to sit among the elite. On the other hand, Mr. Florence is the best tube rider in the world right now and can draw lines at Teahupo’o that no others can. If the waves come, we’ll see him in the final rounds.
$4m/$5m: There are lots of good options in this range–Ace, Kai, Pupo, SeaBass, Wilko. But our guts point to Owen and Freddy-P.
Owen Wright: Owen came out in the mega swell of 2011. We will see his second coming in 2014.
Fred Patacchia: Freddy-P is surfing with confidence and is fitter than ever. He was raised on heavy reef breaks and has the experience needed at Teahupo’o. Our gut tells us that he’s in for a good run here.
$1.5m/$3m: This range represent the largest group so we’re going to pick four guys.
Aritz Aranburu: Aritz was breast fed on the big lefts of Mundaka. If there is one event we expect to see fireworks from Aritz, it’s this one. Oh, and the fact that he took out Slater here in 2009 (albeit in smaller conditions) adds to our nod.
Jadson Andre: OK, so we know a lot of you won’t agree with this one. But after re-watching his incredible drop from the 2012 comp, our guts told us to add him to this list.
Raoni Monteiro: Raoni has proven that he’ll fling himself over the Teahupo’o cliff and handle the landing. He’s locked in three 10-point rides here in big conditions. Like Aritz, this is the event for Raoni to shine.
Nathan Hedge: With the injury replacements Coleborn and Hall, and local charger trials winner Puhetini competing for the $1.5m spots, this pick wasn’t an easy one. But our gut tells us that Hedge’s experience in a jersey, added to his current drive to succeed and the momentum from his 2nd place finish in the trials, makes him a smart pick.