WSL Pundit Groundswell 2016

Groundswell, the Fantasy Surfer forum moderator, lays down his hot, cold, roll the dice and beware picks for the 2016 WSL Championship Tour.

Quiksilver Pro France

Unless you’re fortunate enough to live in Europe, we’re coming up on the next few events that happen in the middle of the night for the majority of us. Watching these next two events live usually means getting up at 2 or 3 in the morning to catch the early heats. That can wear on you as a viewer. Now imagine how it wears on the athletes in the actual events. The grueling part of the tour is here. Two events in a row without going home (usually) in between. Most of the surfers pray for the Quiksilver Pro to go quickly. Get it done in the first half of the waiting period and then set off around Europe in search of great waves before Portugal. Good luck, boys. It’s rare that the France event doesn’t chew up at least 90% of the waiting period with the massive tidal swings and shifting conditions.

HOT (These are your anchors. Depend on them for big points):

GABRIEL MEDINA – The last thing that any other competitor wants to see is a fire lit under Gabriel’s ass. And his early exit at Trestles might have just lit an inferno. He’s the defending event champion, he’s one of the most versatile competitors on tour, and he’s great in surf from 2 feet to 15 feet. This event is tailor-made for him and I can easily see him putting a run together at some point where he owns this event the way Andy Irons did.

JORDY SMITH – It’s true that spectacular Jordy results are usually followed by spectacular Jordy failures. But the last time he won Trestles in 2014, he went on a spectacular run in Europe that saw him finish 3rd and 2nd at France and Portugal respectively. Now that he seems to be firing on all cylinders, he can weasel himself right back into the title race before Hawaii and the big lefts come knocking him down a few pegs.

JOEL PARKINSON – A trip to the final at Trestles was completely unexpected, but Parko showed he still has a bit of fire in him before he potentially walks away at the end of this year or 2017. (Word is he’s leaning towards this year, but a lot of the Aussies have been holding on to retire in Fiji the next year). At 6.5 million, he’s a great mid-value pick and knows how to wait out a long waiting period in France. This will be key for all surfers at the event and some are far better than others at it.

Other surfers to consider in this category: JULIAN WILSON, ADRIANO DE SOUZA

COLD (I can’t see these surfers doing well at this event):

KELLY SLATER – YEs, Kelly just came off a decent showing at the Hurley Pro and is technically in the title thoughts of many fans. But if he’s going to have any shot at winning in France, I think the event is going to have to start and end quickly. Notoriously off in early morning heats, Kelly is going to also need the luck of the draw to keep him from having to be in the early morning funkiness that typical plagues a heat or two every day at the Quik Pro. Flexibility used to be something that he excelled at. It’s becoming his achilles heel in his later years on tour.

ITALO FERREIRA – Round 3 has not been kind to Italo this year. After Trestles, he has 4 consecutive 13th place results and a total of 5 for the year. That’s a good start that he has avoided the dreaded Round 2 losses so far this year, but he’s going to have to start making it a few rounds further more consistently to be ever considered a true title threat. World Champs don’t make it past the quarterfinals twice a year and call it a successful year. He’s on my cold list until I see some sort of improvement.

ALEX RIBEIRO – One quarterfinal finish is not going to be enough to salvage Alex’s rookie campaign on the CT. He needs several more. And the odds of a rookie finding some sort of magic switch and completely turning his year around from the run of 6 Round 2 defeats he had to start the year is incredibly low. As in, I’m guessing this is his high water mark and he’ll come crashing down to earth shortly.

Other surfers to consider in this category: KAI OTTON, ALEJO MUNIZ

ROLL THOSE DICE (These surfers have as much chance to win the event as they do to bomb in Round 2. By no means are these safe picks, but give them a chance and they just might get you the big points – just don’t be surprised if they don’t):

JEREMY FLORES – The desire to win in front of your home crowd can be great, and once the process stops making Flores make rookie mistakes on this tour stop, he’ll be able to pull this rare feat off. But year after year, we see bonehead tactics backfire on him in France. Now 2016 hasn’t been kind to him at all, so maybe he’s been saving all his good heats up for this event. Maybe.

WILDCARDS – Leo Fioravanti would be a great wildcard here. But at this point we don’t know who it will be. If by some miracle it’s Leo, jump on him. If it’s some amateur who Quicksilver is showcasing as one of their “young guns” and you have never heard of them before, approach with caution. Many times those young guys are heavily intimidated by the top seeds.

JACK FREESTONE – The last time we were at an unpredictable beach break, Freestone managed to make it to the final. And while he is just a rookie, he has the benefit of dating Alana Blanchard – who has been to all the tour stops previously and can give him a little advice on what to do and where to go when he’s not in a heat. If he listens to it.

Other surfers to consider in this category: KANOA IGARASHI, STU KENNEDY

BEWARE (Things to pay attention to. Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s something. We don’t really know… yet):

FILIPE TOLEDO – Impending fatherhood is creeping up on Toledo. At some point during this season, he and his girlfriend are going to be making a trip to the hospital to welcome their bundle of joy. Parenthood changes people. Wether they admit it or not, it makes a big difference. Family in Brazil is tight, and we can’t really picture Filipe not being there for the birth of his first child. and then once it comes time to leave that new family behind and go back on tour? Unless it’s Hawaii, it’s going to be difficult to make the adjustment to having family with you. Especially in Europe.

MICHEL BOUREZ – Second child on the way in the next couple of weeks. Could easily see him flying back to Tahiti and missing either France or Portugal.

JOHN JOHN FLORENCE – John John may have set out attempting to surf like Mick, but the results sure weren’t there. A Round 3 loss on a knee that admittedly was not 100%. We’ll have to see if his sizable lead holds up through the next few weeks. If the knee isn’t any better, my guess is no. Add in the fact that Hawaii might be the toughest time zone to acclimate from in France and the odds aren’t looking great in his favor.

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Hurley Pro Trestles

We’re getting to the meat of the back half of 2016, and there are some seriously strong contenders that are just starting to put things together. John John has taken the lead in the ratings for the first time in his career thanks to a finals appearance against Slater in Tahiti, and a stumble by Wilko at the same event. Medina seems to be waiting in the wings for either of them to falter so he can take a lead into the Hawaii.

Realistically speaking, we look to be headed towards a showdown between John John and Gabriel come the final event at Pipe. If Wilko can snap out of his current funk, we could see a three-way race. In order for Ace Buchan and Julian Wilson to get into the mix, they’re going to need to win some of the upcoming events – and most likely more than once.

HOT (These are your anchors. Depend on them for big points):

MICK FANNING – Mick took an event off after winning the Jeffrey’s Bay Open, and skipped the Billabong Pro Tahiti. This makes two events in a row for Mick where he is either a returning finalist or the defending event champion. There’s a good reason for this – J-Bay and Trestles are both waves that are square in Mick’s specialty area. A solid choice to repeat, and then we won’t see him again until 2017.

FILIPE TOLEDO – Living in San Clemente has some serious advantages for Toledo. This is now a home event for him. His time at Trestles between events has increased tenfold. With the righhanders lined up for him and the potential air sections at the end of the waves at Trestles, he might be considered a strong favorite. Especially now that he has three events (Trestles, France, Portugal) that he has to accumulate as many points before they head to Hawaii and his achilles heel: bigger waves.

JORDY SMITH – Speaking of surfers with a home field advantage, Jordy has just as big an advantage as Filipe Toledo. Living just down the street from Trestles is similar to his living in South Africa and getting to know J-Bay as a youth. Right-handers are his one and only specialty, so he needs as many points here as he can possibly get. The pressure is on, and Jordy knows that he has to deliver here or watch himself slip from the Top 5.

Other surfers to consider in this category: KELLY SLATER, ADRIAN BUCHAN

COLD (I can’t see these surfers doing well at this event):

MATT WILKINSON – While I think that Wilko has a fantastic record this year on his backhand, winning both Gold Coast and Bells events, I think the cracks are beginning to show on his title hopes. Yeah, it’s a feel-good story to see him at the top of the rankings. But it’s also completely unexpected. It goes against the history that he has on tour. He’s now lost his massive lead he started the year with. Now it’s up to him to reverse the last 2 events that he lost both in Round 3.

NAT YOUNG – Last year, Young made it to the Hurley Pro quarterfinals. This year, he’s coming into the event having not made it past Round 3 in four straight events. Based on what we’ve seen so far this year, unless there’s significant swell for him, Young likely won’t get to far at this event either. If his price tag was $5 million or below, I’d say roll the dice. But there are too many others valued below him that are better values.

WILDCARDS – While I’d normally say that the low value of a wildcard outweighs the risk, at Trestles, these two wildcards (Tanner Gudauskas and Brett Simpson) don’t exactly seem to be matching up well with the top-level talent on tour right now. Don’t expect much here.

Other surfers to consider in this category: ALEX RIBEIRO, ALEJO MUNIZ

ROLL THOSE DICE (These surfers have as much chance to win the event as they do to bomb in Round 2. By no means are these safe picks, but give them a chance and they just might get you the big points – just don’t be surprised if they don’t):

KOLOHE ANDINO – The San Clemente native has a love hate relationship with Trestles, and so far in his CT career, it’s been all hate. The one spot on tour where we expect him to show up and dominate, he consistently fails to do so. Maybe it’s the pressure of the home crowd. Maybe it’s Trestles unpredictable nature. But if Kolohe does do well at Trestles this year, it will be against everything his record there has been.

JOHN JOHN FLORENCE – While he’s taken the ratings lead and said recently that his knee isn’t bothering him, I’m not 100% sure that he’s going to be the best pick here. He’s made the quarterfinals or better here twice, and the other years he’s bombed out early. It’s a crapshoot, but if you have him at a lower value than his current price, he’s a strong contender to stay on most teams. But if you’re forced to pay his current price because you didn’t have him for Tahiti, I’d wait this event out and see how that knee is doing for him.

CONNER COFFIN – At the start of the year, there were four events where I said Coffin would be a must have type surfer on your team. Gold Coast, Bells, J-Bay, and Trestles. And of those four, Trestles is by far his strongest event. He’s surfed here in multiple CT events as a wildcard, and has spent many days in the water as he lives in California. The rookie woes of inexperience have shown for Conner this year, but this could be the one spot where they don’t affect him.

Others surfers to consider in this category: STU KENNEDY, KANOA IGARASHI

BEWARE (Things to pay attention to. Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s something. We don’t really know… yet):

SWELL – At the time of this writing, the potential for swell within the forecast looks fairly good. But this is an event that has be plagued with poor swell for at least one day of the event for several years. All around surfers who perform well in small and big surf are hard to come by, so pay attention to the swell forecast in the coming days.

BEACH PARK LIMITATIONS – The California Park system has several requirements for this event. One of them being that they cannot continue the event past 5pm. Another is that they cannot hold the event on consecutive weekend days. Meaning that if they run the event on a Saturday, they cannot run it that Sunday. it’s a limitation that local surfers have lobbied hard for over the years and the Parks enforce it.

JOHN JOHN’S KNEE – We’ll know when he hits the water. There hasn’t been any video of him surfing with the brace on since Tahiti. And we doubt that there will be either.

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Billabong Pro Tahiti

The number of surfers with world title aspirations are starting to dwindle quickly. After Tahiti, there will likely be 5-8 surfers that can legitimately say they have a shot at the title. Gabriel, John John, Wilko are the three that have legit shots at this point. But who will join them? Who will surprise us at Teahupoo and make us take notice?

HOT (These are your anchors. Depend on them for big points):

KELLY SLATER – Kelly seems to have regained a little bit of his mojo at Fiji and J-Bay. Semifinals at Fiji and Quarterfinals at J-Bay. Waves that he doesn’t have to generate his own speed on are definitely his forte at this point. After Tahiti, he may not see one again until Hawaii.

GABRIEL MEDINA – Who won Fiji? Gabriel. What’s the most similar wave to Tahiti so far this year? Cloudbreak. And when Gabriel previously won in Fiji, how did he do that year in Tahiti? He won. He’s as sure of a thing at Tahiti as you can get. He’s going to own this event for years to come.

JOHN JOHN FLORENCE – This time last year, I might have been a little hesitant to put Florence on any hot list. But this year is different. He’s got a sense of purpose in his heats. He sees that body language makes a huge difference when trying to sell a mediocre score to the judges. In short; he’s not giving up. And that is exactly what makes a champion. A win here could see him atop the rankings. And I wouldn’t be surprised one bit.

Other surfers to consider in this category: BRUNO SANTOS, ITALO FERREIRA

COLD (I can’t see these surfers doing well at this event):

FILIPE TOLEDO – You know, maybe Filipe doesn’t belong here. He’s had some pretty rancid scores here when it gets big. But we’re not exactly looking at those type of conditions this year. I mean, hey, he just won the US Open; that’s a great warm-up for the reef breaks of Tahiti, right? No actually. It’s not. When he starts to show up to Tahiti weeks ahead of time to prepare, then I’ll start taking him seriously out there.

JORDY SMITH – Backhand barrels. The two words that can get you to drop Jordy from just about any fantasy team no matter how cheap you picked him up for. He’s made the Quarterfinals twice this year, my guess is it won’t be three until Trestles unless it’s REALLY small at Teahupoo.

CAIO IBELLI – Rookies on their backhand. Teahupoo eats them for lunch. Caio will be no different.

Other surfers to consider in this category: JACK FREESTONE, MATT BANTING

ROLL THOSE DICE (These surfers have as much chance to win the event as they do to bomb in Round 2. By no means are these safe picks, but give them a chance and they just might get you the big points – just don’t be surprised if they don’t):

DUSTY PAYNE – Payne currently sits at number 20 on the yearly rankings. And that’s after getting wildcards for only 5 of the 6 events so far. Where was this guy last year when he had a guaranteed seed? Heck, where was he the past SEVERAL years? I like what I’m seeing from him when it seems like he has nothing to lose. Could be a walk in the park for him if he gets a good draw.

WIGGOLLY DANTAS – Last year, I was really impressed by both him and Italo when it came time to throw themselves over the ledge at Teahupoo. But my concern here is that finesse will come more into play in Tahiti this year with a smaller swell forecast.

SEBASTIAN ZIETZ – Seabass is actually quite impressive on his backhand in barrels. he just doesn’t have the results to prove it. If he can translate his magical free surf barrels into competition, he’s going to do well. But that’s a BIG if.

Others surfers to consider in this category: ADRIAN BUCHAN, JOEL PARKINSON

BEWARE (Things to pay attention to. Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s something. We don’t really know… yet):

MICK FANNING – Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that Mick is taking this event off and will return for Trestles.

OWEN WRIGHT – The defending event champion is out for all of 2016.

WILDCARDS – Bruno Santos (see hot list) and Hira Teriinatoofa are your wildcards for this event. Both have been in the event before and Santos has actually won the event. If it’s big, the wildcards are usually a fairly risk-free venture. If the swell drops under 6 feet, they’re a crapshoot.

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J-Bay Open

Are you ready for the storm? Swell is definitely on the way. And it’s looking BIG. And so is the media storm that’s coming to town. Remember last year’s shark attack/ encounter final? You DON’T??? Well, have no fear, you’re about to see the footage about 500 times.

For those of us more interested in the event rather than the tabloid potential, here’s my picks for the event…

HOT (These are your anchors. Depend on them for big points):

KELLY SLATER – The 11 time world champ has more victories at J-Bay than anyone else. More finals than anyone else. And did you see him at Fiji? With waves that help do the generating speed part for him, he’s free to concentrate on his turns. And when he’s free to concentrate on his turns and barrels, he’s still astonishing. He showed at Fiji that when the conditions are “Dream Tour Level circa 2005” that he’s still capable of putting on 2005 performances. With the massive swell expected for J-Bay, he’s a solid investment.

MATT WILKINSON – Ratings leader headed into the event isn’t exactly going out on a limb here, but in case you’ve forgotten, Wilko has a hell of a backhand. J-Bay and Trestles should be two of the spots left on the schedule where he’s got a serious advantage over just about every other opponent. Don’t count him out.

MICK FANNING – I’m not sure it’s certain yet, but Mick is pretty close to qualifying for 2017 already. One solid result at his strongest spot on tour and he can kick up his heels and enjoy the second half of his sabbatical year. The only thing standing in his way, is the biggest elephant in the whole tour. Mick has to get beyond something more than the conditions, opponents, and jet lag. He’s returning to the scene of the crime. Fortunately, he seems to have shown up a week early and is already surfing at his typical high level. By the time the event rolls around, his nerves will likely be just fine.

Other Surfers to Consider In This Category – ADRIANO DESOUZA, GABRIEL MEDINA

COLD (I can’t see these surfers doing well at this event):

FILIPE TOLEDO – Toledo makes his money at the beginning and end of the tour schedule. Fiji, J-Bay, and Tahiti don’t suit him at all unless there’s a serious lack of swell. Great investment once the tour hits Trestles. Even better since he’s likely to lose value in the two events leading up to California.

MIGUEL PUPO – There’s a solid chance that his backhand will shine. But there’s even more of a chance that he’s going to match up early against a regular foot chomping at the bit to surf J-Bay in A+ conditions. In that case, he’s in a little bit of a hole.

ALEX RIBEIRO – I know I look like a total jerk for having three Brazilians on my cold section. Go ahead and think what you want. I just found three guys likely to lose very early in the event, and who I wouldn’t trust big points from. In Ribeiro, I’ve also found the only surfer in the Top 34 who has yet to win a single heat in 2016. Debate that.

Other Surfers To Consider In This Category – KEANU ASING, RYAN CALLINAN

ROLL THOSE DICE (These surfers have as much chance to win the event as they do to bomb in Round 2. By no means are these safe picks, but give them a chance and they just might get you the big points – just don’t be surprised if they don’t):

ROLL THOSE DICE (These surfers have as much chance to win the event as they do to bomb in Round 2. By no means are these safe picks, but give them a chance and they just might get you the big points – just don’t be surprised if they don’t):

JOHN JOHN FLORENCE – Did you know that of his three wins on the Ct for his career, ALL of them have come at beach breaks? Sure, he’s pieced together a final at Margaret River and a few other assorted semis and quarterfinal appearances, but his wins have been in Rio (2) and France. I’m not saying he won’t do well here, I’m just pointing out that he doesn’t have a long history here. Many of the surfers who have done well here are point break specialists. That is not John John. With the right coaching, and focus, he can of course, change this. Especially if Bede tags along as his coach.

SEBASTIAN ZIETZ – That win he had in Margaret River was quite spectacular, wasn’t it? If anyone sees Seabass, you should tell him, because he’s basically been a non-entity in the following two events after his win. J-Bay should be good to him; his forehand is his strongest suit. But there’s also a reason or two he fell off tour last year; he didn’t consistently deliver on results. Another solid finish and he’s secure for 2017. He can obviously buckle down and do it. Taking the Mick fanning approach of singular focus might be a step in the right direction.

ITALO FERREIRA – Normally, I’d say the sturdy Brazilian is a fairly safe bet for a solid result on his backhand. But he’s put in two lackluster performances in a row for someone valued as highly as he is. If it gets big, his backhand will be the cream of the crop. If the swell doesn’t pump, I’m not really sure what to expect from him.

Other Surfers To Consider In This Category – DUSTY PAYNE, CONNER COFFIN

BEWARE (Things to pay attention to. Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s something. We don’t really know… yet):

JOEL PARKINSON – That knee injury that kept him out of the Fiji Pro is now about a month later. And we haven’t heard a peep. We also haven’t seen Parko in the lineups on the Gold Coast either. That’s not exactly a great sign. Another in a long line of injuries for Parkinson in what could be the final J-Bay stop of his career.

BEDE DURBIDGE & OWEN WRIGHT – Both are still injured. Durbidge seems determined to be back before the end of the year. Wright, well, we may have to wait quite a while before we see him again.

SHARKS & TECHNOLOGY – You’re going to hear about the new shark detection system a thousand times. How they’ve stepped up protection for the surfers. This is all great. We’re also going to see an increase in eyes on the event purely for the possibility that it might happen again this year. This will likely be the highest web traffic numbers the WSL will see all year. Get ready for the circus.

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Drug Aware Margaret River Pro

We’re two events into the year and so far, a LOT of people’s teams have been saved by lower priced surfers in each event. On the Gold Coast, Matt Wilkinson stole the show, and the high scoring points all for a measly sum of $5.5 million. Add in Stu Kennedy on the Gold Coast and you could have been rolling in points for a total of $7 million. Then it’s on to Bells. If you weren’t smart enough to pick him up on the Gold Coast, then surely you grabbed Wilko for Bells, right? RIGHT?!? Nope. Only 18% of all users had him on the Gold Coast. And again, only 38% had him for Bells. Ouch.

And don’t forget about the rookies. Oh God, the rookies! Conner Coffin sits immediately below Wilko in the rankings. He’s averaging 115 points per event here on Fantasy Surfer. That’s amazing for a rookie. Caio Ibelli has finished in 10th place at both events here on Fantasy Surfer, and rounds out the surfers who are averaging over 100 points per event. Well, who ISN’T averaging 100 points per event? Gabriel Medina (83pt avg), Julian Wilson (72pt avg), and Kelly Slater (64pt avg) to name just a few.

The new guard is coming. Hell, they’re already here. Now let’s see how they handle Margaret River…

HOT (These are your anchors. Depend on them for big points):

ADRIANO DESOUZA – He’s a heck of a barrel rider (in case it mover to The Box or the point), and he is very adaptable when it comes to the main break at Margarets as well. I’m betting he’s going to make the quarters for the second time this year. After that? Well, that seems to be all about the luck of the draw. As the high seed, he doesn’t have an easy road, but he could do very well here. Again.

JOHN JOHN FLORENCE – Don’t sit around complaining when they don’t run at The Box during rounds 1 & 4. The lineup zone for that break is too damn small. Saying “I wanna see John John destroy it at the Box” while they run the 3-man heats at main break is going to get old really quickly. It’s just not possible. But here’s the thing; all the spots at and around Margaret River favor John John. Enjoy his new competitive lust that seems to have grabbed him. Did you see his face when he lost in Round 3? He was pissed. And no he’s had a week or so to stew on that and get comfortable in West Oz. I’m pretty sure we’re going to see over 80% of Fantasy Surfer users pick him up, so don’t miss the boat.

CONNER COFFIN – Barrels. Check. Big carves. Check. Adaptability. Check. Here’s this rookie who turns harder than just about every other surfer on tour. There are of course exceptions like John John and Jordy. But Conner seems to have a new tweak on the hard turns that the judges are eating up. He’s scoring some big points; and he’s super cheap. Why NOT Conner would be a good question. This kid is going to make a final this year.

Other surfers to consider in this category – JORDY SMITH, MICHEL BOUREZ

COLD (I can’t see these surfers doing well at this event):

KELLY SLATER – Other people seem to think that it’s only a matter of time before a 44-year old that hasn’t won since 2014 snaps out of this funk. I’m a little more pragmatic and not looking at the name but rather looking at the results and the look of his surfing. Both are crap right now. And Kelly would likely be the first one to tell you this. Or not. He IS Kelly after all. But it’s time to face the facts; 44 year olds don’t stay on tour. They just don’t. And if you’ve watched his heats, you can see why. The turns look like they’re missing something. The timing is off. The wave selection isn’t spectacular. His rhythm with the ocean during heats just seems off. Things look really forced. And yet, 53% of you chose him on the Gold Coast. And then 56% of you chose him at Bells. Keep doing that and you’re just giving everyone else a better chance. At waves like Fiji and Tahiti where the wave does most of the work, he’s on my team for sure. But not until then.

JADSON ANDRE – Jadson is going to be lucky if he doesn’t have to surf at the Box. Because that’s the only way he makes it out of Round 2 at this event. Goofy notoriously have a hard time there. And save for Owen Wright, none of the goofy destroyed that place last year when it was big. There was a lot of squeaking by. It’s not going to happen again this year in West Oz.

KANOA IGARASHI – I do love the rookies this year. But go back and watch Igarashi’s heats. Look at the waves he’s scoring the highest for. He’s just barely beating his opponents and there are a heck of a lot of lulls and bad waves coming in during his heats. And then when the waves turn on, his turns look very meager compared to a veterans turns. Now, that WILL change over time (years not weeks). But for now, at a spot where the waves need to have their power matched with powerful surfers? Not so much.

Other surfers to consider in this category – RYAN CALLINAN, MIGUEL PUPO

ROLL THOSE DICE (These surfers have as much chance to win the event as they do to bomb in Round 2. By no means are these safe picks, but give them a chance and they just might get you the big points – just don’t be surprised if they don’t):

JOSH KERR – I’m always reluctant to pick Kerr when I know I need this position to provide some points. Have a look at his results the last two years and you’d swear it’s an EKG readout. Up, down, up down, up, down… You get the idea. This spot suits him. He has many of the same attributes that make John John such an appetizing pick. But he has a history of bombing out of events like that as well. It’s a roll of the dice.

JOEL PARKINSON – Fading superstar that can’t quite do what he used to. That’s a rough category to be put into. But Parko, Slater, and Taj Burrow all find themselves there at the moment. Will they all walk away at the end of the year? It’s starting to look like at least one of them might not have a choice if ratings have anything to do with it. My guess is that isn’t going to be Parko. He’ll have one or two stellar performances – after all, he’s only 34. Ten years younger than Slater. But if we’re being honest, they’re probably at the same level physically. There’s still some spark here. Just not as much as before.

ADAM MELLING – Do you know why Melling is so cheap? Because he’s a replacement surfer. And do you know why he’s a replacement surfer? Because he fell off tour last year. So essentially what you’re getting at the low, low price of $1.5 million is a surfer who is just below the threshhold of a world tour regular. And that’s about what he’s performed as in his role as injury replacement. He has the ability to step it up. And Margaret River is a great match for him. But remember; there’s a reason he fell off tour. He underperformed before.

Other surfers to consider in this category – DUSTY PAYNE, JEREMY FLORES

BEWARE (Things to pay attention to. Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s something. We don’t really know… yet):

JACK FREESTONE – How bad was Freestone’s injury prior to Bells? We never heard anything specific from him or his people. Or on Alana’s instagram. Or on Alana’s twitter feed. Because THAT’S why we follow her on those social channels. But seriously, we know nothing about his knee injury. How it’s healed, if he’s been in the water, etc.

ALEJO MUNIZ – Two events down and Alejo has yet to surf a single heat. I’m not betting on him lighting it up right away when he does come back. Again, not much known about his knee and its improvement.

MICK FANNING – Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that Mick is out of this event and quite a few others this year. But this is my obligatory “Hey, remember that Mick is out of this event” warning.

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