The waiting period for the OK Fiji Pro starts on June 4th, which means it’s time to plumb the mind of a former pro for your Fantasy Surfer roster. Sean Doherty recently called retired ‘CTer Kai Otton, whose gutsy late-round performance at the 2015 Fiji Pro was just second to Owen Wright’s paranormal, 20-point final, to get his take on what scores at Cloudbreak, and whom he thinks stands the best chance to win the event.
Okay, what are you expecting from Kelly in Fiji, especially seeing he's now sponsoring the event.
He's definitely going to do something, but he can be beaten out there now. There are just too many other good dudes out there these days. At worst, he'll get a fifth, but he's definitely not unbeatable out there anymore. It's not like 2012. There are 10 good dudes out there now in that field who have done the time and worked it out. Joel and Mick have been there enough now to know the place. Joel has been there enough now to know what each wave is going to do.
Is Cloudbreak a wave where experience wins?
One hundred percent. That's a big reef that takes time to work out. It's easy to say that, though, and then a guy like Italo gets third in his first year there. But guys who get results consistently out there are the guys who spend time there during the year outside the contest.
The last heat Owen surfed at Cloudbreak was 20 outta 20 to win the contest. How do you see him going on his return?
He could do anything. It'll be interesting, but I think he's been in enough heavy waves now that surfing Cloudbreak on a swell won't worry him. I saw him get as flogged as anyone can get on a six-footer at North Point, that one he tried to doggy-door. That's as hammered as he's going to get for the rest of the year, so he's already been tested.
Do you play Fantasy Surfer?
I didn't this year, but I will tell you I picked Connor O'Leary and Owen to make the semis at Snapper. A mate wanted to put some money on Owen and texted me when he started winning heats, asking if I thought Owen was going to win the contest. I said, "He'll make the semis, but don't put money on him to win." That cost my mate two grand [Laughs]. The thing with Fantasy Surfer is the seeding. You need to understand how it works, as you might get two of those guys with shitty seedings meeting in the third round, like Mick and Owen did at Snapper. You look at their form and you'd have them down for a consistent fifth, but the seeding is the key, especially for guys seeded 10 to 15. There have been some big heats in the third and fifth rounds this year because of the seedings with guys like Mick, Owen and Kelly starting lower. If you're on Fantasy Surfer, you need to look at the seedings and guess where they might meet.
[CHOOSE YOUR FANTASY SURFER TEAM HERE]
Okay, John John or Gabby?
Gabby is going to go mad at this one. I just think he's too good out there, and it is a goofy's wave, this one more than any other wave on Tour. That's why I'd give him the nod over John John.
A goofy's wave in what way?
It's fast and unpredictable a lot of the time, so it's not like Chopes in that way. It's definitely easier to read and make sections on your forehand out there.
Who are the first three guys on your team?
Gabby, for one. Ace Buchan is deadly out there and he'd be a good value buy, and then a natural…Julian. He's so overdue and he's lethal out there. Michel Bourez is in exactly the same boat, too. Joel and Kelly would be the other guys I'd have in the mix, just for knowing that wave. How many was that?
Six. A dark horse?
Is Italo back?
He'll go okay. He'll be that psyched because he hasn't surfed with the bad ankle, and his seeding should be okay still. Seabass would be another guy who might do something.
If it moves to Restaurants, what changes?
I favor naturalfooters at Restaurants because of that devil wind that comes around the island. It can wreak havoc with clamping barrels, and on your backhand, it's easier to hang on. I've noticed that over the years and over a hundred barrels I've never come out of. I’ve gotten beat every time I surfed out there by a naturalfooter. Ben Dunn flogged me, and so did Adriano.
Who wins if it's big Cloudbreak?
If it's big the whole comp, it'll be either John or Gabby, far out.
And if it's small?
Gabby still. He's won it a few times, huh? Twice now? It's funny, though; you don't see guys just owning events. Look at Mick and Joel at Snapper. Not even they could win it year in, year out, despite being the best guys out there. When was the last time someone owned an event like that?
Err…Kelly in Fiji.
Yeah, okay, good point.
[Featured Image: Kai Otton, 2015 Fiji Pro. Photo by Joli]