Portugal Preview

Shea Lopez on who to pick for your Fantasy Surfer team

Pat Gudauskas in the belly of the beast at last year's Rip Curl Pro. Photo: Ellis
Pat Gudauskas in the belly of the beast at last year’s Rip Curl Pro. Photo: Ellis

After Hossegor, I’m having a hard time believing my own eyes. I watched judges reward the kind of conservative surfing that won heats over a decade ago, while more progressive surfing took a backseat. Even the surfers known for constantly pushing what is possible on a wave were pumping the brakes and surfing beneath themselves to cater to the judges’ preferences—which have clearly favored tour veterans.

This takes me back to 1999. The world as we knew it was coming to an end and surfing was going above the lip routinely. Surfers like Shane and Gavin Beschen, Andy and Bruce Irons, Kalani Robb, Cory Lopez, and Chris Ward all carved, flowed, and boosted with ease. Some chose to continue along that line, pushing forward by increasing height, rotation, and variation based off the model that those surfing icons had established. Medina surfed in such a manner last week. He surfed well enough, in fact, to deserve a win in 2013. Fanning surfed well enough to deserve a win in 1999. Both performances were exceptional, but this is 2013, and the judging should reflect that.

For a change to occur, a new way of thinking and acting is required. Some surfers will benefit, and others will suffer from this change, but that is just something that professional surfing will need to come to terms with. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Never apologize for being correct, or being years ahead of your time…the truth is still the truth.”

For Portugal, I see nothing worth mentioning in the way of swell for Supertubes. The beachbreak nearby should be decent, at times, and the Brazilians on Tour know a thing or two about surfing beachbreaks. That is why I have three Brazilians on my team—four if I decide to switch John John Florence out for Adriano de Souza.

Taj Burrow
Market Price: $10,250,000
Taj has fallen victim to inconsistency over the years: Red hot at one event, barely a factor at the next. That tells me he was never cut out to be a World Champion, as holding onto the number one spot through 10 months of competition requires a discipline very few can muster. The skill has always been there, but the mental aspect is what has kept him from being Mick Fanning.

Julian Wilson
Market Price: $9,500,000
Julian continues pushing relentlessly toward his goals. This pursuit has seen him improve tremendously in recent years. Now standing on even ground with the elite, Julian pushes everyone to perform above and beyond their normal limits when faced with the daunting task of surfing against him.

Jordy Smith
Market Price: $9,000,000
He seems to have found a rhythm and routine that suits him well in competition. We all have a mental state that allows us to excel. Some find it when the pressure is on, others when they feel most calm. Jordy has found it through newfound happiness and stability in his personal life.

John John Florence
Market Price: $8,500,000
John has a lot of questions floating around in his head, and for good reason. With an 8.1 for two snaps and a safety bounce off the closeout in a win against Wilko, versus a 6.9 for a snap followed by a tail blow reverse and a tweaked close out bash in a loss against Fanning, the message from the judges is unclear. They have essentially shown John that his best chance of winning is to surf conservatively. That won’t sit well with him.

Gabriel Medina
Market Price: $7,250,000
Medina won Hossegor in the minds of every surfer that has ever attempted an air…his competitors in Portugal shall feel his wrath.

Filipe Toledo
Market Price: $5,250,000
Filipe has jumped (literally) to the forefront of progressive surfing. When you surf a heat where everything you attempt, and pull off, is far beyond that of anything your competitor has managed in a lifetime of attempts, you are the better surfer. Filipe dropkicks everyone in the teeth when it comes to risk and degree of difficulty while surfing a heat. From the shadows, young Filipe has now emerged as a serious world title threat in years to come.

Alejo Muniz
Market Price: $3,750,000
His recent performances hint at a quantum leap he may achieve in his surfing soon. With a major shakeup in the hierarchy approaching, Alejo is rising star on the global surf scene with a great variety of skills that should allow him to excel from Huntington Beach to Portugal and beyond.

Pat Gudauskas
Market Price: $1,500,000
Pat recently won a WQS in Virginia, and with the best young talent competing there, the victory was testament to his ability to compete in the small stuff. Nobody should doubt his ability to perform similarly in Portugal, an event he has had success at before.

The Rip Curl Pro gets underway October 9. Click here to ready your Fantasy Surfer Team.