Before we begin, some breaking news has come to our attention; through a series of email exchanges late last night we have received word that Jordy Smith will no longer be competing as a wildcard in the 2007 Billabong Pro at Jeffreys Bay. He will opt instead to come to California early to train for the US Open in hopes of getting back on track on his WQS rankings. What does this mean? Well, speculation abounds, but the only thing we can be sure of (sorry folks) is that he has been ruled out as a candidate for your Fantasy Surfer Team. So there won’t be any youthful hometown heroes named Jordy taking home the prize this weekend. With that said…let the frenzy begin.
Forty-five surfers are now making preparations for Jeffreys Bay in anticipation of yet another all-time event. Of these forty-five surfers, only about six head into Event Number 5 of the Fosters World Championship Tour with a shot at the world title.
Taj Burrow and Damien Hobgood join perennial title contenders Mick Fanning, Andy Irons, Joel Parkinson, and Kelly Slater at the top of this year’s heap. Each one of these surfers has done well at J-Bay in the past, so don't expect to see any of them fall out of the title race anytime soon.
Last year's event kicked off one of the hottest run of good results in memory for Mick Fanning. Since his victory in the 2006 Billabong Pro J-Bay, Fanning has made the finals in four events and won two of them. He hasn't finished below the quarterfinals since the 2006 Tahiti event. All that adds up to one hell of a favorite at J-Bay.
Stacked against Fanning's run at the world title are 47 other surfers who all have an eye for the crown at this prestigious event. The long, ruler-edged rights beckon to regular foots like a beacon. Whether the event is held at the incomparable Supertubes section, or at the less consistent Boneyards area as in 2006, the surfers are in for a world-class wave.
Some surfers who are perfectly suited for a good run at this event include:
Taylor Knox – (Fantasy Surfer Value: 7 million) – The powerful Californian hasn't had the greatest start this year, but he seems to always do pretty well at J-Bay when it is chest-high and above. Pound for pound, he's still one of the strongest surfers on tour and his rail-to-rail approach is a perfect fit for J-Bay's long walls.
Danny Wills – (Fantasy Surfer Value: 7.25 million) – Byron Bay's native son has one of the most underrated reputations on tour. Make no mistake – Wills can become a ruthless competitor in the right conditions. J-Bay plays to his forehand strengths and should allow him to continue his string of good results here.
Tom Whitaker – (Fantasy Surfer Value: 8 million) – A Gold Coast surfer who has something o prove isn't who you want to come up against in your heat. But that's exactly what every competitor will get against "Whits". Long overlooked, Whitaker has a strong presence at the right point breaks on tour and should hold his own fairly easily.
Luke Stedman – (Fantasy Surfer Value: 5 million) – Malia Jones' husband has done well in the past at J-Bay and will more than likely be a solid darkhorse pick. He hasn't benefited by his heat draws so far this year, but if he can snap that streak anywhere, J-Bay is the place.
Josh Kerr – (Fantasy Surfer Value: 3 million) – Kerr made some big predictions for himself at the beginning of the year, and looked to be right on course at the Gold Coast event. But a string of poor showings at Bells and Teahupoo have left him at the bottom half of the ratings. If he can live up to the hype he has generated, J-Bay could be another breakout event for him.
Bobby Martinez – (Fantasy Surfer Value: 9 million) – After coming alive at the Chile event, Martinez has snapped out of his sophomore slump and can now focus on jumping up the ratings. His background centers around the long point breaks of Rincon, so you would naturally have high expectations for this goofyfoot.
Greg Emslie – (Fantasy Surfer Value: 5.5 million) – With all the attention focused on young South African Jordy Smith, one almost forgets about Mr. South Africa himself – Emslie. Emslie has made the semifinals at J-Bay before and grew up here. He has more motivation to win this event than any other event on tour, so he really seems to focus here. A Fantasy Surfer staple for your team headed to J-Bay for sure.
Dean Morrison – (Fantasy Surfer Value: 8 million) – The least-hyped Coolangatta Kid, has turned into the least-hyped Coolangatta Man. His impressive victory over Slater in the quarterfinals at Chile could serve as a turning point into Dean's vault into the spotlight. J-Bay is the Gold Coast's cold-water cousin – who's to say that Morrison can't keep it all in the family?