Bells Beach Picks

Shea Lopez on who to put on your Fantasy Surfer Team

Jordy Smith, putting his power on display at Bells. Photo: Joli
Jordy Smith, putting his power on display at Bells. Photo: Joli

Much to the chagrin of the ASP, this year’s event windows have yet to sync up with any truly great swells. Instead, Mother Nature provided classic surf on the Gold Coast just after the event ended, and it looks like the same will happen shortly in West Oz. But at some point, their luck is bound to change. In fact, if you look at the forecast for Bells, all signs point to an epic Easter swell. This timing coincides perfectly with the Rip Curl Pro window, potentially setting up a climatic finish on Easter Sunday. For the Top 34, Easter blessings will be plentiful as some of the holiest water in surfing awaits them at the Bells Bowl. Although the Bowl offers only minor barrels, the speed and transition of that section will allow competitors to display some of the finest rail work of the year. Bourez, Jordy, Slater, Parko, and Fanning will be clear favorites if this terrific swell forecast holds true.

My Fantasy Surfer team for the Rip Curl Pro is almost identical to my team from Margaret River, because the same on-rail surfing is most likely to prevail again at Bells.

Bede Durbidge:
Market Price: $5,750,000
Bede was terrific in West Oz when it came to heat strategy, wave riding, and taking down opponent after opponent. After struggling with back pain, Bede has clearly returned to form and you can expect more of the same from Bede at Bells—overpowering and outthinking his opponents, especially in conditions that play to his strengths.

Matt Wilkinson:
Market Price: $3,750,000
Wilko has been quiet, too quiet. With plenty of talent, Wilko appears to be in a sort of adjustment period with a new approach to competition. If he finds his rhythm and routinely loads up that big backhand blast—the one that is arguably the most impressive backhand turn from a goofyfooter on Tour—he will win heats at Bells. Years ago, Damien Hardman and Barton Lynch were surgical in their procedure at Bells. They were feared in heats there, and more often than not they dismantled their opponents with committed backhand surfing that suits Bells well. Wilko would be doing himself a favor to go have a talk with either of those two masters.

Dion Atkinson:
Market Price: $3,000,000
Dion was never a standout on the WQS. In fact, it took him years of battling in subpar conditions to make the Top 34. But what I find interesting is that when placed in good conditions alongside the Top 34, Dion is clearly one of the best in the bunch.

Owen Wright:
Market Price: $3,500,000
Owen can win Bells. But I’m assuming that he’s still capable of matching the perfect form and mental game he displayed while defeating Kelly Slater a few years back. Would the real Owen Wright step up and make some heats already?

John Florence:
Market Price: $6,500,000
John John…man oh man oh man. Twice now he has been dealt the hand of defeat in the early rounds. It’s a safe bet that John John will be out for blood when he enters the water for his next heat.

Michel Bourez:
Market Price: $8,250,000
Bourez won in West Oz because the physics of the Margaret’s line up were very much in his favor. The power at his disposal in waves like that was enough to garner a 9.37 in the semifinal and put Slater’s back against the wall—that’s no easy task. Sticking to the same formula, Bourez is primed to turn the lights out for many competitors next week.

Jordy Smith:
Market Price: $10,000,000
It was disappointing to see Jordy lose to Bede in good surf at Margaret’s. In an obvious oversight, Jordy surfed too far from the pocket and never committed to punctuating individual turns. Lesson learned. Moving forward to Bells, Jordy simply needs to surf like Jordy to succeed at the Bowl.

Kelly Slater:
Market Price: $12,250,000
Kelly has been putting on very well-rounded performances this year. Blending a consistent mix of both powerful and light-footed surfing, Kelly has been able to match the flamboyant youth on Tour, most of the time. But every once in awhile, even Kelly finds himself in seemingly unwinnable heats. This year Kelly’s blood was surely boiling as he watched Adriano performed flawlessly on his waves in their quarterfinal, while Kelly made agonizing mental mistakes on his own waves. And at Margaret’s, we witnessed Bourez dispatch Kelly by laying down turns with unmatchable power. At this point, Kelly is overdue for a stellar result.

The waiting period starts tomorrow for the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, so click here to get your Fantasy Surfer team ready.