With the 35th Annual Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach right around the corner it's time to fine-tune your Fantasy Surfer team, and if you haven't signed up yet, you'd better get on it. Remember people, there's a boat trip for two on the line here. If you missed the Gold Coast, don't worry; you're still in the mix. Below is a little inside insight from behind the walls of SURFER Magazine. So before you blow your salary cap, consider what we're telling you. Good luck, and may the best team win.
Remember, Kelly was iffy last year and didn't even show up to the event until the last second. Of course when he did finally arrive he absolutely smoked everybody, but he's got to be careful, there's a heap of hungry, young talent out there and if his head's not in the right place, he could have a shocker—especially if the waves don't cooperate.
He's had plenty of time off since the Gold Coast; hopefully he's cleared his head and spent some quality time on Kauai preparing. Nobody hates to lose more than AI. Some of his best results have come after upsets, so the rest of the world better be on their toes. He's already proved he can win anywhere in the world, all he has to do is find some rhythm.
You've got to think going into Bells that Mick is the obvious favorite. He's a new man this year—more focused, more fit and more determined than ever. As Rip Curl's big gun you can assume he's not going to be roughing it in Torquay, and, for now anyway, it appears the days of Eugene stealing the spotlight are numbered.
He looked good on the Gold Coast, but then there's no reason he shouldn't have. Parko and the Superbank go together like tourists and sunburns. If anything, Parko's approach is too casual, but don't think for a minute he's not in it to win. Last year he made the finals before running out of steam against Slater. This could be the kick-start he needs going into the Pacific.
Over the break, Bobby was able to come home to Santa Barbara, dial his boards in, spend some time with his dogs and refocus a bit. Thanks to Rincon, cold-water right-handers are this goofyfoots specialty. If the waves cooperate, watch for Bobby to get back on the horse at Bells.
Still seeking a win to validate his title-contender status, Bells could be Taj's breakthrough stop. The open faces of the wave at Bells will allow him to showcase his complete arsenal, especially on the inside bowl. Also it may be worth considering that Tahiti is right around the corner and Taj would probably like to get another solid result under his belt before heading off into the big-blue Pacific.
You gotta love the Ginger Ninja's guts. While his hairstyle's more than questionable, he's got a sponsor now, so at least he's getting three squares a day. He lost early at the recent WQS event in West Oz, but that'll probably just fire him up more. The words "reckless abandon" come to mind.
So what if he runs his mouth a bit. In fact, good. Pro surfing needs more people with some balls. That being said, don't call Kerr just an "air-guy." He put together some solid turns on the Gold Coast that showed the world he's the real deal. Being so versatile is going to be a huge asset at a fickle wave like Bells—he'll go far.
Funny thing is, having a good head on your shoulders does make a difference. He may not be the flashiest or the most powerful surfer on tour, but Ben Dunn is going to make some veterans cry this year, and a place like Bells is just the spot to start. He knows the break well, and like Mick, as a Rip Curl dude he'll be living large when he's not in the water.
Easily the most powerful man on the WCT, if the waves are pumping put your money on Pancho. With a led foot, this regularfooter is more than capable of laying it all on the rail given the chance. If it's small and groveling is required, he may not be the best guy for your team—so check the forecast before you make your pick.
Adriano De Souza:
The Brazilian sophomore proved his off-season was well spent. He's started 2007 faster and more powerful. There's maturity behind his surfing, which wasn't always the case last year. Bells is a good venue for him, and if the waves go small he could be downright dangerous. Also, the tour is moving into deeper water after this, and while Fiji's not on the schedule this year, he does have Tahiti to contend with in May and padding the standings before setting sail may be his ambition.