The 2008 season kicks off at Snapper Rocks this weekend.
If ever there was a year to get hooked on pro surfing, this is it. If the arrival of the highly-touted rookie class isn't enough to get you excited, then the ongoing sagas of the worlds best surfers should. Simply put, there has never been so much talent on the World Championship Tour at one time. And with only days to go before the start of arguably the most anticipated WCT season in history, the surfing world is frothing with rumors, claims and outright uninformed conjecture about who's going to perform and who's going to bomb. Even if you don't take our advice on which surfers to pick for your Fantasy Surfer team, make sure you take our word on one thing: its going to be frikken' exciting.
SNAPPER ON THE ROCKS?
The big news coming off the Goldie this week is the state of the Superbank. After some big swells and foul weather, the Superbank's sandbar is in somewhat of a sorry state. This will certainly level the playing field to an extent, but if the event moves to nearby Duranbah – which is a real possibility – then a different set of suspects may rise to the top. Regardless, the swell forecast looks very promising, and its likely that the event will kick-off on the first day of the window period.
Without a doubt, the story of 2007 was Mick Fanning's professionalism, and many of the top WCT'ers have taken notice of that fact. Almost everyone is on the full-bore training schedule this year, which should raise the bar on performance, and make competition more fierce. The 'CT, it seems, is no longer a year-long surf-holiday with 44 of your closest friends, its beginning to resemble a bone fide professional sport! Apart from the ever motivated Mick, Taj, Andy, Taylor, Pancho, and Jeremy Flores to name a few, have jumped on the intense-training bandwagon. Expect the 'CT'ers to arrive on The Goldie with quivers of boards and entire entourages of trainers, nutritionists and their ilk in tow.
THE ROOKIE RUCKUS
They're here! The much-anticipated, much-hyped, and certainly dangerous New Millennials have arrived. There really is nothing to say that hasn't already been said before. There is no doubt that these guys are going to shake things up on tour this year, but bear in mind that they are also marked men. It remains to be seen how they handle the pressure and the expectation. Meanwhile, the rest of the rookie class will be slipping quietly under the radar, which may settle their nerves sufficiently to cause some major upsets themselves.
"THE STATE THAT I'M IN."
True to form, Dane Reynolds is approaching his first event with equal parts apathy and mysticism. In a blog posted on his website (http://www.dane-reynolds.com/-/Blog, 02/11/08) Dane, openly admits that he won't be surfing anytime soon after a collision with his board resulted in stitches in his leg. The tactic – if you want to call it that – has had fantasy surfer players in a frenzy. One player has been quoted as saying that he'll "rip the stitches out" while others said "he wont make it passed (sic) his first heat". Either way, Dane is definitely surfing and will be challenging Kelly for the biggest-question-mark-of-the-year award.
The level of professionalism in the sport is making it increasingly difficult for a wildcard to go all the way. For starters, they invariably match up against the top seeds in round 1, secondly, they seldom have the experience in the WCT format to post a win on raw talent alone. But Julian Wilson is one of the few young surfers in the world with the potential to put his name in lights alongside Parko, Jamie and Mick as wildcards who have gone all the way. At the very least, he will have to top seeds sweating early on in the event and if the Superbank is as dubious as some people claim, then look for Julian to light up the wedgy, rampy banks at D'Bah with devastating effects.
LEST WE FORGET
The past world champs. 2007 may have been void of the Andy/Kelly rivalry, but that's not to say that '08 will follow suit. These guys are world champions for goodness sake! Andy is fired up for the tour this year that can only be described as shocking by his high standards. And Kelly, well, all we know is that Kelly is definitely surfing the first event. Beyond that he remains as enigmatic as ever about whether he's pushing for a 9th. Regardless, neither of these guys can be taken out of the equation.
WHAT? THERE ARE OTHER GUYS TOO?
With all the hype centered around the big names, its easy to forget that every surfer on tour deserves his spot on tour and any one of them could throw the cat among the pigeons on any given day. We're betting that there is more than one upset before the end of the first weekend, never mind the first event.
The men aren't the only ones expected to draw a crowd over the coming weeks. Homegirl, Stephanie Gilmore will begin the defense of her unprecedented rookie world title at her home break. An obvious favorite among fans and Fantasy Surfer players alike, Steph will be a tough one to beat regardless of the conditions. That's not to say that she won't be facing stiff competition from the likes of Silvana Lima and Sofia Mulanovich, who were Stephanie's closest rivals last year. Defending Roxy Pro champion, Chelsea Hedges, is on maternity leave for the 2008 season.
Go to www.fantasysurfer.com to be a part of it.