Few of us will ever win the lottery or be struck by lightning, but fewer still will win Fantasy Surfer. To win amidst 15,000 active players each with a separate strategy, you have to be able to predict hot streaks, to correctly guess which low seeds will battle through to the quarterfinals, and to deal with the unpredictability of swell and weather. But Virginia Beach's own Johnny Correll did just that, besting the rest of us. After verifying the results, we gave him a call to let him know he was the champion and to talk about how he pulled it off.
Thanks, I'm stoked. I'm kinda freaking out, but I'm at work right now.
How long have you been playing Fantasy Surfer?
Since the very beginning. I'm sure I played it the first season.
Where do you live and surf?
I live in Virginia Beach and surf mostly in the Outer Banks.
What do you do for a living?
I'm an IT administrator. I'm basically a computer geek. [Laughs]
Do you play FS with friends?
Yeah, I play with a few friends, but I have one main opponent that I really play against. We're pretty hard-core Fantasy Surfer players. We mainly compete against each other.
How did he do this year?
I don't know his score, I just know I crushed him. [Laughs]
How have you finished in FS in the past? Have you been a consistent top finisher?
I think I've won the overall category—where you combine your scores for mens and womens—twice. I've finished in the top 20 players for the men's game at least once before.
Can I ask what your strategy is?
[Laughs] I figured you'd ask that. This year I tried a different approach, and I picked my guys with less of a biased opinion about how I feel about that person—whether I actually like them or not. I tried to base my picks on if they're on fire competitively, or if the judges really like them…I tried to take a more calculated, mathematical approach, instead of just basing it on if I think a certain surfer should win. It seemed to work out for me.
I'd say so. How would you determine if judges "like" a certain surfer?
If I think they got a higher score than they should have got for a wave, and if the commentators on the Webcasts seem to agree with me based on what they say. For instance, take Dane. If he does two good turns on a wave, and if another Bede-esque mid-range guy does two turns on a wave, Dane's generally gonna get a couple points higher score, because they really like the way Dane surfs. Surfing is a judged sport, so if you can figure out who the judges like, you have an advantage.
Which surfers did well for you this year?
At the beginning of the year, I picked Dane, Jordy, Owen, and Jadson, They were the key to how I did this year. They surfed really well in the first half of the year, prior to the big Tour changes after Chopes. That's really where I won, in the first half of the year.
Did you stick with those guys all year?
After Chopes, everything changed with both the Tour and FS. I completely changed my strategy, trying not to pick high-seed guys and go for more mid-range guys instead. I felt like it was better to spread my picks out through the mid-range seeds. Before, I'd pick some top guys and some mid-range guys, and then I'd get stuck with a wildcard, but I was really trying hard to avoid putting any wildcards on my team.
Why no wildcards?
In my opinion, there are only certain spots where wildcards do well—Teahupoo and Pipe. Lots of wildcards can get to Round 3, but then they usually meet up with high seeds, and it's hard to imagine any wildcard beating a top World Tour surfer.
What was your best result this year?
Teahupoo. I went out on a limb and picked Andy [Irons]. I know it sounds funny to hear me say that because of his record at Chopes, but before 'Chopes Andy hadn't been surfing very well, and the forecast wasn't that great. But Andy and Chopes have a special relationship, so I picked him, and, of course, he won. That was the highest score I've ever had in Fantasy Surfer, and it put me in first place. I haven't looked back since. Thanks AI. RIP, man.
Thanks for playing, Johnny.
I'm stoked on Fantasy Surfer. I love playing the game. I don't get to surf nearly as much as I want to, so it's kind of my way to put in a full day at work but be involved with surfing still.
Johnny won the Fantasy Surfer grand prize, a VIP trip for two to Indonesia for a nine day stay the Nemberala Beach Resort. In partnership with Waterways Travel, everything from the roundtrip plane tickets from any major gateway airport in the world, to unlimited surf transfers to local breaks by boat is covered. It may be the first time we've ever been jealous of an IT administrator from Virgina Beach. Congrats Johnny!