Lowers Preview

Shea Lopez on who to pick for your Fantasy Surfer team

If last year's performance was any indication, Julian will be a tough draw for any competitor. Photo: Ellis

The Lower Trestles event has traditionally been a litmus test for the remainder of the year. Perhaps more than any other stop, the soft, slow, manicured Southern California waves allow for an unmolested view of the World Tour talent. This very even playing field will separate the legitimate world-title contenders from the rest. With plenty of events left to get on a roll and charge up the rankings, you look as far back as Gabriel Medina (13th on Tour), and believe, like he does, that the 2012 World Title is still priority No. 1. In fact, if Mick finishes 25th at Lowers and Hossegor, and Medina wins both events, they are essentially back on equal ground. I recently captioned some photos to bring the uninitiated up to speed with the current top 13. If you aren’t familiar with these surfers, click here before you construct your Fantasy Surfer team.

When building a Fantasy Surfer team, a few main factors come into play. If you picked up any surfers for a steal earlier in the year, and they have since gone on a tear, their Fantasy Surfer value has risen considerably as a result. Case in point: Mick Fanning and John Florence have seen their values increased substantially by a combined total of $5.5 million—that is more than Miguel Pupo would cost you alone. That being said, hanging on to both surfers for the remainder of the year gives you the ability to have the best team possible within budget constraints. Yet for me, having both Mick and John for all of 2012 hasn’t been enough to combat poor choices when selecting the remaining six surfers, e.g. Kelly, Julian, and Wilko at Teahupoo.

With average, but fun swell forecasted during the waiting period at Lowers, I anchored my FS team with proven Lowers veterans Mick and Taj. I went decidedly youthful for the remaining spots, because the children are our future, and Lowers consistently favors modern surfing more than any other local. Here are my eight Fantasy Surfer picks for the 2012 Hurley Lowers Pro:

Mick Fanning:
I have always respected Mick’s surfing—decidedly steadfast in his approach year after year. He builds on his strengths and never strays very far from his proven formula for success. Even though he receives criticism for the very things that make him great, Mick looks within himself and channels his strength and focus to put on some of the most stellar performances you'll find within the constraints of competition.

Taj Burrow:
The road takes its toll on the uninitiated. As an astute observer of his surroundings, Taj, on the other hand, has been able to constantly adapt. He uses life on the road to stay meaningfully engaged, and pursue his lifelong goal of becoming a world champion—a goal that has an expiration date looming in the not too distant future.

Julian Wilson:
When Julian rides a wave, he never performs with reserve. He chooses instead to rise up in the face of his opponent, posterizing their inadequacies with technically advanced, powerful surfing. In an attempt to keep up, most opponents will simply fall flat on their face.

John Florence:
Along with Julian, John is one of the first to breakout and challenge the established lions (Kelly, Joel, Mick, and Taj) as legit threats to their entrenched positions at the top of the rankings. With the level of surfing in competition rising considerably with just a small influx of young talent, one can hardly wait for others from their generation to make their way onto the big stage.

Gabriel Medina:
What’s the difference between Gabriel and the rest? He has a singular focus, direction, and goal. He not only recognizes what he needs to achieve it, but he follows that vision with total commitment. Not many professional surfers immerse themselves so fully in their work—even less have the raw talent for riding waves that Gabriel does. Beyond just surfing, the most talented individuals are often a complacent, well-paid breed that get by on their talent and never have to dig deep to find out what they are truly capable of. Gabriel puts the pressure on those surfers until they eventually crack.

Kolohe Andino:
There are big question marks hanging over Kolohe at the moment. What kind of form will he return from injury in? When will he show us he's capable of keeping up with Gabriel and John (peers who were previously less heralded, but are now much more advanced)? Returning to competition in his backyard, Kolohe has the perfect stage set for him to answer all questions.

Evan Geiselman:
Once considered an equal compared with the freakish talents as John, Gabriel, and Kolohe, the public perception of Evan has shifted. Like Kolohe, Evan is coming off a major injury with little momentum or hype heading into this event. With San Clemente serving as Evan’s home for now, the game will be played on his court, to his strengths, with the afternoon northwest winds tilting the odds in his favor. He's liable to serve up a major upset, and even Medina will be pushed to keep up when it becomes a battle of airs and blow-tails across Lowers' famous lefts.

Pat Gudauskas:
The froth is strong in this one. Pat has been pushing through a tumultuous season, and finds his very place among the top 32 threatened. You can see the cracks forming in the uber-positive front-runner of the Gudauskas trio. But what the cracks show is a surfer on the brink of shifting into another gear—a place inside himself he’s never had to draw from before. His performances early in competitions, and his level of surfing outside a jersey, signal that he will continue to elevate in order match the elite ranks that he belongs in. Lowers has done the dirty on Pat before, but a little more experience and calm nerves might be all he needs to be a dominant force at home, as Shane Beschen was throughout the '90s.

Pick your team for Lowers here.