Pipeline Preview

Shea Lopez on who to pick for your Fantasy Surfer team

If Pipe and Backdoor look anything like they did yesterday when competition kicks off, we're all in for a show. Photo: Ellis

The wave reshapes the beach with every impact. It also reshapes the individuals who have made it their priority to be here for that special moment when the first west swells come marching through. The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is allowed a 13-day window to run the Pipeline Masters. Some years we only see subpar conditions in that window, and often times with the Title already decided. This year, however, we have all the necessary ingredients for an epic end to the World Tour season—a perfect storm, capable of carving this year’s Pipeline Masters into the pages of surf history.

What will decide whether that happens or not is the same thing that makes or breaks every surf contest—the conditions. On the forecast right now, we are seeing many of the signs that point towards good to epic waves arriving on Saturday or Sunday for the start of the waiting period—a potential dream scenario for all.

When preparing to watch the event, know this: The Pipeline specialists—whether they are recognized as the “best” surfers in the word or not—are hands down the best surfers in the world at big Pipeline. Now here lies the quagmire: The low seeding of these Pipe specialists means incredibly tough draws early in the competition. Kelly, Parko, and Mick will all have to defeat one or more of these Pipe experts in early rounds if they are to advance into a position where they may claim the 2012 ASP World Title—and those early rounds may be held 10-foot plus, heaving, deadly Banzai Pipeline.

My team for Fantasy Surfer features the top four World Tour surfers, a freak, and the world’s best Pipe surfers.

Kelly Slater:
The Triple Crown season has been a huge disappointment so far for Mr. Slater, allowing negative feelings to creep back in after a long sabbatical. The silver lining: This 40-year-old man has not had to exert himself too much thus far and should be prepared to put it all on the line in pursuit of his 12th world title at Pipeline.

Joel Parkinson:
For Joel, a world title would be the crowning achievement in a life dedicated to ASP competition. Sadly, Joel has been in this position before and watched the Title slip away. As with most things in life, you become better with practice and experience by learning from your mistakes. Now it’s time for us to sit back and watch what Joel has learned, as he would hate to see Kelly or Mick ride off into the sunset with another world title that should have been his.

Mick Fanning:
Stranger things have happened, and because of those very dangerous wildcards here at Pipeline, anything can happen. Don’t forget about the two-time World Champion and his quest for No. 3.

John Florence:
While everyone is focused on the World Title race, John will likely win the Pipe Masters and the Vans Triple Crown Title for 2012.

Fred Patacchia:
Fred has been on Tour for a number of years now, causing him to miss a number of perfect swells back home. But traveling the world hasn’t detracted from his ability to read the waves and dominate at Pipe. He has to be licking his chops in anticipation of big lefts unloading on the reef in this contest.

Bruce Irons:
As long as the waves present themselves, Bruce will find an impossible entry and exit that leave the crowd in shock and the judges dropping 10s. Now under new sponsorship, BI will likely put in the effort required to produce quality World Tour heat wins.

Jamie O’Brien:
Mental errors in competition are common—terrific surfing at Pipeline is much less so. Jamie was dominating and playing with the waves at Sunset, and he does the same at Pipeline. Anything but a win here is a letdown for Jamie, and I pity the top seed that draws him.

Michel Bourez:
It takes a freak of human physiology to surf in the manner of our Tahitian friend Michel Bourez. With the skills to match his raw strength, Michel will be surfing in the type of waves that he really excels in at Pipeline.

Sebastian Zietz:
I had to throw Sea Bass on the team as my alternate/wildcard. If I hear he hasn’t partied every night leading up to the Pipe Masters, I may even give him a starting spot. The top 34 just became a lot stronger with Sebastian qualifying for next year.

Click here to pick your Fantasy Surfer team for the Pipeline Masters.