San Clemente, California is to the United States as Coolangatta, Queensland is to Australia. With Lowers serving as the foundation for this bustling surf community, this incredibly playful and uniform wave drew me and my brother, Cory, to set up a residence there during our time competing on the World Tour. Drawing in top talents (and, well, some vagabonds alike), surfers migrate to San Clemente to find their place in this ultra-competitive and continually growing community. Current world title contenders Adriano de Souza and Filipe Toledo are now regular faces in the lineup. And it makes sense. With two major WSL events here, careers can be made and lost on the cobbles. As we stare down a wide-open title race, expect to see some serious battles when the horn blows.
Market Price: $11,000,000
Slater is surfing's ultimate gamesman. Although he's shown commitment to winning a 12th world title, his actions haven't been consistent with what it's taken him to achieve this goal in the past. That being said, Kelly could be setting everyone up for a dominating conclusion to the 2015 season. To do so, he would have to put on a phenomenal performance at Lowers—just as he's done countless times in the past.
Market Price: $4,500,000
It's safe to say that Kolohe is primed for a break. Better yet, I'm hoping to see him savagely obliterate every wave in his way at Lowers, leaving only a wake of destruction and shattered dreams. And if this doesn't happen, it's back to the 'Q to regroup and figure out why lesser-talented and less-hyped surfers have been mopping the floor with him in heats.
You may have guessed it from his formidable stature, but Owen Wright can be a dangerous man. Especially in a heat. And with the odds stacking further into his favor as he matures, you can expect to see his winning percentage rise along with his likelihood of winning a world title. If you want to see the deadliest delivery in surfing, then pay close attention to the refined technique of Owen Wright.
If you believe you can do something, more often than not, you truly can. There's no one else on tour who can benefit more from this adage than Dusty Payne. He's freakishly talented and holds a reputation for stomping bigger and better clips than his peers. Lowers offers Dusty another opportunity to step up to the plate and show the world that we have yet to see his best.
Heading into an event that suits his style more than any other stop on tour, I'm looking to Julian to separate himself from the pack at Lowers. A win here puts him as a strong favorite to close out the season as world champion. Julian knows this, but he can't get ahead of himself and force an overeager performance. If he stays cool and calculated, I expect this to be a huge event for Jules.
Market Price: $7,750,000
Although Filipe has developed an uncanny ability to stick some of the biggest hucks ever witnessed in competition, these high-risk maneuvers have also been his undoing in the past. Take his performance at the US Open in Huntington as an example: when Filipe falls on these ultra risky whips—on important waves no less—he pays for it with heat losses. There's a time and a place for everything. That being said, I'm betting he pulls off more airs than he crashes at Lowers this year, leaving us, the fans, to witness some epic and emotionally charged heats.
Market Price: $6,000,000
This young Brazilian has taken a lot of people by surprise this year with his electric mix of powerful and committed surfing. As he becomes more comfortable with his new surroundings, this talented and refreshing addition to the Top 34 will be looking to climb the ratings at Lowers.
Market Price: $1,500,000
Ian is a strong San Clemente local who draws similar lines to Nate Yeomans. He's also a workhorse. And with the hometown crowd in his corner, I'm looking to Ian to push the performance envelope at this event. Do work, kid.