The start of the 2017 CT season is one week away, which means it's time to set your Fantasy Surfer team for The Quiksilver Pro at Snapper. But before you do, take into consideration this advice from longtime Gold Coast local Dean Morrison. After all, Dean won at Snapper back in 2003 (his one and only ‘CT victory) and knows the bank better than everyone currently on tour not named Mick or Joel. We called up Dingo last week, just days before Kirra and Snapper roared to life during some of the best swell in months.

This winter has been dismal so far, right?

Oh man, it's been a shocker. I usually come home after Hawaii and it's pumping, but this year has been awful. This place is absolute horseshit sometimes [Laughs]. Hopefully it gets into a good rhythm here soon and starts doing its thing so the guys can get some waves. This is the time of year when we get those cyclones in the tropics up north and those are the best types of swells for Snapper, because they come straight at the bank. This year, they just haven't happened yet for whatever reason [Ed. Note: It’s been a different story this week].

How's the sandbank at the moment?

It's getting better. They've been pumping sand. The banks are nowhere near all-time but when they pump sand it fills in all the holes. Plus, there is a south swell next week, which is great because it brings all the sand around the corner. If we get a cyclone swell for the start of the event, I reckon it'd be perfect timing. It's a pretty cool setup — the fact they can turn the pumps on and replenish the bank right before the comp comes to town.

You're a few years removed from competing on the ‘CT, but when Snapper comes to town, I assume you're still paying close attention?

Yeah, definitely. I love watching everyone compete out there, and how much surfing has evolved the past few years. It's nice to not have any pressure and just enjoy hanging with everyone as a spectator.

In the interest of helping everyone set their teams for Fantasy Surfer, I'm gonna put you on the spot.

Ahhh, cheers. Let's do it.

Your pick for winner?

Well I have to be biased and go with Mick, Joel or Jeremy [Flores]. They are my three closest friends, but also three of the best out there. Obviously Mick and Joel know it really well, but Jeremy has had a couple third-places finishes in the past, and I'd absolutely love to see him get the win.

Which rookie finishes best?

Ethan Ewing. He's amazing. He's impressed everyone recently and he's done it without the aerial stuff that I think gets a lot of guys on tour. He's done it with solid surfing on the face of the wave. The only downfall for Ethan is he's young and has a really small frame. Sometimes it can be hard to impress the judges with a small frame; you saw that with Kolohe his first few years on tour.

Who is your darkhorse pick?

That's tough, because everyone surfs so well on tour these days. But I'd have to go with Zeke [Lau]. He's also a rookie but he's more suited to the ‘CT than the ‘QS. He's a bigger guy, he stacks up to the older guys on tour, and is already really powerful, so I think he'll do well.

Best goofyfoot?

You can't look past Gabby [Medina] on his backhand. He's won out there before and you know he'll be hungry after last year. I'd pick him or Ace Buchan. He's had a few fifths and maybe even a semi, and he's a really smart competitor. Hardly ever makes mistakes. He's always gonna put on a solid show.

Who has the best chance if the event scores a cyclone swell and moves to Kirra?

Kelly is amazing, the way he reads the ocean. Last time it was at Kirra on finals day, he read the ocean better than anyone. He was sitting down at the end and I thought he was gonna lose for sure. Then, all of a sudden, he got two 8s and a 9, and he was sitting in a place on the bank that I hadn't even paid attention too, and I've been watching that wave my whole life. He seems like he's pretty psyched this year to go for a world title again. So if he gets motivated by a good swell at Kirra, I wouldn't pick against Kelly, ever.

To pick your team for Snapper, head to the Fantasy Surfer website.

[Title Photos: Dean Morrison, 2003, winner of the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. Photos by Joli]