We’re more than halfway through this year’s ‘CT, and close to a month after wrapping up the action in Tavarua, the Tour returns to South Africa for the Corona Open at Jeffreys Bay. Here’s who we’re eyeing on our Fantasy Surfer rosters as we near the opening horn of the event.

Jordy Smith:

Some surfers seem to struggle with the high expectations that come with competing at a break they're synonymous with—think John John at the Pipe Masters, or Kolohe at the Hurley Pro Trestles. Jordy, however, seems to thrive with that added pressure. He's won the J-Bay Pro twice before, but perhaps more important than his stats on paper is just how in-tune he looks with those feathering right-hand walls in every heat. There might not be a surfer more well-suited to a specific wave than Jordy is to J-Bay. In terms of speed and power, the guy is peerless out there. The fact that he's coming off a win in Ballito certainly doesn't hurt, either. — Todd Prodanovich, Editor

Jordy Smith:

I've never bet a full stack of chips on Jordy Smith. In the past, it seemed like he would sometimes have a hard time quieting his mind during competition, and as a result, his performances were either ridiculously impressive or off just a tad. He was a bit unpredictable. But I think the back half of last year, starting with his win at Trestles, was a watershed period for Jordy. He looked calm, collected, and more on point than ever. He looked like he could finally subdue those thoughts. Anyways, I'm picking Jordy for this year's win. He was on a roll during last year's J-Bay event, until he and John paddled into literally the slowest heat in the history of competitive surfing. John got the upper hand on Jordy last year, but I think Jordy's got it this time around. I'm all in. — Ashtyn Douglas, Managing Editor

Mick Fanning:

Is Mick the obvious pick? Maybe. But out of every surfer on Tour, Mick surfs J-Bay the best. Sure, you could make a case for Jordy, and coming off his recent win in Ballito, it’d be a shocker not to see Jordy make at least the Semis, but I think Jordy is still a step (or at least a few inches) behind Mick out at J-Bay. Mick won last year, would have won the year before if not for the shark, and I’d say there’s a 75-percent chance he’ll win it again this year. Especially if the waves turn on. — Zander Morton, Field Editor


John Florence

I'm going to go with John John for the win. He's got that Pyzel so dialed that if it's double overhead, John will be throwing multiple turns in a similar fashion to the turns he did in West Oz. If it's small, he'll have room to work with as far as throwing airs and combos. Plus, now that he's No.2 in the rankings, I feel like he'll want to crush it to get back on the top of the leaderboard. — Adam Jara, Social Media Manager

Adriano de Souza:

[rolls 12-sided dice]
[consults I Ching]
[reads astrology charts]

Hmmm, the universe is whispering…and it says, huh, that’s interesting: Adriano de Souza. Are you aware that he’s in a logjam for third in the world right now? I was not. The universe, however, is well aware, and also, like me, is a big big fan of Adriano’s insane bottom-turn-top-turn carving. Has he ever won J-Bay? Honestly, I can’t remember [Ed. Note: de Souza did win the 2012 WQS event], but it sure as hell seems like he should have. I’ve never understood the criticism of Adriano’s style He’s about as pure a carver as the Tour has seen since T-Knox was sent out to pasture, and if there’s ever been a recipe for success at J-Bay, that’s it. Does he get a little stink bug-ey? I guess. But I’m too busy being awed by the 100-yard fans of water he’s cannonading the lineup with on every speed carve. There are a handful of “favorites” to win this year (Jordy, JJF, Wilko, Mick, maybe Owen) but Adriano thrives on being a sleeper. Or maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he hates being overlooked and makes it his mission to smash the field in response. But he’s unflappable and he loves his rail. God bless him. — Justin Housman, Features Editor

[Featured Image: John Florence, J-Bay, 2016. Photo by Moran]