Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we have a legitimate World Tour title race on our hands. Running into the Billabong Pro at J-Bay with Kelly's now-fabled return-to-form finish over Adriana De Souza at the Hang Loose Pro, a sizeable swatch has been cut through the upper echelon of World Tour elite, leaving the path to the title as open as ever. If you're having a rough start to your Fantasy Surfer season, don't shed too many tears just yet as this year only six of 10 events count to keep you in the running for that Grand Prize trip to the Goldy for the 2010 Quik Pro. Without further ado, here are a few points to keep in mind as you pick your team for J-Bay.
Kelly Slater: Kelly's coming off quite a rebound after winning the Hang Loose Pro, skyrocketing himself from the 25th position into the number-nine position almost over night. Additionally, his Fantasy Surfer value has risen a cool mil, up from $9.5 to $10.5 for J-Bay. Considering that Kelly has won J-Bay four times ('96, '03, '05, '08) and is still valued less than many of his top-tier contemporaries, he'd be a smart pick for your team. Couple his winning rate at J-Bay with his value and his track record of getting on a role, and you have to consider Kelly a viable threat in the event.
"I feel like I have all those guys [ASP World Title contenders] right where I want them," Slater said following his win in Brazil. "I don't feel like I have any pressure on me, and I tend to do my best when I have no pressure. We're coming up on Jeffreys Bay, which is probably my best event historically and hopefully I can build off my result [at Brazil]."
Additionally, Quik's Global Team manager, Stephen Bell, has confirmed that Slater "will be participating in J-Bay and it is very much his intention to win the event."
Jordy Smith: Jordy first became a major name when he broke out onto the scene at J-Bay in 2006 as a wildcard, nearly making the final in the process had it not been for a hiccup in his semifinal against Taj. Couple his courtship with J-Bay in the past with his current standing along with the 10 national titles Jordy has to his name in South Africa, and he's bound to be a standout at the event. At a reasonable $6.75 mil, Jordy's definitely one to consider when building your team for J-Bay.
The Aussie Contingency: There's been a lot of talk about Joel this year and his stranglehold, but let's not forget that halfway through the season Mick and Taj are sitting just 936 and 826 ratings points behind him respectively. Both Taj and Mick have won at J-Bay before with Mick taking his wins in '02 and '06 and with Taj standing on the winner's podium in 2007.
With many of the media's eyes and ears turned to Slater after his win in Brazil, it's easy to forget that Joel put up a stellar performance there as well, finishing a solid third—his best-ever result in Brazil. Historically, Joel has found success at J-Bay as a wildcard in the event in 1999, but since then has yet to win the event. He's an expensive addition at $12.25 mil, but if there ever was a wave that suited Parko's famous rail work, it'd be J-Bay.
Get Your Filler:
To fill up your roster on smart-but-valuable picks, there are a few surfers that Fantasy Surfer players should keep their eyes on as valuable and affordable additions to your team. Take a gander at Kekoa Bacalso. He's proven that he can hang with the best in the world time and again this year. Currently rated 16th with a $4 mil price tag to his name, Bacalso could be a solid addition to your team and will leave you with room for bigger-ticket surfers.
Although Dean Morrison is coming off an injury, you have to envision a man that's built his reputation and honed his skills among right-hand points a valuable asset to your team as well. At only $4.5 million, the Snapper standout could definitely be a filler-turned-spoiler and crucial component to your winning team.
Format Change…maybe: According to an interview conducted with the ASP's Brodie Carr during the Tahitian leg of the tour, "the Billabong Pro at J-Bay will use the traditional format should the swell forecast be favorable, but if conditions haven't allowed the event to run in the first three days of the waiting period, the new format (elimination man-on-man, seeded rounds) will be instituted pending swell forecast for the remainder of the waiting period." If there are any last-minute changes to the system, SURFER will bring the info as soon as it becomes available.
ROUND 1 HEATS:
HEAT 1: Jordy Smith, Tim Boal, Mikael Picon
HEAT 2: Tom Whitaker, Jay Thompson, Nathaniel Curran
HEAT 3: Bobby Martinez, Josh Kerr, Nic Muscroft
HEAT 4: Mick Fanning, Kai Otton, Phil MacDonald
HEAT 5: Bede Durbidge, Dean Morrison, Marlon Lipke
HEAT 6: CJ Hobgood, Chris Ward, Wildcard (TBA)
HEAT 7: Adriano de Souza, Dustin Barca, Wildcard (TBA)
HEAT 8: Joel Parkinson, Kekoa Bacalso, Wildcard (TBA)
HEAT 9: Taj Burrow, Tim Reyes, Wildcard (TBA)
HEAT 10: Kelly Slater, Dayyan Neve, Wildcard (TBA)
HEAT 11: Damien Hobgood, Heitor Alves, Greg Emslie
HEAT 12: Fred Patacchia, Chris Davidson, David Weare
HEAT 13: Jeremy Flores, Aritz Aranburu, Michel Bourez
HEAT 14: Taylor Knox, Jihad Khodr, Roy Powers
HEAT 15: Mick Campbell, Tiago Pires, Ben Dunn
HEAT 16: Kieren Perrow, Dane Reynolds, Drew Courtney