As I watched heats from The Drug Aware Pro, it was clear that the conditions play an important factor in determining which surfer will excel on any given day. For example: When you put a healthy and fit Dusty Payne in big, lumpy Margaret River surf, you can see his experience from big, tricky, windblown waves back home on Maui. It was that sense of comfort and confidence that allowed him to perform at his peak.
So what does that have to do with Bells? For starters, Bells will ideally run in the largest waves of the waiting period at the main site. If that doesn’t happen and the event goes mobile in search of a better venue, competitors could face conditions ranging from the user-friendly walls of Winkipop, to the raw, open ocean swells of Johanna, or even the disjointed inside break of Bells, bearing the misnomer of Rincon, as a last resort. Kelly, Parko, and Mick are most familiar and skilled at riding the varied breaks that may come into play during the event.
Kelly is coming off yet another performance that left me scratching my head in awe of his ability to control and dominate any situation. But even Kelly becomes vulnerable when conditions offer only a limited number of quality waves. Parko’s greatest weakness lies at Rincon, where he could falter if he finds himself up against one of the younger, lighter aerial enthusiasts in conditions tailor made for the light of foot. Mick consistently posts 8-to 10-point rides no matter where his heats are surfed, and keeping him from ringing the bell again will be no small feat for his opponents.
But right now, none of those three are on my Fantasy Surfer team. My team for Bells is as follows:
Adriano de Souza:
No one has beaten Kelly more decisively in proper Bells conditions than Adriano. Watch out for this feisty Brazilian—right now he is 100 percent focused on ringing his own Bell this year.
While still capable of matching the spark and innovation of the new guard, Taj is also among a small group of established competitors to have earned victories at Bells in recent years. That list also includes Andy, Parko, Mick, and Kelly—clearly Bells requires talent to win. Taj still has enough of gas in the tank to go the distance, so don’t give up on him yet.
As Julian discovers the proper balance between surfing a smart, controlled heat and unleashing the kind of explosive maneuvers that set him apart, he becomes closer to not only an event win here, but also being held in a similar esteem to Taj and co.
At any time, in any heat, Filipe is capable of doing the impossible. This makes him a huge threat, especially with a light onshore wind at Rincon or Winkipop. In that situation, the rookie becomes the favorite.
I kept Nat as my alternate in Fantasy Surfer for the first event, and he impressed us all with his maturity during multiple challenging heats at Snapper. Even more impressive was the variety of moves this experienced young goofyfooter has developed after years of fine tuning in Santa Cruz. Nat’s ability to carve and slash on his backhand as easily as his forehand sets him apart from every other goofy on Tour.
The man is due for a breakout result on Tour. Overdue, actually, when considering the incredible talent he has to accompany the solid head on his shoulders. Plan on watching him figure out "the game" on his way to becoming a future contender. After watching Dusty mow the entire field at Margaret's, I feel even better about putting him on my Fantasy Surfer team for Bells, and likely the rest of the year.
Last year I watched him dismantle small rights during the East Coast Surfing Championships in Virginia Beach, and that form was on display at Snapper as well. Sebastian joins a small group of surfers capable of taking apart a quality wave for scores in the excellent range without even requiring his fins to leave the water.
Compared to his competitors, Jordy stands alone with the most complete repertoire of power and tricks, as well as the rare ability to utilize them in a wide variety of conditions. Unfortunately, he seems to have knack for bringing out the best in his opponents and finding ways to lose close heats, so his potential remains mostly unrealized at this time.
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