Professional surfers don’t necessarily make fortune-tellers in the Fantasy game, but an insider’s perspective on the World Tour circuit certainly helped Blake Thornton pick ’em in this year’s Fantasy Surfer points draw. Born in the suburb of Little Bay in southeastern Sydney, Australia, Thornton climbed his way to the WCT in 2010, winning the O’Neill Coldwater Classic Series Championship the year prior. A direct connection to the world’ best lineups — both in the competitive world and in the freesurfing world, in which he now resides — served him well, and he has a bundle of ‘CT predictions in 2015 to show for his newest title, not to mention a sweet Grand Prize. We recently caught up with this year’s top Fantasy Surfer number-cruncher and asked him what it means to be number one.
Do you feel like your professional career helped narrow your picks?
I would be lying if I said it didn’t help in a way. I think having surfed all the spots and knowing how they break on different swells and how certain guys perform at certain venues was definitely an advantage.
As we approached the last event, did you feel confident that you were going to win the whole thing?
I wasn’t too up to speed with the whole numbers breakdown, but my buddy--who actually got me into Fantasy Surfer initially--is an accountant and a real number-cruncher. He did the math and said it would be tough for someone to overtake me as I had a pretty low throwaway.
How did you find out that you won?
I just jumped online after Pipe had finished and I saw that I was still rated number one. Not long after I received the official email and was pretty much in shock. I was actually playing golf on the finals day. It was pretty hard to sit through some of the slow heats, so I was streaming it on my phone and tuning in to the highlights.
How did Fantasy Surfer begin for you?
I joined Fantasy Surfer two years ago and it started out as a way for me and my buddy to go head-to-head each event. In the beginning, I didn’t do much research. I just picked teams based on which surfer I thought had a good chance at the event and even picked a few guys who were friends. But it wasn’t until the Trestles comp that my mate informed me I was ranked fourth in the world. From there, I started to dig into it more and looking into the forecast. But I never studied heat draws or anything like that — just the surf forecast.
Any shockers this season? Looks like you killed it at Portugal and Tahiti, but Rio and Lowers were rough.
Yeah, Rio and Lowers are tough ones to pick, particularly Rio, I guess. It's a funky beach break and there are always a lot of scrappy heats. It's a place where even the best surfers struggle and there are always upsets. Trestles is such a machine. Now that the judging has evened off a bit, it feels like it’s a venue that rewards both rail and air surfing equally. There's no guarantee that real high-performance guy like Toledo can beat a real solid rail surfer like Ace out there. So that's why it was a tricky one for me.
Do you have any advice that you’d want to to give other players?
My biggest advantage was that I had been there and done that. Paying attention to the history of the surfer at the event would be a good start. Swell forecasts are always a good trick, too, but I reckon the best way is to keep it fun and maybe start a club with a bunch of mates like I did. Who knows — you might find yourself on top at the end of the year.