The 2018 World Tour season is days away from its start, and that means its time to start studying stats, poring over ‘CT surfer Insta-cips and picking the perfect Fantasy Surfer team to destroy friends and coworkers alike. Things are already getting heated here at SURFER HQ, and it seems only a matter of time before someone regrettably throws a wedding ring or set of car keys into the pot. Below are the World Tour surfers that our staff are completely certain (more or less) will win the season opener at Snapper Rocks.


Filipe Toledo
This guy's 2017 World Tour season was extremely hot and cold, with most of it feeling like a snooze, save for a possible career-peak performance at J-Bay. In South Africa, Toledo looked like a madman with bleached-and-blue'd hair, flinging himself into over-rotated alley-oops all over the place and getting perfect marks for the effort. For most of the other events, however, he faced early exits and made little commotion on his way out the door. With his disappointing 2017 in the rearview, Toledo has to be fired up to get back in the mix and remind everyone that he's a title threat. And there's no better way to do that than to dust off a certain pink-and-green board, paddle out and party like it's Snapper, 2015.—Todd Prodanovich, Editor

John Florence/Matt Wilkinson (criteria dependent)
How different will the judging be under new head Pritamo Ahrendt? If the status quo of recent years holds, I'm picking Wilko. Judges have been overscoring, or at least seeming to favor, backhand approaches built on jamming as many turns as possible on a wave for the last few seasons. Owen Wright won last year by throwing up a zillion repeatable backhand hacks, with Wilko making a respectable run of his own, largely following the same program. But Wilko's got the edge in flair, so I'll take him this go-round. BUT, if Ahrendt prioritizes a varied, well-rounded attack, John John's the call. He's been testing boards on the Gold Coast in recent weeks and I've got to believe he's feeling calm and comfortable going into the event. So, there's two. Sorry.—Justin Housman, Features Editor

Sebastian Zietz
I think a lot is riding on the judging going into Snapper. I'm personally hoping to see a tweak in policy. We have a new head judge, and one who I feel will take creative approach more into account with the scoring. With that said, I'm picking Sebastian Zietz to win Snapper. He can be hot and cold, but when's he's on, he's one of the fastest and most explosive surfers on Tour. Pair him with a long right wall a la Snapper and we could see a return of that raw, A.I.-influenced attack that the Tour often lacks.—Peter Taras, Digital Director


Gabriel Medina
After missing out on the title by a few heats last year, Medina is likely more fired up than ever to get back up on a podium. Medina won the Quik Pro Gold Coast back in 2014, so he knows his way down the fabled point and knows what the judges want to see from goofyfooters there. But his kryptonite seems to be Mr. John Florence, who certainly isn’t going to roll over in the season opener.—Ashtyn Douglas, Managing Editor

Griffin Colapinto
This pick might seem like a long shot. Griffin is a rookie, after all, and he’s got John Florence in Round 1. But hear me out. Griffin is young and inexperienced at the ‘CT level, but he’s the most well-rounded and exciting surfer to qualify since John, and the judges love a surfer that shows them something new, especially at the first event of the year. Griffin will be unfazed by anyone in his heat (including the back-to-back World Champ), and 3- to 4-foot Snapper suits his surfing perfectly. John will be a huge test in his first heat, but if he can get past him, he’ll have all the confidence he needs to take down the rest of the field.—Zander Morton, Field Editor

John Florence
Back-to-back World Champion John John Florence will win Snapper. Before John John became a world title holder he used to seem aloof on the 'CT, maybe distracted by filming, bad waves at Tour stops and/or sailing, but since he's been crowned a champion (twice) he doesn't want to lose. He's like a wild bear that got a taste for human blood and now that’s all he’s got an appetite for. The fact that JJF would fly halfway around the world to the Gold Coast in the offseason to test boards in sub-par Snapper shows us exactly where his head’s at. He's dead set on a world title hat trick and will not be bothered by rookie hype, Brazilian storms, Coolie kids, The King and the rest of the top 32. John John is at the top of the food chain, and he wants to stay there.—Ben Waldron, Online Editor

Mick Fanning
I'm going with Mick for the win. Mick obviously knows that wave inside out, and now that he's got a lot less riding on his shoulders with his impending retirement, we might see him crank his surfing up to 11 just for fun. John John is a close second, as he seems fresh and relaxed from all his boat and foil adventures, and already very dialed for Snapper after flying over to test boards in the pre-season.—Adam Jara, Social Media Manager

Back-to-back World Champ Tyler Wright is going to be tough to beat on the point.


Carissa Moore
On paper, it might seem like the smart money would be on Steph or Tyler, but I’ve got to go with my gut. There are few surfers in the world, male or female, who look as dynamic on their forehand as Carissa Moore, and when she stands up on a right point you’d be a fool to blink. She’s made her way onto the Snapper podium before and that’s where she belongs. Carissa finished 2017 with her worst year-end ranking of the last 8 years (at a still-respectable 5th), but look no further than her last web clip to see that she’s still surfing circles around most of her peers. It won’t take much for her to reclaim that No. 1 spot. —Todd Prodanovich, Editor

Stephanie Gilmore
Steph. Perhaps that’s a bit of a boring pick, but I couldn’t make an honest argument for any other surfer in the draw. Steph could probably make at least the quarters if she was surfing in the men’s event. Sure, Tyler and Carissa could easily win this thing, but it’s Steph’s to lose. Her surfing in flowing right points is better than almost anybody else on the planet, and I’d rather watch her surf Snapper than 99 percent of the rest of the entire WCT. Steph doesn’t have any giant killers in Round 1, easing her path even more. If her boards are working for her, this will be a cakewalk.—Justin Housman, Features Editor

Tyler Wright
After speaking with her last December a week after she clinched the title in Maui, it was clear she’s not satisfied and has no plans of slowing down. She’s an ace in all types of conditions, but Tyler's style is best suited for the reeling rights of the Gold Coast. Plus if the swell drops, she's more comfortable than all but a handful of surfers when it comes to throwing progressive maneuvers. Just rewatch her heats from the 2016 Gold Coast event and try to tell me I'm wrong.—Ashtyn Douglas, Managing Editor

Caroline Marks
Considering Caroline is only 15, and Snapper is her first event as a full-time ‘CT surfer, this pick is probably a long shot. But I've gotta support my fellow East Coaster. Plus she's focused, well-coached, and surfs really well on her backside. With a little luck, she can win the first event of the season.—Zander Morton, Field Editor

Carissa Moore
Carissa Moore will be looking for redemption after her 5th-place finish in 2017. The three-time World Champ definitely knows she is capable of a better result and seems driven to achieve one. Moore's been traveling to right points and has been working extensively on her boards during the offseason to prepare specifically for Snapper. It’s a new year, a clean slate, and Carissa seems determined to start her 2018 campaign with a bang. —Ben Waldron, Online Editor

Lakey Peterson
I'd have to pick Lakey Peterson for this one. She placed 2nd at Snapper and France, but you get the feeling we haven’t seen her at her best yet. Her Rincon-honed rail game is pretty much built for Snapper, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes her all the way to the podium. I think this will be the year she plants her flag as a title contender. Go USA.—Adam Jara, Social Media Manager