Stop No.2 of the Australian circuit begins in a few hours at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, and Round One will really, actually run at North Point for the first time in the Tour’s history. Here’s who we’re favoring as we near the waiting period for West Oz.
With the forecast looking solid for the beginning of the waiting period, we should all be crossing our fingers that this turns into a dry-reef shootout at North Point or The Box (I think we can all agree that Main Break should be put out to pasture, for everyone's sake). If that happens, I think it would be hard to find a surfer more adept at elevator drops to double-armed stalls in cavernous pits than Florence—especially at The Box. The scarier it gets out there, the better Florence's odds will be to stand on the podium after the final horn. If things get really ugly, Florence will be jumping out of his skin to put the jersey on while at least half the guys on Tour are calling loved ones and genuflecting before heats. — Todd Prodanovich, Editor
The Box, North Point, Margies. No one, not a single person, has more visual proof showcasing their comfort level in West Oz. For some reason, those warbles in the reef, the weird wind – they don’t affect his freesurf game one bit, but we’ll see when he ties the jersey knot how he performs. Did you see that backflip he did a couple days ago? How can you root against that? — Peter Taras, Digital Director
If the WSL’s smart enough to wait for windows at The Box, I’ll take my chances on Kerrzy all day long. My heart says Owen, based on his no-fucks-given approach. But I just don’t think his claws are quite that sharp yet. Kerrzy loves a right slab, and seems to read that wave as well as anyone. Kerrzy’s looking for a new sticker sponsor, and a solid performance at The Box would be sure to turn some industry heads.
(Also: Jay Davies or Jack Robinson. Unless either of these two West Oz studs are hucking themselves over the ledge at the Box, Margaret River is sure to be one of the least interesting events all year.) — Ashton Goggans, Field Editor
Adriano de Souza:
Let me start by saying I picked Filipe Toledo to win Snapper, and I also said, with too much confidence, the only way Filipe ever loses in head-high rights is if he injures himself. And how did that turn out? Filipe lost in ho-hum fashion to tour rookie Zeke Lau in Round Two for a dreaded last-place finish. Foot, meet mouth. But isn’t that the beauty of today’s ‘CT? That it’s as unpredictable as it’s ever been?
Margaret River is a tough place to call a winner. I do think a few heats — maybe even a couple rounds — will run across the channel at The Box, but the majority of the event, including the final, will still run at Main Break, and I’m picking Adriano de Souza to take the win. I know it’s not the flashiest pick, but ADS has an inherent knack of manufacturing huge scores on the rights at Main Break. Remember: He won this event in 2015 and then went on to win the world title, so he knows how to get it done against every surfer on tour at Margaret River. — Zander Morton, Field Editor
The Margaret River event is profoundly unfair. It’s two surf contests (three, if you count this year’s) in one. What other event asks surfers to be proficient in both double-overhead deepwater reef waves (Main Break) and bonecrushing slabs breaking in two centimeters of water (The Box)? “None” is the answer. Asking goofyfoots to seriously compete against regularfoots at a step-heavy funhouse barrel like the Box is also a bit much, especially when you’re never sure if heats will run there or not. Medina could be torching everyone at Main Break only to shift to The Box for one, say, quarterfinal heat, get knocked out, then watch the rest of the event unfold back at Main Break. Clearly, then, a regularfoot with the unfair ability to excel in a big, open-ocean warblefest, as well as in a sketchy tuberiding contest is the pick. John Florence takes this thing in his sleep if it’s big and if North Point, The Box, and Main Break factor in equally. He also takes it if it’s a weird air-fest at windy Main Break. Florence, and it’s not close. — Justin Housman, Features Editor
John John — Grant Ellis, Photo Editor
[Title Photo: Frieden]