Shea’s Fantasy Surfer Picks

Shea Lopez on who to watch at the 2011 Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach

Mick Fanning has one of the most iconic frontside turns in the business, making him a dangerous competitor at waves like Bells. Photo: Joli

Now that we are approaching the third major event in Australia (including Margaret River), the One World Ranking (OWR), World Tour (WT), and Prime distinctions should be getting a little clearer. Here are a few notable ratings shifts up to now. Damo’s 6500 points from Margaret River brought him up to 10th on the OWR, and he will thus be a much higher seed for Bells--another benefit of doing the primes. With the Rip Curl Pro Bells running later this year, OWR points from last year's event have already been dropped. This sees Bobby Martinez losing 3rd place points from last year and plummeting all the way down to 65th on the OWR. Love it or hate it, the new ASP tour will see a lot more major ups and downs in the ratings.

The Bells event gets a bad rap. When the elements come together, it's a great wave that I've had many fun sessions at. Then there are the back-up venues of Winki and Johanna, where I have seen waves as good as anywhere in the world. With the event being in late April this year, the odds favor bigger and better surf for the event. If Rip Curl gets a proper 6-foot swell, it will be mighty fun to watch how the new judging criteria handles all the wide-open space of a Bells wall. When the place is on and the offshores are blowin', burying the rail and carving through your turns is the only way to surf the wave properly. On those days, the real men of the WT show their faces. Sunny, Occy, Matt Hoy, Luke Egan, and Taylor Knox used to be almost unbeatable (TK still is) when it was pumping. We haven’t seen it yet, but my guess is Jordy Smith’s size and power will see him become one of the most feared surfers at good Bells. Being able to post excellent scores with on-the-face surfing is what secures a WT surfer huge ratings jumps. For Jordy, the huge jump he’s gunning for is from second to first by season's end.

I’d like to have a proper swell reading before making my Fantasy Surfer team for Bells, but since I had to write this preview today, I've already picked eight surfers for my FS team. Oddly enough, I only made one change to my team from Snapper, which was to swap Josh Kerr for Bobby Martinez. Kerr is good to great at bells depending on the conditions, but Bobby, even though he’s been on the worst run of his career, is between great and the best ever when it comes to backside surfing at Bells. Bobby is a Top 5 surfer, and to see him at 65th on the OWR is tragic. Recently I was with groms Evan Geiselman and Luke Davis watching video of Bobby surfing Rincon. He keeps a low profile and both Evan and Luke hadn’t seen him surf much. They were blown away with how much power and form he was surfing with. Breaking it down to the fundamentals, Bobby is in the Top 5…EVER!

My Fantasy Surfer Team for Bells:

Taj: I hope he keeps his Gold Coast form going for Bells, because that was a lot of fun to watch.

Mick: When “White Lightning” won the event as a wildcard in 2001, he tore the place up with his quick top-to-bottom combos. Those combos have gained much more power and he's even added a few airs, making his experience and continued improvement a mean mix.

Jordy: A childhood at New Pier and J-Bay make him feel right at home at any location. But Jordy needs to win here, because if Slater wins again, you can almost guarantee he will be pressing hard from then on for number eleven.

Parko: Of all the top guys at Snapper, Parko impressed me the least. Not that he wasn’t surfing incredibly, it just seemed he didn’t have the same spark as the other guys. Losing at Snapper will most likely be the necessary fire under his ass to put that spark back in his surfing at Bells.

Julian: With WT events being won over and over by the same group of guys, it can be extremely difficult to snag a win, especially in your first year on the WT. Julian looks more than capable of winning a WT event this year and if the conditions favor him, Bells could be his maiden win.

Dusty: Losing does strange things to a person. How you react to losing determines what kind of person you are. After a year of disappointments, Dusty pulled off an amazing comeback at the Pipeline Masters to barely re-qualify. When he showed up to Snapper, Dusty had done a 180 from the year before, and his 5th place finish proved that hard work and preparation pay off. If he keeps making similar improvements from event to event, Dusty has no ceiling on how high he could go.

Alejo: What a great surprise he’s turned out to be. Winning the Prime event in Brazil, then getting 5th at Snapper puts him comfortably seated at 20th on the OWR. With a deadly frontside and the many rights on tour, Alejo looks likely to keep moving up.

Bobby: He and his surfing are very raw. A few refinements to better fit within the confines of a surf contest and real life are all that is needed to get him back on top. Be thankful for every chance you get to watch him surf.

When making your own team, remember Dane will be watching the webcast from home like the rest of us, and, more importantly, go with your gut. Fantasy Surfer is about having fun while watching some great surfing. I have a friend who told me Tiago was going to go off at Snapper since Quik signed him to a ten-year contract. He was met with much skepticism before the event, but afterwards he was laughing at all of us and sitting on one of the highest FS scores for Snapper. Who’s picking Bede or Adriano for Bells? They both are routinely great picks that are often overlooked. The event is less than a week away, so pick your team soon. Good Luck!