The first few contests on the Championship Tour (CT) are always a little tricky for making Fantasy Surfing decisions, as athletes' rankings shift dramatically -- sometimes in surprising ways. Consistency is the name of the game at this point in the season and one good (or bad) result has a big impact on a surfer's tier placement during the first few events of the Tour.
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Case in point? Shocking early eliminations from the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast has affected three of the Tour's stars -- Joel Parkinson (AUS), Kelly Slater (USA) and John John Florence (HAW) -- both in real-life rankings and in Fantasy. They've all moved from Tier A to Tier B for the next contest, the Rip Curl Pro Bell's Beach. Their fellow Top 10 surfer Michel Bourez (PYF), meanwhile, saw a bigger Fantasy demotion: He slid all the way from Tier A to Tier C following his Round 2 elimination.
On the women's front, Johanne Defay (FRA), Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) and Laura Enever (AUS) all slid from Tier B to Tier C. But rookie Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), who made it to the Semifinals in her first-ever CT event as a member of the women's Tour, rose from Tier C to Tier B.
Gold Coast winner Filipe Toledo (BRA) and runner-up Julian Wilson (AUS) obviously finished the event with great scorelines, but at a 35 percent and 76 percent start rate respectively, many Fantasy team managers had already bet on the two young guns. According to the leaderboard, nearly all of the top-ranked teams had both regularfooters in their Tier B selections.
Two of the biggest standouts were Semifinalists Miguel Pupo (BRA) and Adriano de Souza (BRA). Pupo only had a 4 percent start rate earning 105.30 points, and De Souza at a 2 percent start rate earned 99.97 points. Even if you didn't have both Wilson and Toledo, Pupo or De Souza would have put your team in a good position after the first event.
Sally Fitzgibbons hurt more than a few Fantasy teams, as 82 percent participants included the Aussie on their rosters -- but she lost in Round 4. Including her seemed like a safe bet, considering that she was on a streak of 44 straight Quarterfinal appearances. But that calculation didn't account for the return of powerhouse Silvana Lima (BRA), who sent Fitzgibbons home earlier than usual (Round 4).
Another Fantasy curveball came from Weston-Webb, the women's Tour rookie who took down giants on her way to the Semis. Only 13 percent of team managers started her, but she was the fifth highest-earning athlete among the women's ranks.
But the biggest standout among the Top 17 women was Lima. Started by only 6 percent of team managers, the 30-year-old Brazilian was the fourth-highest points-earner overall despite a Quarterfinals finish. That means she earned more points than Weston-Webb, even though she surfed one full heat fewer than the rookie.
And finally, the most questionable trend among the Gold Coast's Fantasy rosters is that two-time World Champion Carissa Moore was only started by 18 percent of team managers. Moore, who won the final women's CT event of 2014, carried that momentum with her to the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, where she swept the field and won again, earning the most Fantasy Surfing points on her road to the top.
Yet for all the shuffling around with men's Tour vets getting bounced and surprise standouts on the women's Tour, caution should come into play. Rather than hanging your hat on the young guns, Bells will be an opportunity to maximize your point total with some of the more consistent performers on Tour.
Stay tuned for the next Start Em, Sit Em columns from World Surf League commentators Ross Williams and Rosy Hodge. Be sure to set your Fantasy Surfing lineup before the start of the women's and men's Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, broadcast LIVE daily on WorldSurfLeague.com beginning April 1.