Are you ready to switch gears from barrel-hunting to wall-slashing? From lefts to rights? From the warm tropics to the crispy cold? Before you go upending your Fantasy surfing picks for the J-Bay Open, you should note that there are actually quite a few similarities between Jeffreys and Fiji.
Cloudbreak and Supertubes both require a high surfing IQ: Surfers who match their tempo with the speed of the wave have the most success. You need to take in the information the wall ahead is giving well before the time comes to launch your choice of maneuvers. That's what makes guys like Tom Curren (USA), Mick Fanning (AUS), Joel Parkinson (AUS) and Jordy Smith (ZAF) so great at Jeffreys Bay. Just like Fiji, J-Bay can be inconsistent, so a surfer's ability to shrug off the pressure while he waits for that one perfect wave is key.
In terms of their differences, Supertubes supplies a pretty mean barrel section but it's not as open as Cloudbreak, making it really tricky for goofyfooters. On the flip side, the advantage regularfooters have with the tube ride, goofyfooters make up for with their ability to hit their maneuvers at 12 o'clock.
A number of X factors to consider: Many surfers are coming off of injuries (John John Florence (HAW) and Jordy Smith (ZAF), for example) and some are in career-low slumps (Kelly Slater (USA) and Gabriel Medina (BRA)), so this is a good time to be more crafty with your selections. I made up for a pitiful effort in Rio with wizard-like predictions in Fiji. Before you go crosseyed with my mediocre analogies and conflicting advice, allow me to suggest the following and let's see if I can keep this ball rolling in Jeffreys Bay.
Tier A: Julian Wilson (AUS)
All competitors go through peaks and valleys throughout the year and it's up to us to pick 'em at the peaks and bail before the valleys. Julian, in my opinion, is starting to peak. Having already made a couple Finals this year, Jules has shown competitive brilliance and cognitive patience. Mentally he's as ready as he's ever been to win J-Bay, and physically he's suited for the occasion. His long, silky bottom turn will help him time the speedy break and his bravery will produce big moves when the opportunity arises (see the above nine-point boost from last year's comp). Mick Fanning (AUS) and Owen Wright might be lucrative choices but Julian might be the pick that some of your friends forget about. Don't be that guy. Start 'em.
Tier B: Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Wilko is another surfer who I think is just about to hit his stride come J-Bay. Since he began training with fellow Tour member Glenn Hall -- which will make their Round 1 heat fun to watch (see draw) -- Wilko is toned up and even activates a little beast mode when he puts on the jersey. Not only is his overall confidence noticeable, but his 25th-place finish in Fiji may have pissed him off enough to come into J-Bay highly motivated. Much like Julian, Wilko has a great bottom turn, allowing him to match the speed and tempo of the long walls at Supertubes. When J-Bay provides the money section, Wilko doesn't hesitate to send it. That mojo allows him to stand out in a crowd of studs, just like he does on land. Start 'em.
Tier C: Keanu Asing (HAW)
Trust me when I say that this little Hawaiian can throw down. With a powerful base and sturdy fundamentals, Anu-boy loves to lean into a healthy slice. With carving as his strength and a knack for linking moves until the bitter end, Keanu has a great shot at winning his first-round matchup with Nat Young (USA) and Jeremy Flores (FRA). Plus, he has a mature and sensible flow when he surfs, which allows him to stack up easy scores. Will this be enough to outscore a heavy hitter late in the contest? I'm not sure, but I think he can sneak by this first round, helping you collect some precious Tier C points in the process. Start 'em.
Tier A: Josh Kerr (AUS)
I love Josh's abilities above the lip, his wave knowledge and his trust in his skills when the pressure is on. But what gives some of the others in this tier a slight edge is power. Fellas like Mick, Owen and Julian can carve out deep lines on the open face, which is the primary focus at J-Bay. Last year, Josh surfed a couple smart heats, took to the air and snuck into a couple of tubes for a ninth-place finish. But Kerrzy is much more handy in the air than he is on the open face. Does this mean he can't throw down a nice carve? Absolutely not. But some of the others really shine in this department and at places like J-Bay you need to stack your lineup accordingly. Sit 'em.
Tier B: Jadson Andre (BRA)
Jaddy is a legend. He's got an infectious attitude wherever he's hanging that invariably rubs off on the people around him. Even with a front row seat to Jordy's Round 1 domination last year, you can clearly see how Jadson has great character. But the tape also shows why it's a good idea to sit Jadson this year. Technique-wise, he likes to weave and wiggle in between moves. This type of fidgety surfing becomes stands out on the long, clean walls of J-Bay. Jaddy has a cerebral approach to his heats, so I wouldn't be surprised if he cleans up his surfing a bit to give his maneuvers more definition. However, Tier B is loaded with power-players, relegating this legend to bench-ville. Sit 'em.
Tier C: Glenn Hall (IRL)
Micro has a pretty smooth backhand approach so it wouldn't be that crazy to see him win a heat at J-Bay. But I think that Taj Burrow and Wilko -- who Hall has been coaching -- will give him a lot of trouble in his first-round matchup. The one thing that Taj and Wilko have over Hall is the ability to throw down progressive moves consistently. When Wilko and Hall face off in the first round, Mr. Miyagi will be waxing on and waxing off as his pupil blasts through the lip. You will be better off going with the student on this one. Sit 'em.
Dark Horse: Adam Melling (AUS)
I've been sounding the alarm on Adam for some time now. Mellow has smoothed out his in-between moves and added some power where it counts. He's always been a strong, whippy surfer and he has managed to improve not only on wave faces but in the barrel as well. J-Bay is a place where he can put a stamp of approval on these shiny new abilities by pumping out steady scores and grabbing a big result. In years past he's been prone to mistakes: Falling mid-ride, priority blunders, and wave choices have kept him from being a Top 10 surfer. Now that he's got that extra motivation and urgency injected into his career, it's his time to reap the awards for being a lifelong ripper. Start 'em.
Ross Williams spent 10 years as a CT competitor. Currently, he's a WSL analyst and contributes a Fantasy surfing column before each event on the elite Tour, as well as provides up-to-date Fantasy intel each morning at 7:30 a.m. local time on the Dawn Patrol Morning Show. Follow Ross Williams on Twitter (@rosswilliamshi) and Instagram (@rosswilliamshawaii).