With the 2016 season just weeks away it's prime time to talk world title hopefuls. Heading into the Gold Coast each year hope springs eternal for fans and surfers. But if you're a fantasy surfing player you can't allow your emotions get the better of you; the best players let logic rule.
With that in mind we dug into details with Fantasy Surfing commissioner Michael Jordan, and unearthed something a bit alarming for a handful of surfers often pegged as would-be contenders.
Of course time is not an athlete's friend. No surprise there. But for a curious bunch of high-flying WSL stars billed as "future world champs" time is worse than gravity.
Jordan let us in on an interesting statistic yesterday. "The average heat score (AHS) for men on the CT peaks at the age of 26," he said.
"Okay," I responded. "But what about that Slater guy, who just turned 44? You telling me he's not defying the laws of nature? And isn't 40 the new 30 or something?"
"No," says Jordan. "Kelly's all accounted for in that stat. If anything he's skewed it older. Men stay within that range from age 22-28, but then the trend goes negative, and starts to really decline after 31."
Armed with that insight we decided to dig a little deeper, looking any surfers in their "prime" window who arrived on scene with 'future world title' hopes pinned on them by annoying pundits like...well, us. Oddly enough, this little experiment spit out what we immediately dubbed the J-Crew: Jordy Smith (28) Julian Wilson (27) Jeremy Flores (27), and John John Florence (23).
Oddly enough, each of these guys burst onto the scene with 'future world champ' hopes being high. And indeed, they've each threatened to a varying degree. Jordy was the runner-up in 2010, and 4th in 2013; Julian finished 6th in both 2013 and 2015; Jeremy just matched his 8th place finish in 2007 again in 2015, while John John finished 3rd in 2014, and 4th in 2012. But there's not a single title among these elite players...yet.
Will any of the J-Crew get theirs?
Obviously, it's unlikely all of them will. "The window is definitely getting smaller for Jordy, Julian, and Jeremy," says Jordan. "If you look at the numbers they're all nearing the end of their peak. Fortunately for John John he still has time."
One glaring issue with these guys is health. They're all at the forefront of acrobatic surfing, and have paid the price for it, too, suffering brutal injuries. Staying healthy for an entire season isn't easy when you're always pushing hard.
Fortunately, pain and age can be great sources of wisdom, and wisdom is often used to defy the odds. After all, that's what Kelly's done. And the J-Crew can take heart with one of their own, Joel Parkinson, who didn't win a world title until he was 33 years old, supposedly well past his AHS peak.
We'll be watching.