Fantasy Insider: The 2016 Rookie Review

Michael Jordan

Jack Freestone WSL / Kelly Cestari

EDITOR'S NOTE: The 2016 Rookie Class is one of the largest in years, and each and every one of them is fired up to disrupt the status quo. But for Fantasy Surfing players there's a risk-reward ratio that has to be considered when comparing fresh recruits. With that in mind, Michael Jordan, our new stats guru, dove into the data to extract what, if anything, it's saying about each rookie's strengths and weaknesses. For good measure he provided us with some of his predictions. -- CM

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New Metrics:

AHS: Average Heat Score - This is useful when analyzing a surfer's performance for a certain location, time period or tour.

HWY: Heat Wins per Year - HWY reflects a surfer's success in an equal playing field (since the conditions for all surfers in any given heat are identical). This scales to Heat Wins per Event (HWE), which accounts for each tour location individually.

Caio Ibelli (BRA) upset World No. 3 Owen Wright in Round 2. Caio Ibelli. - WSL / Poullenot/Aquashot

Caio Ibelli


2015 QS Stats:
Overall AHS: 13.66
Average Finish: 11
Beach Break AHS: 14.07
Reef Break AHS: 12.81
Point Break AHS: 8.67
1-4' Swell AHS: 14.12
4-6' Swell AHS: 13.02
6-8' Swell AHS: 12.78
Projected 2016 Rank: 14

Caio Ibelli topped the QS rankings in 2015 thanks to a solid foundation of speed, power and flair. While these core strengths will keep him in the big leagues for years to come, an eventual struggle will be breaking into the top 10. Contemporaries in Ibelli's age bracket are all-stars with multiple years of CT experience. For that reason alone, it's tough to see a World Title run in his future.

Caio's consistency will take an expected hit this year, as momentum is harder obtain at the CT level. Beachbreaks suit him best (14.07 AHS), especially head-high shore break, and while his stat line suggests trouble in point breaks (8.67 AHS), there's a very small sample size in action. Look for Gold Coast and Bells to correct it.

Starting at 24th in the rankings is helpful for any rookie, but this real-life advantage settles him in fantasy Tier B. His tier and talent make him a high risk/high reward option to open the season.

Start Potential: BRA, FRA, PRT
Bold Prediction: Top 15 ranking for 2016

Kanoa Igarashi (USA), Ericeira 2016 WSL / Laurent Masurel

Kanoa Igarashi


2015 QS Stats:
Overall AHS: 13.82
Average Finish: 19.42
Beach Break AHS: 14.25
Reef Break AHS: 10.97
Point Break AHS: 10.07
1-4' Swell AHS: 14.12
4-6' Swell AHS: 12.49
6-8' Swell AHS: 11.15
Projected 2016 Rank: 26

At 18, Kanoa Igarashi joins the elite ranks is the youngest member of the 2016 field. While he's smack in the middle of a growth spurt, as of weigh-in day he'll be tipping the scales somewhere near 148 lbs (67 kg), making him one of the lighter-footed surfers on tour.

Translation: Kanoa's challenge will be matching power with power when conditions are solid. Fair or not, lighter surfers have to fight the perception that they lack authority in their turns. In truth, point and reef breaks haven't been kind to him in the past. On last year's QS he only placed 49th or worse five times - all at point or reef locations. Meanwhile, both of the events he won were at beach breaks, and held in smaller surf. For now, it makes sense to keep him on your radar when the forecast looks weak.

Start Potential: GC, BRA, ZAF, USA, FRA
Bold Prediction: QF berth at Lowers
(*if 1-4' swell expected)

2015 Sprite Soup Bowl Pro Junior three-peat winner Chelsea Tuach (BRB) WSL

Chelsea Tuach


2015 QS Stats:
Overall AHS: 11.87
Average Finish: 14
Beach Break AHS: 12.00
Reef Break AHS: 12.01
Point Break AHS: 10.22
1-4' Swell AHS: 12.04
4-6' Swell AHS: 11.11
Career QS HWY: 8
Projected 2016 Rank: 16

In case you were wondering, that BRB stands for Barbados, the Carribean country Chelsea Tuach is putting back on the surfing radar with a foray into the CT. Tuach finished 4th on the QS in 2015, winning the Pantin Classic, and placing 3rd and 5th at Merewether and Oceanside respectively. While there's a lot of promise in Chelsea, you'll definitely want to pick your spots for fantasy starts.

Not surprisingly, she does best in reef and beach locations, which the Bajan has plenty of at home. But her stats there can be impacted by right-hand waves. Tuach posted a 14.18 AHS going backside last year, impressive even at the QS level, but going right she's only averaging 11.61. Her stats also show a poor AHS at point breaks (10.22), but that's ultimately due to righties as well.

Though Chelsea didn't get much in the overhead range on last year's QS, the waves picked up a bit for her CT debut at the Women's Vans US Open. Between there and France, she failed to place any better than dead last in every heat, posting a dismal 8.85 AHS. But those were spot starts with a lot more pressure; rookies like Tuach have a way of surprising. Remember Tatiana Weston-Webb last year? Yeah, that was awesome.

Start Potential: FJI
Bold Prediction: 40+ Fantasy Points (FP) in FJI

Jack Freestone struggled to find the scores he needed in Round 2 and was eliminated from competition. WSL / Sean Rowland

Jack Freestone


2015 QS Stats:
Overall AHS: 13.89
Average Finish: 15.09
Beach Break AHS: 13.04
Reef Break AHS: 14.52
Point Break AHS: 15.53
1-4' Swell AHS: 13.13
4-6' Swell AHS: 14.5
6-8' Swell AHS: 14.63
Projected 2016 Rank: 18

Jack Freestone is one of the most well-rounded surfers of this 2016 class. On last year's QS he only fared worse than 25th twice (Ballito Pro and Hawaiian Pro), taking a huge Azores win to solidify his CT spot. He led all rookies with an average finishing place of 15.09 as well.

Though extremely balanced, there are definitely spots you'll want to be cautious when considering Jack. Opposite of Kanoa Igarashi, his AHS at reef breaks and point breaks are both outstanding, but his bane has been the beachbreak. This setback is relative, though, as a 13.13 AHS is only -.42 below the field average. As the season progresses, he'll prove whether or not there's any beach risk to consider.

Freestone is best suited for 4-6' right-hand point breaks, specifically with a sturdy wall. While his air game is on point, dog fights aren't going to be his strongpoint; he'll be more valuable where he can leverage a powerful rail game. Buyer beware, though, as these conditions favor most of his competition as well.

Start Potential: BB, ZAF, USA
Bold Prediction: Big R2 upset during the Australian Leg

Alex Ribeiro (BRA). Azores 2015 WSL / Laurent Masurel

Alex Ribeiro


2015 QS Stats:
Overall AHS: 12.41
Average Finish: 32.38
Beach Break AHS: 13.3
Reef Break AHS: 10.42
Point Break AHS: 11.44
1-4' Swell AHS: 13.51
4-6' Swell AHS: 10.92
6-8' Swell AHS: 8.84
Projected 2016 Rank: 32

Many would love to draw comparisons between Brazil's Alex Ribeiro, and 2015 breakout performer Italo Ferreira. Unfortunately, stance and nationality seem to be the only things they have in common at this point. Italo posted a 13.63 AHS and averaged 20.5 HWY, compared to Ribeiro's worst-in-class 12.41 AHS and 11.5 HWY over four QS seasons. At 25, he's also the oldest rookie on tour and will face a very tough combination of youth, talent, and experience in his debut.

That said, Ribeiro has a very crisp backside attack, with a healthy supply of twist and torque, and it will definitely come in handy at the many rights on tour. At 31st in the rankings he won't be facing the #1 seed, but that's little comfort when the entire top 10 is lethal; there's simply no easy way out of Tier C.

If you have the urge to draft Alex, make sure it's at a beach break with a small swell forecast. His AHS is 13.51 in 1-4' and only 8.94 in the overhead range, so while he's statistically better there, this could also be the result of chance. In less groomed conditions, positioning and experience factor much less into the equation. Use the forecast to possibly play this to a strength.

Start Potential: BRA, PRT
Bold Prediction: 45+ Fantasy Points (FP) in BRA

Conner Coffin (USA) carves into a right at the Hawaiian Pro. WSL / Laurent Masurel

Conner Coffin


2015 QS Stats:
Overall AHS: 12.48
Average Finish: 33.27
Beach Break AHS: 12.55
Reef Break AHS: 11.5
Point Break AHS: 14.82
1-4' Swell AHS: 12.63
4-6' Swell AHS: 12.87
6-8' Swell AHS: 11.65
Projected 2016 Rank: 34

Conner Coffin is arriving with a healthy dose of hype and hope coming from American fans. Groomed at Rincon, in the shadow of greats like Curren, Martinez, and Dane Reynolds, he was indoctrinated into the religions of style and power. Today, while he's only 155 lbs (70 kg), he might easily be considered the most powerful pound-for-pound surfer on tour. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he rarely relies on a fins free act to get through heats, so his potential for success will hinge on those mature turns.

Not surprisingly, Coffin should see most of his action at point breaks. But note that he's also a proven barrel rider, so look for value if he can land a decent heat draw at FJI, TAH and HAW.

Start Potential: ZAF, TAH, USA, FRA, PRT
Bold Prediction: 70+ Fantasy Points (FP) in France

Keely Andrew at the 2015 Roxy Pro Gold Coast trials. WSL / Kelly Cestari

Keely Andrew


2015 QS Stats:
Overall AHS: 12.65
Average Finish: 13
Career QS HWY: 7.5
Beach Break AHS: 12.59
Reef Break AHS: 12.14
Point Break AHS: 12.91
1-4' Swell AHS: 12.69
4-6' Swell AHS: 12.2
Projected 2016 Rank: 10

Keely Andrew joins the CT as Chelsea Tuach's frosh partner in crime, and they have plenty of similarities. Both are regular footers, 20-21 years old, and finished 4th/5th on the QS. But look closely and you'll see why Andrew has the edge. To start, she's got a ton CT experience. Andrew surfed 4 events at the elite level last year - the same amount as Stephanie Gilmore - and this will be her third run at the Gold Coast. Wild Fact: Keely only finished 7,000 rankings points outside of Laura Enever, who surfed a full season. During her fill-in as Gilmore's Injury Replacement (IR), she swiped 5th place at Rio and posted a 10.42 overall CT AHS.

Keely is a bit more rounded than Chelsea, her one weakness being left breaks (11.77 AHS), but she's 12+ for every other condition. Point breaks are her strong suit, though, and that's where I think she'll excel this season. Most might consider Gold Coast too early for a contrarian pick, but don't turn your nose up at the strategy as it could pay off with Andrew. Either way, she's due for a solid impact throughout the year.

Start Potential: BB, RIO, FJI, HB, LT, PRT, FRA
Bold Prediction: Top 10 ranking in 2016

Davey Cathels although an impressive performance, gets knocked out in his round5 heat at Surfest WSL / WSL/Dunbar

Davey Cathels


2015 QS Stats:
Overall AHS: 12.91
Average Finish: 26.46
Beach Break AHS: 13.26
Reef Break AHS: 11.22
Point Break AHS: 13.17
1-4' Swell AHS: 13.24
4-6' Swell AHS: 12.77
6-8' Swell AHS: 11.93
Projected 2016 Rank: 29

Davey Cathels is a grinder. After losing his sponsorship with Rip Curl back in 2012, he kept his resolve and has since fought back to earn a coveted CT spot. Cathels hails from Narrabeen, a legendary surfing community which he put back in the Australian spotlight by leading his local club to January's national championship.

The natural-footer will be showcasing an explosive backhand attack to the CT, yet the schedule is weighted heavily to right-handers. He's also well equipped in the punting department, but again, air games are easily neutralized when you have aces like Filipe Toledo, John John Florence and Gabriel Medina lurking.

To seriously contend for a spot on the 2017 CT, Cathels will need to round out his abilities. In particular, look for improvements on his frontside technique and strategy. Progression on those fronts will chip away at risk and increase upside, so follow closely.

Start Potential: MR, ZAF, USA, FRA
Bold Prediction: R2/R3 elimination through Margaret River

Ryan Callinan showing off the underside of his board at the 2015 Vans US Open of Surfing. WSL / Kenneth Morris

Ryan Callinan


2015 QS Stats:
Overall AHS: 13.22
Average Finish: 25.62
Beach Break AHS: 13.56
Reef Break AHS: 12.36
Point Break AHS: 12.16
1-4' Swell AHS: 13.49
4-6' Swell AHS: 12.35
6-8' Swell AHS: 11.66
Projected 2016 Rank: 21

Energy, energy, energy. That just about sums up Ryan Callinan. The Australian brings it in no short supply and should make your WSL Follow list. He's capable of producing serious highlights, but that doesn't always translate into fantasy success.

Callinan seems to spend more time in the air than the water. His aggressive style is both entertaining and effective, but his (almost literal) Achilles heel is injury. Years of throwing herculean aerials has put a massive strain on his ankle, and recovery time has slowed for each setback. Ryan is only 23, but let's just say his impact joints are far more aged. To stay healthy and competitive on tour he'll need to tone down the froth, which seems to me like a lose-lose battle. Callinan might need those moonshot maneuvers to climb from the bottom ranks, but will be far too much of an injury risk if he depends on them.

Start Potential: BRA, USA, PRT
Bold Prediction: At least one QFA at Start Potential locations

Now get out there and draft! It's time to pick your team for CT #1 Gold Coast, which kicks off next week. Stay tuned for the Fantasy Insider: Gold Coast Edition, keep poking back for injury updates and if you want to talk fantasy surfing, tweet me @FantasyWSL. Cheers to a great season!