There's nothing quite like the anticipation of a fresh new season for WSL fantasy surfing. Hope always springs eternal at the starting line. If you're like many fanatics, you've been keeping an eye on the news, and perhaps jotting down a few notes. But in case you haven't, fear not. We'll bring you up to speed on the tough choices you have to make before the start of the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, and arm you with the important intelligence reports for you to feel comfortable confirming your biases. So let's jump right in, then make your WSL men's Fantasy picks here.
Tier A: The Players: (pick two)
Gabriel Medina, John John Florence, Julian Wilson, Jordy Smith, Matt Wilkinson, Owen Wright, Kolohe Andino, Adriano de Souza.
The stats say:
Betting against Gabriel Medina and John John Florence is a big risk, especially given they have the highest average heat winning percentages at Snapper (Gabe is at 68 percent, JJF is at 55 percent). There's also the added protection of having one regular and one goofy representing, which is something to consider at Snapper as conditions swing in favor of one over the other. But the new-and-improved Wilko has made back-to-back Finals at Snapper, so if you're into momentum players he's hard to beat. Plus, even in his wild-man days he bagged a couple of fifth-place results here.
Medina has been spending time quality time with Mick Fanning of late, and Mick, who knows what inner fire looks like, is reportedly seeing plenty of it in his Rip Curl teammate. But if you're looking to separate from your peers with a contrarian pick that has some safety built in, consider De Souza, who's got a respectable 62 percent heat winning percentage in his 12 appearances. That includes seven trips to the Quarterfinals, six to the Semis, and two Finals.
Tier B: The Players (pick four)
Filipe Toledo, Joel Parkinson, Sebastian Zietz, Mick Fanning, Kelly Slater, Connor O'Leary, Frederico Morais, Jeremy Flores, Ace Buchan, Kanoa Igarashi, Caio Ibelli, Michel Bourez, Conner Coffin, Joan Duru, Italo Ferreira, Griffin Colapinto.
The Stats Say
The career numbers would have you believe this is easy. After all, Kelly Slater, Fanning and Joel Parkinson have all won this event multiple times. Slater's got six, while Fanning and Parko have both taken it twice. Their heat win percentages at Snapper are also chart-toppers in this field. Slater's at 75 percent, while Mick and Joel are 69 percent and 68 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Filipe Toledo, also a former winner here, is 10 points behind his peers in that category.
As good as Kelly's numbers are, he's been trending down lately. He hasn't made it past the Quarterfinals in four years, and he tends to get cavalier with his surfboard selection. And Fanning is in the same boat. He's gone out in Round Three the last two years, and his last trip to the Semis was 2013. There's little doubt he'll be getting a good chunk of passion picks since this is (supposedly) his farewell swing at Snapper (hard to believe). Parko, however, has been sneaking in solid results here with back-to-back fifth place finishes in 2016 and 2017, and a Finals appearance in 2014. But Toledo is hard to ignore here. Though he bombed out last year, he's got a win and a third in his past four runs here, and his surfing is as electric as ever. If you want some goofyfoot protection, Ace Buchan is a solid sleeper with a pair of Quarterfinal appearances in his past. And last year's Rookie of the Year, Connor O'Leary, made the Quarters in his first and only appearance. And if you're feeling adventurous you can try the highly-hyped Griffin Colapinto.
Tier C: The Players (pick two)
Yago Dora, Jesse Mendes, Wade Carmichael, Tomas Hermes, Willian Cardoso, Keanu Asing, Ezekiel Lau, Michael Rodrigues, Patrick Gudauskas, Mikey Wright, and the Quik Pro trials winner (TBD)
The Stats Say
Truth be told, the sample size for Snapper performances is pretty sparse with this crew, which is why smart picks at this tier are crucial. For rookies like Yago Dora, Jesse Mendes, Tomas Hermes and Michael Rodrigues, this will be their first crack at the Quiksilver Pro. And while the rest have taken shots, the bright spots are few and far between. Wildcard Mikey Wright leads the pack with a 40 percent heat win rate in his three appearances (he's a Quiksilver pick). Zeke Lau, it's worth noting, bagged an incredible 10-point ride during his heat against Jordy Smith last year, but sadly, he still lost the heat.
The crowd favorites in this category will be Dora and Wright, and for good reason. Yago's high-voltage backhand moves could be a good fit for Snapper, and his trip to the Semifinals in Brazil last year certainly showed he belongs at this level. Meanwhile, Mikey just might be absorbing a bit of his brother and sister's competitive savvy this year. His hot streak during the Qualifying Series' Oz leg so far this season has taken him to the top of the QS rankings, and he captured a national title for his Culburra Boardriders club team. But be sure to keep your eyes open for the trials winner, and don't be afraid to be bold.
The Quiksilver Pro starts on March 11. Watch it live on worldsurfleague.com. Make your WSL Fantasy picks here.