Ross Williams spent 10 years as a Word Championship Tour (WCT) competitor. He is a current ASP analyst and contributes a Start/Sit Fantasy surfing column for each event on the elite Tour. Set your lineup for the upcoming Quiksilver Pro France at fantasy.aspworldtour.com.
I've got one word for France: Tides. The tides will be wreaking havoc on poor Alain Riou (contest director) as they move more than 17 feet, making his job one of the toughest on Tour! The punchy beachbreaks in France have many different looks throughout the day: High tide can shut down the waves all together whereas low tide can make the waves break hundreds of yards out to sea.
More than any other event on Tour, competitors need to be very patient and, more importantly, flexible with their equipment and state of mind. The waves are often perfect in southern France but there's always that small window where the wind, tides and swell cooperate making for that magical session of heavy pits and pure happiness. The reality is most competitors will be forced to challenge themselves with not only their opponents but also the conditions. What does this all add up too? Pick dudes who are adaptable and have a knack for being creative.
John John Florence (HAW)
Not only is JJ a super casual cat on land, he exemplifies the character that's needed to shrug off any trying conditions he will face in the ever-changing waterscape in Southern France. JJ has the type of surfing that is perfectly suited for the punchy, hollow, shreddable shore-pound in Hossegor. His air capability combined with his highly skilled tube-riding technique makes me feel he's the favorite to win this event. Coming off a second place finish at the Hurley Pro is the perfect result to give him confidence but piss him off enough to have that edge he needs to smash his opponents coming into Europe. You need to start 'im.
Owen Wright (AUS)
Owen has what it takes to bear the endurance test in France. Keep in mind that we are getting down to the end of the year, when many of these guys are tired and quite possibly losing motivation. It's a very long year and sometimes this can cause some of them to lose their edge and focus. I think Owen will be poised and sharp, ready for the challenge. Much like JJ, Owen is a versatile surfer who will adapt well when it goes from a waist-high shred-fest to six-foot air drops. Start 'im.
Jadson Andre (BRA)
Jadson turned a lot of heads at Lowers. His air game is always tight, but he looked extra fresh with some very clean power-surfing on both his frontside and backside. Again, surfers need to be able to convert from a zippy, high-performance headspace to a full-blown barrel-riding challenge. It's what makes surfing in France so much fun, and I think Jadson will embrace this with his great attitude. Jadson could have gotten a much better result at Trestles with how well he surfed in the Hurley Pro, but getting a 13th-place finish should fire him up enough to come to Europe ready for battle. Start 'im.
Adriano De Souza (BRA)
Adriano is an extremely proficient competitor. It's actually a pretty heavy call asking you to sit ADS, as he is surfing better than he ever has. His strengths are showcased better on a wave like Lowers than the punchy beachies of Western Europe. Pointbreaks allow him to open up on his carves and above-the-lip maneuvers. Traditionally, Hossegor has a very tight transition, which doesn't lend itself well to De Souza's progressive approach. Tier A makes you really split hairs to find the perfect pick. When you're "kicking tires" make sure you pick the optimal car for the track. Sit 'im.
Bede Durbidge (AUS)
It's so hard to tell you all to sit Bede when I know he's such a solid surfer! I know he will be in a good headspace coming into this event and I think he has the patience to withstand this long and trying leg. But he looked somewhat vulnerable in California. Bede is a smooth surfer. Where he can get in trouble is when he's matched up with the younger, quicker, and more versatile surfers who utilize progressive surfing against him. In France, maybe more than most places on Tour, you can make a lot of heats by surfing smart, but I'm worried that the kids are catching up with his competitive IQ, deflating that edge. Sit 'im.
Adam Melling (AUS)
Adam is a quick and snappy surfer, which could do him favors in the French beachbreaks. But he may have his focus on the Qualification Series (QS) tour. Give Adam credit: Realizing he's having yet another frustrating year on the Championship Tour, he's not afraid to buckle down and requalify through the QS. As a result, he will be spent. Doing nearly twice as many events as some of his peers, Adam may have a hard time keeping that edge in the Quik Pro. Sit 'im.
Darkhorse (noun): a person, animal or thing that competes in a race or other contest and is not expected to win. Well, that's true for Seabass. The second meaning of dark horse not so much: a person who has interesting qualities or abilities that most people do not know about. You see, that's the thing: We all know Sebastian has the capacity -- or at least the talent -- to win on Tour. But he needs to realize this in order to win. And there's no better time than the present to get this done, as he is sitting in a precarious position on the ratings at No. 20. Go Seabass go! You can do it! French beachbreaks suit you to the T. Tons of waves to stay busy with ramps, barrels and hack sections to showcase your skills. Start 'im!
Williams provides up-to-date information for ASP Fantasy each morning at 7:30 a.m. local time on the Dawn Patrol Morning Show. Set your Fantasy surfing picks and watch the action unfold LIVE. The event window for the Quiksilver Pro France is September 25 to October 6, 2014.