The forecast for the Swatch Women's Pro is looking solid, which is great news for competitors and fans, less so for those making fantasy picks. In the Fantasy realm, perfect Lowers actually complicates things, because when it gets good, it raises everybody's game.
Of course, in order to win at Fantasy, it's necessary to take some risks. This is especially true on the women's side, where the herd seems to go with the obvious picks. With that in mind, you may want to dive into a few numbers before making your selections. Here are some stats to consider...
As we recently noted, Tyler Wright is on pace to capture her first-ever World Title. Sitting at No. 1 on the Jeep Leaderboard, her confidence is at an all-time high. That should serve her well at Lowers, but historically, her fantasy points average (FPA) is a bit of a red flag. She's No. 6 on that list, which is just decent.
That said, this year seems to be different, and Tyler has the second-best average heat score (AHS), just behind Carissa Moore. Wright has made the Quarterfinals for the past two years at Lowers.
Like Tyler, Courtney Conlogue is a powerful, stylish surfer who should do great at a break like Trestles, but hasn't made a Final. Her AHS ranks 11th-best among the other CT surfers, and her FPA is 12th-best.
Looking at the stats, Courtney's definitely the riskier pick, but when you add a decent forecast into the equation, plus Courtney's solid rail game, she may be the more clever choice.
Of course, the mother of all in Tier A picks is Carissa Moore. She's in the upper echelon in just about every Fantasy category at Lowers: Highest heat score average, second-best heat win percentage, one win at Lowers and, among the Tier A picks, the highest FPA.
But Moore is still winless this season -- a rarity for her. Will that be a motivating factor? For a surfer whose mindset is everything, many are sure to bet on it.
Sigh. Tier B presents the trickiest set of choices. Packed with incredibly solid surfers and only two picks allowed, it's difficult to know which way to go. Luckily, the numbers offer a few clues.
Much like Moore in Tier A, Stephanie Gilmore is among the surest bets you could make on surfing's unpredictable playing field. She won the Swatch Women's Pro in 2014, its inaugural year, and scored the event's only perfect 10, with a near-perfect heat total in the Final.
Slightly skewing Gilmore's stats, however, is the fact that she couldn't surf the 2015 event due to injury. But her stats from that one year make her a great pick on paper: Fourth-best AHS, top FPA, top number of round average (RA, or number of rounds attained per event -- the women's max is seven), and top heat win percentage (HWP). But as with Moore (see above), mindset in the moment will be everything.
Sally Fitzgibbons is another solid pick, and perhaps less obvious than Gilmore. She was in the Final with Stephanie in 2014, but came up short. Their matchup that day was almost unfair; Gilmore was on absolute fire.
The next year, Fitzgibbons lost to Dimity Stoyle in the Quarters, but still has solid numbers. Among the Top 17 women, she has the sixth-best AHS, of 13.45, but second-best FPA -- right behind Gilmore. Her rounds average is 6 (out of 7) and she has the third-best HWP. And don't forget, Fitzgibbons was still recovering last year from her injury in Fiji. If she can do that well with severe pain and a protective ear-wrap, imagine what's possible when she's in top form.
Another great choice for Tier B is South African surfer Bianca Buitendag. She made it to the Swatch Pro Quarterfinals in 2014 and to the Final in 2015, where she ultimately lost to Carissa Moore. She has the ninth-best AHS at Lowers, but the third-best FPA -- right behind Fitzgibbons and Gilmore. Bianca isn't a tried and true Fantasy pick like Gilmore or Fitzgibbons, but might just be the extra edge you need.
If you're looking for a strong dark horse, however, consider Malia Manuel to round out your Tier B roster. She has the seventh-highest AHS at Lowers and a low FPA, but coming off of a second-place finish at the Vans US Open, she could be fired-up and ready to take down the field.
There are six options for Tier C, and only one pick is permitted. The good news/bad news is that there are a few standout options.
For starters, Lakey Peterson would be a great addition to any Fantasy team without a second thought. After missing almost half the year with injury, she proved at the Vans US Open that she's not only raring to go, but happier than ever to carve up clean faces as much as she can. It was her first event back in months, and she finished there in the Semifinals.
Peterson's numbers tell a solid story, too. She boasts the fifth-best AHS and FPA, a high RA (5.5 out of 7) a 50 percent HWP and in her two contests at Trestles, finished in the Semis and the Quarters. Oh yeah, one more thing: Lakey now lives in San Clemente, where Lowers is her home break.
The other exciting choice for Tier C is, without a doubt, superstar wildcard Bethany Hamilton. Is there anything this woman can't do? OK, so her performance at Trestles this time last year was sub-par -- Buitendag defeated her in Round Two -- but that was six months after giving birth to her first child. Since then, she's been training hard, surfing daily, and had a casual session at Jaws. NBD.
By the time Hamilton showed at the Fiji Women's Pro in May, her performance told an entirely different story. She absolutely dominated, taking down some of the CT's best, before finishing in the Semifinals. Add to that low stakes for competition -- after all, she's in this for the fun, right? -- and it's highly possible that she'll smoke the field, once again.
Make your picks before Round One starts. The Swatch and Hurley Pro contest windows open September 7 and close September 18.