It's on, bru!
(Note: The writer, Michael Ciaramella, was completely unaware of Chas’s preemptive Fantasy post until this one was already completed. Considering the writer spent two hours working on it, he decided to post this piece directly atop Chas’s musings after retitling it appropriately.)
And how long has it been? Two, three fortnights since we last saw Joan Duru speeding down the line, blue jersey emblazoned across his chest?
Objectively too long, I would say.
Sadly, J-Bay has always been a sore spot in my career as a surf fan. That’s no knock on the wave, which, clearly, is in entirely suitable to world-class surfing, but the whole damn event happens in the middle of the night.
If you, like Chas and me, live on America’s western seaboard, the comp will start at 11 PM and be finished by 8 AM. I’ll be damned if those aren’t my very hours of beauty rest!
Of course there’s the heat analyzer, plus guys Longtom, Doherty, and Carroll to fill in the blanks but post-event analyses are never the same as watching in realtime. They can be better, they can be worse, but they can’t induce that flutter in your chest, the sweat on your palms when Filipe stands up in the dying seconds, needing a 6.67 to turn his round three clash.
Awake or not, the show will go on (with some swell to boot!). Here’s who I envision succeeding in J-Bay’s corduroy lines!
Julian Wilson: 8.5 mil
This guy wasn’t on my team until five minutes ago when, through the endless virtue of Instagram, I saw a video of Jules making his first-ever hole-in-one on Cape St. Francis Links. The confidence gained from sinking a 150 meter shot will, undoubtedly, carry into his surfing performance at this event. This will be the most authoritative win of Julian’s career.
Jordy Smith: 11.25 mil
After winning this event twice as young’n, Jordy has struggled at the Bay in recent years. By his sheer power and familiarity with the break, Jordy should have a 20% advantage (on average) over other competitors in the field. That said, heats can be slow, the mind can waver and really, anybody can beat anybody in 2017. With some swell in the window, Jords should lock down at least a quarter final result.
John Florence: 11 mil
After disappointing results in the last two events, John has remarkably lost the golden lycra to some hippy from Copacabana. It seems infeasible that John could make yet another fatal error, especially at J-Bay, where his long, punctuated swoops match both the speed and size of South Africa’s favorite right-hander. Watch for an 18-point total in round one.
Mick Fanning: 4.5 mil
Truth be told, Mick has underperformed in almost every event this season. It would be stupid not to have him on your team, considering his ability-to-price ratio, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little pissed at the Queenslander. He won this event last year with a busted paw, and placed equal-second the year before with two-tons of nature chomping at his back. I’ll accept nothing short of semis this time around.
Wiggolly Dantas: 4.5 mil
The strongest backside lipper on Earth belongs to Wiggolly Dantas, and what better place to unleash it than J-Bay? Admittedly, I’ve become disillusioned to the idea that Wiggolly will ever be a smart competitor, but if the waves are good, he might be able to succeed on skill alone. Three windshield wipers from the Brazilian hammer is an 8.5, easy.
Zeke Lau: 3 mil
Zeke got a 10 at J-Bay during a QS event a few years back, which, to memory, consisted of a huge layback, a couple carves and a tub. A man of Polynesian descent, Zeke is strong enough to hold a rail in places where, say, an Aryan nymph like Ethan Ewing is not. I’d love to see a Bells (and Snapper) rematch with Jordy out at J-Bay.
Jeremy Flores: 4.25 mil
I don’t know why, but I have a bit of a man-crush on J-Flo. Maybe it’s his style and composure in the tube, maybe it’s the power and technique of his frontside arc, or maybe it’s that he doesn’t seem to give a fuck what anybody thinks about his petulant outbursts. Whatever the reason, Jer is cheap, exciting, and has a mean forehand hook so he’s on my team.
Jack Freestone: 3 mil
It’s either flair or flop with this kid, making every event a serious gamble. Statistically speaking, Jack’s most likely to bow out in round two, but he’s also the kind of guy who could sneak into the finals should he gain a bit of confidence. Jack’s got one of the most technically sound forehands in the world, and I hope he’ll demonstrate that here.