Picking a Southern California Fantasy: The Hurley Pro

The pros are all set for what is quite possibly their all-together favorite stop on the ASP World Tour — the Hurley Pro at Lower Trestles. This contest has a shortened waiting period from the usual 12 days to six, which is due in large part to the consistency of the wave. Lowers is a very forgivable A-frame wave that breaks over a cobblestone bottom; the waves run steep and fast on the rights and hollow and fun on the lefts. The overall accommodating factors of this wave create the perfect venue for the pros to let it all hang out, and to really go for it. Lowers isn’t the technical wave like Tavarua, Teahupoo, and Pipeline, but rather it’s an open playground where anyone with a strong hack and an aerial repertoire can shine. The forecast is only calling for waist/chest waves through Wednesday, but with the compressed waiting period you can almost count on an immediate start.

Fantasy Surfer gives its players $50 million to pick a team of eight surfers.  Each surfer’s monetary value is predicated on his current ranking on the ASP World Tour. Below are my picks for the 2013 Hurley Pro at Lowers:

Kelly Slater ($12,500,000): Slater took equal thirty-third in 2000, the first year the ASP World Tour took on Lowers as a venue. Since then, though, he has done considerably better. He’s garnered an equal fifth in ’03, equal third in ’02, and ’09, and he’s even gotten a couple of second place finishes in ’04 and ’06. Beyond that, well, he’s won the event every single time: ’12, ’11, ’10, ’08, ’07, and ’05. Quarter-final finishes, or usually better, every single year the contest has been held — yeah, Slater’s the man to beat.

Dane Reynolds ($1,500,000): I wish I were able to pick Cam Richards for this spot, but we all know how that went down. That being said, Reynolds has to be on your Lowers team. For the money versus ability, he is a shoo-in. The guy just owns waves like those that will be on display — they are his bread and butter. Though Reynolds has not competed in the last couple of Lowers events, he did put up a third in ’10, second in ’09, and fifth in ’08. When he shows up he shows off, and I think he’s going to have a bit of fire in his belly after almost losing his spot to Cam.

Jordy Smith ($8,750,000): Ranked fourth on the WCT, Jordy is the only other surfer currently in striking distance at the title outside of the regular three: Slater, Parko, and Fanning. Smith has made it to the quarter-finals on this wave in ’12 and ’10 for equal fifths (he was injured in ’11). Besides knowing how to navigate his way to the back half of Lowers’ events, Smith has really put himself back together this year. Though the waves in Rio aren’t exactly analogous to Lowers, there’s enough of a similarity that I think Smith will approach the event in the same manner. He’s going to rely on his ability hack and carve below the lip, and launch and amaze above it.

John John Florence ($8,500,000): At Lowers, Florence has a fifth from last year and a thirteenth from ’11. While not the results one might expect from the grom phenom, those results aren’t indicative of his ability. I often associate Florence with big, hollow, warm-water waves, but I’ve been re-watching him in all manner of waves on YouTube, and the guy doesn’t really have a flaw in his game. When he loses, it’s just barely, and usually to one of the title contenders.

Julian Wilson ($8,500,000): I don’t know why, but Wilson rarely makes my teams. It’s not that I have anything against him, but more that I always think there’s someone better for the money. I’ve been watching a lot of Wilson’s clips, and beyond having the goods, he also claims Lowers is his favorite wave on the planet. He placed ninth last year and fifth in ’11 at Lowers, and I still can’t forget his win at the Nike U.S. Open in ’11.

Bede Durbidge ($4,500,000): This guy wasn’t even on my radar, until I began sifting through past results. His last two results, thirteenth in ’12 and twenty-fifth in ’11, are not impressive at all. But, then, he made the semi-finals or better four times between ’06 and ’10. Durbidge took third in ’08 and ’09, second place in ’10, and won the event some years back in ’06. This puts him way more qualified, in my eyes, than the other guys in his price range. His better days may be behind him at Lowers, but he also has the “muscle-memory” to make it to the final rounds.

Filipe Toledo ($4,250,000): This pick is based almost solely on how impressed I was with Toledo in Rio. Though he hasn’t really performed all that well in the last three events, the kid showed he could put together a good run when he as a wide open playground like Lowers.

Yadin Nicol ($1,500,000): Purely a money buy, since I had exactly this amount left. Nicol is still a very solid surfer who placed thirteenth in last year’s event. He hasn’t made it past Round Three in any contest this year, but if he does he could really impress.

Who am I overlooking for this event? Well, pretty much the rest of the tour, since they’re all well-versed enough to perform at the venue. But, I’m going to say that Taj Burrow, Josh Kerr, Adriano De Souza, and Ace Buchan are the ones to watch out for. Burrow is a constant at Lowers: equal fifth in ’12 and ’10, equal third in ’06 and ’05, and second in ’03 and ’08. Kerzy is in that same league as Wilson in being able to really excel at a break like Lowers, but Kerr has a ninth last year and fifth in ’11 to Wilson’s ninth and third. De Souza keeps bettering his results each of the last few years at this break: thirteenth in ’10, ninth in ’11, and third last year — this may be his year. Last on my list of watch-out-fors is Buchan. Fresh off his Chopes win over tour master Slater, and usually showing well at Lowers and on the European leg, Buchan may be riled up enough to upset the regulars.

www.thehurleypro.com

www.fantasysurfer.com

www.aspworldtour.com

Bo Bacot grew up surfing up and down the Grand Strand. For 25 years, he would sneak in a session whenever he could: before and after school, lunch breaks from work, weekends, weekdays, whenever.  Now that he’s moved back to Tennessee to further his education, Bo thinks about the ocean perhaps more than he ever did when it was in his backyard. If asked, Bo will proudly proclaim that he is the best surfer living in Knoxville, TN.

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