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Salt Sticks To You Until The End!

Monday, February 11, 2013

My good friend Bo Bacot has volunteered to help provide some words that will help keep us stoked. He represents that connection to the surf and beach lifestyle that I feel many people can relate to. His formative years were spent fishing, skimming, sailing, chasing surf and all that the beach life entails before moving inland to pursue a career. He shows that experiences had in the water like recollections of great rides of our own and others, muscle memory and wave knowledge stick with us until the end. The pull of the coast is always there if you lived it. 

- G. Wilson

The Middle School

Friday, February 15, 2013

Well, we´re only a couple of weeks from the first ASP World Tour event of the season, and with that all talk will shift from who won last year to who is going to win this year´s world title. Before we take that final turn, I´d like to look back at last year for a moment, and ASP World Champion Joel Parkinson.

Most folks that I´ve talked to and a lot of the forums that I frequent held negative opinions of Parko´s win. It should have been [insert name here.] I´d like to take all the heated controversy and favoritism out of the equation and simply state that Parkinson needed to win. He earned his win. The guy´s been runner-up four years (´02, ´04, ´09, & ´11); not to mention that he also holds two year-end fourths (´07 & ´08) and a fifth (´03). Including his title this year (´12), Parko has landed in the top five surfers for eight of his total twelve years on tour. That ain´t shabby, folks. That´s elite level work. That´s the work of a champion.

But aside from actually having put in the work, there´s another reason Parkinson deserved to win. We shouldn´t jump 20 years between champions. Without Parko, and Fanning by extension, the next closest surfer to the title was John John Florence. Now, I´m not taking anything away from Florence, the guy is destined for multiple world titles and legendary status, but to see a 20-year difference from one world title winner one year and another world title winner the next year begs the question: what exactly is happening to the surfers in between? I think we all see the writing on the wall with Florence, and Gabriel Medina among others -- there is a new school poised and ready to take over.

There is a paradigm shift that has been set in motion. Before the new school takes over, however, those guys that bridge the gap, the ones who are 27- to 33-years-old (the middle school?), need to explode and show exactly how we get from old school Slater to new school Florence. There´s plenty of life in the middle schoolers, too. Parko is 31, Mick Fanning is 31, Taj Burrow is 33, Josh Kerr is 28, C.J. Hobgood is 32, Michel Bourez is 27, and Ace Buchan is 30, and they, along with Slater, make up eight of the top 15 surfers (average age of the top 15 is 27.4 years old). Fanning has two titles already, and can easily win another if he can just get through those critical third rounds. And I can easily see Burrow or Kerzy getting their first world title in this or the next couple of years, or C.J. getting his second.

There´s plenty of life left in the "middle school," and I just want to see those guys get that which they deserve, and that which they have undoubtedly earned, just as Parko did last year. Still, that being said, you´ll only catch me cheering if Florence, Medina, Wilson, Wright, or any of the new school slips in and takes a title in the meantime.

~ Bo Bacot, 2/14/13


Water We Talking About

Bo Bacot 3/15/2013
Monday, March 18, 2013

As humans, our bodies are made up of more than 60 percent water -- our blood is 92 percent water, our organs and muscles are roughly 75 percent water, and even our bones are about 22 percent water. Moving from the internal, biological world to the external, geographic world, in America it is estimated that 53 percent of people live within 50 miles of an ocean. Furthermore, our oceans account for 71 percent of the Earth´s surface. From the micro, the human body, to the macro, the entire world, water is the key to everything.

Surfers, perhaps, have a better understanding of and a more intimate relationship with water than most people. Surfers base their lives around water -- calculating tides, tracking transoceanic storms, playing in the chaos where sea meets land, memorizing the fluidity of their local break. Water is essential to all, but especially to surfers.

Just as water is essential to surfers, so too is traveling. Whether it is as simple as walking from your house to the beach, taking a drive up or down the coast, or a continents-spanning trek to a remote break, all surfers travel. Surfers seek out. As such, I am excited to see what some surfers are doing with regard to seeking, traveling, and especially water.

The folks behind Waves for Water understand the importance of traveling and the supreme importance of water.  The men and women of Waves for Water have even begun a campaign, Clean Water Couriers, which centers on the importance of water.  The CWC seeks to bring water, clean drinking water, to "catastrophic stricken regions around the world." And they are doing it by employing surfers and/or general travelers to carry water filtration systems with them on their journeys.

These filtration systems come in three different types: the Kin, the Renegade, and the MVP. The Kin filter is $25, and it provides enough clean water for 14 people for up to one year, or 5,110 gallons of clean drinking water. The Renegade and MVP filters cost more, but they also affect more people. Both are $50, and both provide enough clean water for 100 people across five years, or one million gallons. Think about that for a second, please. It breaks down to costing ten cents per person per year for clean, drinking water with either the Renegade or the MVP. That´s impressive.

The filters work with water from any source -- "lake, rain, tap, river or stream" -- and they set up in mere minutes (check out the video below for an example). Once set up, these filters remove bacteria which cause "Cholera, Botulism, Typhoid, Amoebic Dysentery, E. coli, Coliform Bacteria, Streptococcus, [and] Salmonella," and they do so with a 99.99999 percent removal rate, which exceeds EPA requirements.

The difficulty, one would think, is getting filtration systems from here to where they are needed. But, as it turns out, it´s not difficult at all. Each of these filters is easily portable, with the Renegade filter weighing as little as three ounces -- simply roll the filter up and put it in your backpack or your board bag. Or, if you´re not planning a trip anytime soon, or you don´t surf, there are still other options for lending a hand. The Waves for Water website has a section where you can donate to its CWC missions -- your money will be directly spent on getting filters to select locations. CWC missions span the globe: Nicaragua, Peru, South Africa, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and more.

You can get these filters to the people who need them by purchasing the filters and taking them with you on your next surf trip, by donating to one of the many missions that are underway, or you can create your own CWC mission to get water to an area of need that is personal to you. As a matter of fact, locally speaking, a high school from Wilmington has just completed a mission to send off enough filters to assist 500 people in Africa.

People are inextricably tied to water -- biologically, geographically, and globally. Surfers, and moreover surfers who travel to locales not frequented by most tourists, have a unique possibility to offer help to others who need this basic necessity. How often do you get the opportunity to share that thing you love, water, with those who need it most? Just think about it. If it sits well with you, do what you can.

How to assemble a Water Filter // Waves for Water // Christian Troy from Waves For Water on Vimeo.

Waves For Water // Bali // Young Investors Organization from Waves For Water on Vimeo.

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Fantasy Surfer Team Picks for the Rip Curl Pro, Bells Beach

Bo Bacot 3/26/2013
Thursday, March 28, 2013

The second event of the 2013 ASP World Tour is upon us with the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, March 27-May 7. The contest at Bells Beach is the longest running professional surfing contest, and one of the most prestigious, right behind the Pipe Masters. Since 1952, Bells has been the proving ground for the elite, and whoever is crowned champion has the distinct honor of hoisting the trophy, a bell, above his head and ringing it loudly. So, who´s going to ring the bell? Someone from my Fantasy Surfer team, hopefully. Remember the rules: you get $50,000,000 to create a team of eight surfers and one alternate, and the monetary values are based on current rank in the ASP. My team is as follows:


1. Mick Fanning $11,500,000

2. Kelly Slater $12,500,000

3. Owen Wright $7,000,000

4. Jordy Smith $7,250,000

5. Sebastian Zietz $5,000,000

6. Nat Young $3,250,000

7. Tiago Pires $3,000,000

8. Jacob Wilcox $1,500,000

Alt. Raoni Monteiro


You really have three guys going into this contest as the men to beat: Mick Fanning, Kelly Slater, and Joel Parkinson -- Fanning because he won it last year, Slater because he´s tied with Mark Richards as the winningest surfers ever at Bells with four wins each, and Parkinson because he´s the 2012 ASP Champ. Not being able to afford all three of these guys and still maintain a well-rounded team, I opted for Fanning and Slater. Fanning has gotten fifth or better for the last five years and made the finals in each of the last three years. That, for me, makes him the man to beat. Slater won this event for the first time back in 1994 -- Gabriel Medina was three months old at the time -- and he won Bells again in ´06, ´08, and ´10. While I do think this is Fanning´s contest, it wouldn´t take much of anything for Slater to enter the history books again with an unprecedented fifth ringing of the bell.


My mid-level picks are Owen Wright, Jordy Smith, and Sebastian Zietz. Wright hasn´t had a great showing at Bells yet, but he´s constantly improving there, having made it to the quarters the last two years in a row. If the waves are on, and the forecast looks promising, Wright´s backhand game could see him breaking through to the semis, or even better. Smith is someone I think is poised to have a stellar year after recovering from broken ribs in ´11 and having a less than impressive back half of the tour last year. He has the strong, powerful lines of Parko and the aerial abilities of Wilson or Kerr. Smith performs best in big, heaving rights, and that should be what´s on the menu this weekend. I almost passed on Zietz, but watching him surf the Triple Crown and seeing him in the last contest, I think he´s going to perform at Bells. Seabasss won´t win it, but I think he´ll feel at home in the water there, and that comfort is going to help him.


At the tail end of my picks you´ll find Nat Young, Tiago Pires, and Jacob Wilcox. Each of these guys are my long-shots, the filling of my ranks with hopefuls. Young really impressed me in the last contest, where he beat both Josh Kerr and Ace Buchan. He reminds me of Dane Reynolds, whenever Dane´s in a contest, because Dane just throws it all at the wall to see what will stick. Young does the same thing, he lays it all out there and goes full-bore. It´s that kind of attack that will see him beating those top-tier guys. Pires made the cut due to history. He underperformed in the last contest, and I don´t expect too much from him here, to be honest, but he did make it to the quarters two years in a row at Bells in ´10 and ´11. So, here´s hoping that he breaks out another performance like those two. With Wilcox, I had exactly $1,500,000 remaining, and that´s how much he cost. Okay, it wasn´t that simple, but almost. Wilcox did beat Adriano de Souza last week during the Margaret River Pro. De Souza, aside from being one of the best, has beaten all the best. So, if you can beat de Souza, then you can also beat any of the rest of the rank-and-file. Wilcox, as some wildcards have done in the past, has absolutely nothing to lose, and could certainly upset several folks who aren´t on the lookout for him.


Predictions for the contest call for a dropping swell through Thursday night, with a new swell arriving Friday, building through the weekend, and staying strong at the beginning of next week. It´s likely the contest will see a couple of lay days at the beginning of the waiting period, and get underway either Friday or Saturday.

Oakley Pro Bali Picks for Fantasy Surfer

Bo Bacot 6/17/2013
Monday, June 17, 2013

I just locked in my Fantasy Surfer team picks for the Oakley Pro Bali, which begins in just a few hours. This will be the first time the ASP has held a World Championship Tour event at this location, and the venues chosen for the contest are Keramas and Canggu. Not being too familiar with the breaks, a little reading and a lot of videos later, I`ve learned that both waves really start to show when it gets head-high or bigger. Keramas, a right, holds a bigger swell better, but Canggu breaks both ways and is at its best a few feet overhead. Each wave is steep, hollow, and sectiony, which should allow the whole gamut of the pro field to have something with which to show off. The specialists will have their fair share of getting pitted deep and punting high, and everyone else will fill in just nicely.

The rules of Fantasy Surfer have not changed: you get $50 million dollars to create a team of eight surfers. Each surfer has a different monetary value based on his current points ranking for the season. Below are my picks for the Oakley Pro Bali.


My top tier is Kelly Slater and John John Florence. Slater is on fire again this year. He has two wins out of the four contests so far this season, and he is a prime candidate for taking the win at Bali, and especially coming up in Tahiti. It being the middle of the season, Slater is really going to look to expand his lead against the pack with a result in Bali and Tahiti. I think Slater is going to take his same game plan from Fiji, where he got as deep as possible and then shot out into some incredible vertical hacks, and just reverse that from the lefts of Fiji to the rights of Bali. Florence, on the other hand, has not had a stellar season so far, considering he missed several contests due to an injury. But if you saw Florence in Fiji, then you know that he has healed up well, and is back in fine form. Put John John in barrels anywhere and he`s dangerous. Put him in Bali barrels with the weight of getting back into the thick of the title race, and I think he could be the man to beat.


My mid-tier guys are Josh Kerr, Jordy Smith, and Sebastian Zietz. Kerr, for me, is really impressive this year. Yes, he is always a threat, but he does not often link everything together into a solid performance. A lot of that, I think, is due to him having a certain wave on which he excels. Bali is that kind of wave, it`s hollow, fast, and offers airs up to those who know where to look for them. Kerr could really exploit those conditions and put up his first real result since Pipeline last year. Smith has been on fire these last three contests. He has a win from Brazil, and just barely lost out in the quarters in Fiji, and if he can maintain this level of performance, I think we are going to see some more results for Smith. I picked Seabass for my mid-tier guys because I just really enjoy watching him lay it all out there whenever he surfs. Beyond that, I think these waves are very similar to the ones he`s groomed himself on in Hawai`i. He has continued to impress me, so I`m keeping him on my team.

Bringing up the bottom tier is Nat Young, Fred Patacchia, and Bruce Irons. By the names alone, you can see that these guys are in the last but not least category. Young is, just like Seabass, continuing to impress me with just how easily it is for him, as a rookie, to get in there and mix it up with the established order. That`s not something everyone can do consistently, but Young has the chops. The guy has power that matches his lines, and he`s currently sitting number six in the points race -- that`s one spot above Joel Parkinson for those counting. Freddy P is someone I am always going to pick if I can get him at the right price. Freddy was a constant on my roster last year, and he always performed. I am convinced there is not a pro out there who has as much fun surfing as this guy. I just get happy watching Freddy P, and for that alone he is on my team. Lastly, is Irons. It is really quite simple, when you get the chance to buy Bruce Irons for bottom dollar, you do it. Here`s a guy who has more passion and ability in his pinky that about a third of the guys on tour right now, and Irons is going to put it all out there. If he hits his marks, Irons could easily make it past Round Five.

There are, of course, others that you should keep your eye on: Joel Parkinson, Taj Burrow, Adriano de Souza, and Julian Wilson. Any of these guys has the talent to upset my team, and each is worth having. Beyond the obvious, I think that Felipe Toledo, Michel Bourez, and Gabriel Medina could also become obstacles to my team. Medina is one that I am going to watch. He has underperformed all season so far, and I figure he is due for his moment in the sun.


Keep in mind that Bali is twelve hours ahead of us, so that makes figuring out when to be in front of the computer that much easier. 8:00 a.m., June 18 in Bali is going to be 8:00 p.m. June 17 on the East Coast.


Fantasy Surfer Picks for the 2013 Billabong Pro Tahiti

Bo Bacot 8/14/2013
Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Billabong Pro Tahiti kicks off its waiting period August 15 and runs through August 26. The venue is the inimitable lefts of Teahupoo -- a wave that when it`s small is still technical enough to command the utmost respect from those brave enough to attempt it. But when it`s big, well, it`s a wave that will draw out every ounce of a surfer`s concentration, ability, and especially courage (click on the link for the Code Red film below for an idea). One misstep and a surfer is caught between a meters-thick wall of water bearing down on him, with only a couple of feet of ocean to cushion the fall onto razor-sharp reef. The name of the game at Teahupoo is pits; dropping in as late, setting a line as quickly, getting barreled as deeply, riding the foam-ball as expertly, and getting spit out as spectacularly as humanly possible.


I think the group I have picked for my Fantasy Surfer team all have what it takes to put on a great show. As you probably already know, Fantasy Surfer gives each player $50,000,000 to create a team of eight surfers. Each surfer has a monetary amount assigned to him based on his current ranking on the ASP World Championship Tour. When compiling my team I looked at past statistics over the 13 years of contests, and tried to figure out who had the best chance of making it to the Quarterfinals or better. My picks are:


John John Florence ($8,500,000): Florence cut his teeth on Pipeline, which, while a different wave, is wholly analogous to Teahupoo. If Pipeline is THE big, hollow left then Chopes is its younger, crazier brother. Though last year was Florence`s first time competing at the break, he took third -- barely losing out to Joel Parkinson, who was on fire in his race to his first World Title. Florence has the technical game, the experience in the barrel, and most importantly the ability to tune everything out and just go.


C.J. Hobgood ($8,250,000): If you are going to have a contest at a big, hollow left like this then not having this goofy-foot on your team is a huge mistake. C.J. shows at Chopes almost as much as Kelly Slater. In fact, after Slater, he is the most acclaimed man at the break. C.J. has made it to the Quarters or better seven of the 13 years the contest has run. He won it in `04; came in second in `99, `01, and `10; placed third in `08; and took fifth last year.

Jeremy Flores ($7,500,000): Flores has made the Quarters the last two years running, and took third in `09. While he certainly holds his own in Tahiti, I couldn`t help but be influenced by Flores` run at Pipe when it was big a few years back. In `10, Flores won Pipe, and did so by beating C.J., Taj Burrow, Owen Wright, and Kelly Slater in man-on-man heats. If you can face off against those guys in critical lefts, then I`m going to put you on my team.


Gabriel Medina ($7,500,000): This one is a gut feeling more than anything. Currently sitting in 16th place on the tour, Medina is having an off year. But he did place fifth last year at this venue, and I think he`s going to show. The kid has the talent, as he proved across his mid-year entry in `11 when he won two of the remaining five events, and through the back half of the tour last year where he had five Quarters or better finishes. Medina needs a venue that has the potential to be as dynamic as he is, and if things line up I expect him to shine here.


Damien Hobgood ($4,750,000): When you have a solid left and want a result, bet on a Hobgood. Damo won the event in `07, took second in `05, and has placed ninth in three of the last four years at Chopes. I am not sure which brother has logged more time pitted in South Pacific barrels, which is why I have both the Hobgoods on my team.


Sebastian Zietz ($5,750,000): Seabass is getting the same Hawai`ian push that both Florence and Flores got. Seabass knows what it takes to take off late and plant himself deep in heaving lefthanders. Though he doesn`t have a result in Tahiti yet, he made it to and just barely lost in the Quarters of Pipe last year, after besting Travis Logie, John John Florence, Damien Hobgood, and Dane Reynolds.


Freddy Patacchia ($3,750,000): Freddy P is yet another pull from Hawai`i for my Tahitian Dream Team. He took ninth in `11, fifth in `10, and second in `06 at Teahupoo, and he just loves this kind of wave. Given the price, I couldn`t pass him up. Consistently a wild-card into events over the last couple of years due to others` injuries, Freddy P finally re-qualified this year only to start off missing the first third of the tour due to his own injury. He`s coming back strong after a couple of mediocre results in the last two events, thirteenth and ninth, and he`s going to be looking to prove himself and put up a strong showing here.


Kieren Perrow ($3,750,000): With just a little bit of money left, and my main guys picked, it came down to either Perrow or Matt Wilkinson. KP has placed ninth at Teahupoo twice, last year and in `09, which trumps Wilko`s fifth in `11.


There is one major player that I have left off my team this time around. Kelly Slater has been on my team for every event up until this one, and he`s the most decorated surfer at Teahupoo, winning it in `00, `03, `05, and `11; and placing third in `04, `06, and `10. He may be the best contender, but I got both Hobgoods for almost the same price as one Slater.

As always, find me on Fantasy Surfer and shoot me a line. Though the forecast only calls for six to eight feet across the first few days with a falling swell, I`m keeping my fingers crossed for a repeat of `11. (Code Red Film)

Fantasy Surfer Picks for the Hurley Pro 2013

Bo Bacot 9/14/2013
Saturday, September 14, 2013

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 twelve days to 6, 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.

Fantasy Surfer Picks for the 2013 Quiksilver Pro France

Bo Bacot 9/25/2013
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Quiksilver Pro France kicks off September 26 and runs its waiting period through October 6. This, the first half of the European leg of the World Tour, takes place in the waves of Hossegor. This year, the tour is setting up just north of La Graviere, one of the best beach-break waves on the planet. The waves here may be sand bottom, but don`t let that fool you into thinking it`s a cake walk. La Graviere may be sandy, but it`s also very shallow, with barrels that pitch thick and break quick. When it`s smaller, the wave is perfect for punchy airs and vertical snaps. When it`s big, however, making it not only into but also out of the barrels shows off the technical skill of each surfer.


Fantasy Surfer gives you $50,000,000 to pick eight surfers for your fantasy team, and each surfer`s monetary value is based on his current WCT ranking. The following is my team for the 2013 Quiksilver Pro France:


Mick Fanning ($12,000,000): Though he`s been knocked out in Round 3 for the past two years, White Lightning has won the event `10, `09, and `07.  Not only that, but this contest is pivotal in the 2013 World Title race. Fanning is one of only three guys to take a title off of Slater in the last 20 years (Andy Irons and Joel Parkinson being the other two). And he`s poised to do it again this year, for the third time (something only AI has done). The year-end ASP rankings are based on a surfer`s eight best scores out of ten contests. So far, Fanning`s two throwaway scores are a ninth place and fifth place, compared to Slater who already has two thirteenth places and a ninth. Fanning is going to be looking to put up a strong performance here -- one that will really solidify his lead going into the tail-end of the `13 tour. Plus, I think Fanning really wants to enter the land of the few who have been able to win three or more World Titles: Kelly Slater, Andy Irons, Tom Curren, and Mark Richards.


Jordy Smith ($8,750,000): Jordy`s been my guy all year. It`s been a rebuilding year for him, and I think he`s shown great form across the board. Currently sitting third place in the WCT rankings, Jordy could still conceivably nab his first World Title this year. Jordy is that perfect meld of old school power and new school trickery, and with La Graviere as the venue he`s going to be equally strong whether it`s small or big.


John John Florence ($8,000,000): I had Medina on my team, and was about to save it, but I just couldn`t do it -- I couldn`t not have John John on my team. The guy excels in steep and deep waves like those that will hopefully show early next week. His third place finish last year was so impressive. The kid took all his know-how from Hawai`I and repurposed it for the shifty, sandy bottom waves, and he just lit it up. The only two guys who surfed better than him were Dane and Kelly. I`m looking for a repeat of last year.


Michel Bourez ($7,250,000): With no WCT wins, and spotty year-end rankings over his four years on tour, The Spartan has one place where he`s always consistent -- Southwest France. Bourez has put up two fifth place finishes in `10 and `11, and ninth last year. That`s pretty regular, when folks like Fanning are being knocked out in Round 3. I`ve been putting Bourez on my team for the past several years when the European leg starts.


Ace Buchan ($6,750,000): Ace is another guy I look to at this point in the season. He`s put up two ninth place finishes in `12 and `11, a third place in `10, and he even won it over Slater in `08. Ace knows how to navigate the dumping and thumping landscape of this break. Buchan and Spartan are my dynamic duo, and they always keep my Fantasy team afloat at this venue.


Kieren Perrow ($3,750,000): Perrow is another late replacement for me. I had Kolohe Andino in this spot, based on his fifth place finish last year, but Kolohe is just so iffy. So, looking around, I saw Perrow, who also finished fifth not only last year, but also in `10. Perrow gets my vote.

Pat Gudauskas ($1,500,000): With $3mil remaining, and knowing that half of that was going to Dane, I grabbed up Gudang. His surfing was really impressive at Lowers last week, where he took on all comers with a fortitude I didn`t really know he had.

Dane Reynolds ($1,500,000): Dane is the best surfer behind Slater, but, man, he blew it at Lowers. Granted, he may have had an injured hand, and the guy who took him out was in fact Slater. But, for this price, even as unimpressed as I was last week, I`m still going to put Dane on my team. Dane was on fire last year at Hossegor, where he took second behind Slater. Dane`s fluidity, power, and style throughout the entire event showed all the other guys just how one should approach that wave.


Look out for Slater at this contest. He`s not on my team, but only because I had to pick between him or Fanning, and Fanning has the wins in France and the unfailing momentum this year.  Slater is going to need to execute a perfect run here in order to stay in the title race, and we all know that if anyone can do it, it`s him. Also, I think Gabriel Medina could really show here. He`s had an off year, but the kid knows how to surf France. He won it in `11 and placed fifth last year. Julian Wilson is also going to be riding the high of his final last week as he pulls into his first waves, and he knows what to do in France since he was the one who finished second to Medina a couple of years back.