It's going to be a thriller.
We’re heading down to the wine lands of Margaret River for the second stop of the Australian leg of the Championship Tour, and what an event it looks to be. With swell on the horizon and plenty of it, there will be a new bunch of dynamics coming into play, more so that waiting for a fat burger to hit the bank and go crazy, and doing as many turns as possible in as short a space of time as was the case of Snapper, even though it was a damn enthralling event.
With the bigger arena and aspects like fitness, bigger boards and real power moves coming into play, there will undoubtedly be a massive shuffle of the Jeep Leader Board as it stand from only one event.
Here are a few predictions:
Jordy Smith will power his way to a massive result. He is reeking of confidence and world-titleness at the moment. It’s in his walk, his interviews and his approach to heats and individual waves. He hasn't really changed that much in his game, but an aura of champion seems to have descended on him finally. Kelly still gives him the most credit on the tour, calling the South African powerhouse his favourite surfer on tour to watch.
“It’s great surfing against Jordy,” said Kelly on his performance against Jordy at Snapper, ”He is my favorite surfer on tour, he has everything.”
Talking of Kelly, he is also incredibly psyched on a big result at this event, to cement his ‘final onslaught’ year. He wants it to be known that he’s in the game, he’s got the eye of the tiger, and when he gets serious about anything these days, then the mystic still comes out. If he finds his rhythm then he will come out on top. Is there any way to get more clichés into one paragraph? Doubt it.
Owen and Matt will fade somewhat at this event. Not the nicest thing to say as an answer to one of the greatest narratives in the annals of competitive surfing ever, but I believe that the effort combined with the incredible emotional overload might have sucked some of the energy and drive from Wilko and definitely would have left Owen somewhat weakened and vulnerable. The one-week recovery time would not have been enough for the two of them to climb back onto the winner’s bus, and they’re going to both falter after a few rounds.
Connor O’Leary is also not going to climb to the loftier heights that he is being called for at this this event. Connor is an incredible surfer, and became one of my favourites after last year’s Ballito Pro, but all my faith and praise falls on his backhand surfing. His backhand pivot-style of surfing is fast, explosive, and dynamic. He has flair and he is confident. While there is nothing wrong with his forehand surfing at all, I think that his best results will come from backhand surfing and he could easily climb back on top at Bells.
John John is going to fly. If it gets really big he’ll do even better. Apart from mad skills at riding big barreling waves like Pipe and Chopes, he also spends much time at the outside reefs like Logs and Alligators, riding monstrous walls with his brothers. He loves a deep ocean drop, and if Margies gets 10 – 12 foot, he’ll be all over it. Combine his love for big walls and faces with the skills of a world champion and you have a combination that could win with ease.
Seabass will come in with incredible amounts of confidence. It stems from the fact that he is defending champion, obviously, but his incredible win last year started his dream run that saw him qualify back onto the Championship Tour and establish himself as one of the best even after a shaky end to the 2015 season. With that knowledge that he beat the best as a wildcard will give him boundless confidence, and Seabass surfs a different game to everyone else. He could easily shine again.
Julian Wilson is also one to watch. While he has been fairly quiet and nondescript in media, he did drop an amazing clip of late, is looking polished and determined, and could easily turn the tables on everyone in his quest for a world title.
Another forecast is that this event is going to be run over the full waiting period. There will be some big sessions at Margies, but there are people who want to run a few rounds at The Box, so a few of the bigger days might be called short due to wind and etc. in a bid to get some smaller and cleaner conditions at the notorious right-hander. When championship tour surfers get scared of semi-dry waves like The Box it makes for great stories.