Ben Macartney's Vibe Guide To Winning WSL Men's Fantasy Surfing – Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach 2019

17 Apr 2019 0 Share



Fantasy Surfer: Bells Beach Vibe Guide

And so the tour moves south to the hallowed right-and surfing arena that is Bells-slash-Winkipop. This year, the event looks plagued by a scarcity of good surf. The location of the storm track lends itself to longer-range WSW swell that, while sizeable, is likely to translate into relatively few waves being ridden compared to somewhere like Duranbah. That means you’ll be wanting to pick guys who have their competitive heads screwed on: the ones who have the patience and knowledge to wait and be the in the spot for the best scoring waves. Sounds easier said than done.

A note on the short-term forecast

This is how to approach round one when it starts on Thursday morning: Watch the first set of a heat. Then get up, go and hang out some washing. Come in, make a cup of tea. Then call to your mum. After that, go and wrestle your kids – or someone. Hell, anyone. Return to your screen: you probably won’t have missed anything. Watch a top-five surfer with priority waiting in vain for a set wave in the dying minutes of the heat. Shake your head and think: “he would have easily have got the score if a set came”. Repeat for the next heat, just throw in some new activities.

Ok, maybe not that slow. But it ain’t looking great. The good news is there’s a pretty substantial round of WSW groundswell on course to fill into Bass Strait on Wednesday night; leading in a full day of 3 to 4ft plus sets at Bells and Winkipop. The bad news: it’s going to be slow-going and saying it’s going to be a bit slow could turn out to be an understatement. There’s a kind of double whammy effect likely to compound the inconsistency of the larger set waves on Thursday: 

  1. The head of the fetch is located about 1,000 nautical miles west of Bass Strait. It’s remote location will exacerbate wave-dispersion prior to landfall, by allowing groups of waves to separate as they cover that distance; thereby increasing the time of arrival between each set.
  2. The primary fetch-area is located at relatively low-latitudes, bounded by 40S and 50S: thereby producing an acutely ‘west’ swell inbound from about 250 degrees. That means while the vast bulk of the groundswell will be marching into eastern Victorian coasts in the form of stacked, triple-overhead sets, only a fraction of this energy will wrap well beyond 90 degrees to arrive along the Torquay reefs.

On the upside, there’s a secondary fetch located further south that’s much more favourably aligned with Bass Strait. This should add a SW component to the swell by Friday, but the short-duration and limited strength of this fetch suggests it also won’t be showing a whole lot of size. Further, onshore easterly winds of 5 to 15 knots won’t be adding much value to conditions throughout Friday – and the same goes for Saturday as the swell drops and winds turn northeast.

Tier A

Jordy Smith: 

2018 result: Lost to Wade Carmichael In Round 3.

When considering Jordy for Snapper earlier this year, I quickly dismissed the big fella. I started thinking he might be, well, headed in a similar direction as Taj; a freak of a surfer who, when he arrived on the scene seemed destined for multiple world-titles - yet somehow failed to secure a single one in an otherwise successful, decadal career ensconced in the top sixteen.

Now, I’m starting to think Jordy is a different beast altogether. In a recent clip he alluded to his rags to riches background; growing up with very little – and how much his folks sacrificed for his surfing career and how much he appreciates everything surfing has given him and so on. But it’s his actions that are doing the talking this year. Having worked hard on his boards, surfing and fitness in the off-season, it obviously paid off at Duranbah – he looked as good as – or better than ever. On top of that, Jordy is no stranger to success at Bells and Winki, having won it back in 2017. IN

Wade Carmichael

Like the iconic Australian marsupial, Wade’s hirsute, cuddly look belies a ferocious ability to rip and tear – in his case waves – in the case of the Koala: unsuspecting tourists. But in all seriousness, Wade really was on a tear on the Goldy and putting aerial surfing aside, he looked like the best surfer on-rail for the whole event. He’s added a bit of foam to his boards this year and he made it to the quarters at Duranbah on the back of some serious power hacks – and if the open faces of Bells present themselves, there’s no reason to think he won’t do even better. DEFINITELY MAYBE

Gabriel Medina

Gabs obviously isn’t the only one who is cognisant of the importance of being on the first good set wave of a heat. But there’s no doubting he is the guy who will fight hardest for it: pretty much anything humanly possible to secure the first good score. Last year, I think it was only Leo Fioravanti who out-Medina’d Medina in a tooth and nail paddle-battle for the first set-wave at Snapper Rocks. Anyway, given the anticpated inconsistency, I’m thinking securing the first good one is going be paramount in succeeding at Bells this year. DEFINITELY MAYBE

Kolohe Andino

His last minute loss to Italo seemed a bit rich to me. The sticking point appears to be Kolohe’s tail-to-shore style of landing most of his airs, compared to guys like Italo and Filipe who land full rotations, nose to shore. Loss aside, I probably underestimated Kolohe’s potential this year. And the evidence was in plain sight. He dropped that clip, just before the start of the comp; exhibiting formidable airborne and rail-skills. But how will he go at Bells/ Winki? For some reason, I have this idea that he’s a better beach-break guy than point-guy. I’ve never considered his linkage and flow between turns as good as say, Toledo or Owen. OUT

Tier B

Julian Wilson

There’s a honeymoon period with babies. For the first three months or so, maybe six if you’re lucky, baby will mostly sleep and feed; leaving the surfing father with plenty of time to focus on surfing. But eventually, baby becomes self-aware and exercises its will; often by crying loudly and persistently. Chronic sleep-deprivation can follow as baby awakens at random intervals during the night; distressed for no apparent reason.

Now, I have no idea how Julian’s baby is going and whether or not it has become a source of stress. The point is, I suspect the Honeymoon is over. Julian cruised through life in the top three in 2018, relaxed and all smiles with young family in tow. Kicking off 2019 with a 33rd doesn’t bode well for Julian, but he could easily bounce back with a good result at Bells. In tier B he’s an obvious choice. IN.

Filipe Toledo 

Surfers of Filipe’s caliber usually won’t be available in tier B for long, so really there’s little to be said. Snap him up. IN

Griffin Colapinto

Well, what can I say. Colapinto shmolapinto. If I’d know he was packing a knee brace on the Gold Coast I would have steered well clear. The slightest kink in confidence is all it takes to throw a young turk like Griffin off his game. He may well bounce back at Bells, but I’ll sit back and wait and see. OUT

Owen Wright

Owen was in his usual, excellent form at the Quik Pro and he came away with a good result (9th). But I don’t believe a peaky 2 to 3ft beach-break like Duranbah brings out the best in Owen’s surfing. Assuming they do eventually get some good waves at Bells and/or Winki, Owen has better chances of making it to the finals – and the bigger and better the waves get, the more inclined I’d be to put him in. DEFINITELY MAYBE

Ezekiel Lau

Need a lesson in blocking tactics for competing in your local boardriders club this year? Well, look no further than Zeke in his heat last year at Bells against JJF. But it wasn’t just The Block that one him the heat. He was dropping some big hammers on the old Bells Bowl – and his brand of power surfing and solid rail work will again stand him in good-stead this year. Further, in light of the aforementioned scarcity of sets, I think Zeke has pretty good chances of landing a couple of good ones. He’s already shown he’s got the kind of patience and wave-selection required so I think he’s a good chance to advance through a few rounds. IN


Jack Freestone

Jack is back with another shot at the big-league. God knows he has the skills – just watch any old clip of this guy surfing and it’s clear he should be mixing it with the best. Surely by now he’s starting to figure out what he has to do to get through heats – and sooner or later he’s bound to drop a big result at Snapper – where he more or less lives and has been surfing his whole life. IN

Kelly Slater

In the aftermath of Kelly’s 33rd at Duranbah there’s a big question mark hanging over the relevance of the GOAT; still being on tour at the ripe old age of 47. He’s got to be, what, at least 15 years ahead of the next oldest guy on tour? Having come so far, perhaps he kind of owes it to the record books – not to mention himself – to see just how far he can go with it. I mean, I’m the same age. And, well I completely empathise with the man-grommet within. Still, Kelly will have to dig deep into his years of competitive experience to get past Toledo and Colapinto – and it’s fair to say the odds are stacked against him. DEFINITELY MAYBE

Ricardo Christie

I’m sticking with Richo for Bells. I really think he’s got potential to do well here. In the top-10 on the WQS is no easy feat. So many good surfers, often competing in tricky or very mediocre conditions, that appear to leave a lot to chance. Ricardo rips – and going on some of his heats last year, he has an excellent read on any lineup. Like Jack and Ryan, this is Ricardo’s second crack at the WCT and I suspect he’ll be upsetting some big names this year. Definitely Maybe

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