Margaret River '23 - Fantasy Preview
Last updated April 18, 2023 by Balyn McDonald
In many ways, Margaret River has filled the qualification space that Pipe used to occupy before it was roughly bisected from the season end.
Now, the oft-maligned mid-season cut looms large at then end of the Margaret River Pro, dominating the thoughts of surfers and column inches of ‘journalists’ in this, the new tour normal. This year, everyone sitting below Gabriel Medina can feel the hot breath of relegation on the back of their necks. Some much more acutely than others.
We’ll try to post another qualification matrix for Margies, much like we have for previous years, but an important factor to remember is that surfers can drop their worst event. Someone like Jake Marshall could easily replace their 33rd to leapfrog some more consistent performers with a higher ranking (Kelly, Barron, MRod in =25th, and even Nat, Samuel, Jacko and LOB in =21st).
It will be a tightly-run and high stakes event, possibly dwarfing the Margaret River event in its coverage. Hopefully we get the conditions to put surfing – not qualification – front and center over the next week.
As far as the Margaret River set-up goes, the WSL has plenty to get you acquainted. There’s Ben Mondy’s overview, detailed break breakdowns, as well as Kelly Slater’s ‘Vision’ series providing his insights into Main Break, The Box and North Point.
The trouble is, this event is hard to pin down in regards to conditions. There are four different waves to consider, namely: the three-blasts-to-the-surgeon’s-table of Main Break rights; the big mushburgers of Main Break lefts; the heaving, deep-water ledge of The Box, and; the possibly-mindblowing-but-rumoured-to-be-off-the-table hope of North Point.
Regardless of which break they run at, Margies favours surfers who are confident over rock/reef-bottoms, can handle formidable swell sizes (the average wave height is in the 6-8′ range), and know their way through right-hand barrels or searing railwork. Masochistic floaters over shallow rock won’t hurt either.
Check out the detailed data below and have a play around with the built-in stats on the FSS site to really dig in to the surfer metrics. Here’s an example of our surfer comparison too:
Remember also that, while ~90% of scoring waves over the last 9 years have been rights, a favourable swell forecast can bring the lefts into play. Speaking of which…
The WSL used to post their official forecast up several days before the event with much fanfare about the coming conditions. Now we are lucky to see something – anything – before the event window. Regardless, there are plenty of free forecasting sources out there, and we can still source plenty of information without needing the WSL’s stamp of approval.
At this stage, it looks like offshore winds and a fading 6-8′ SW swell will combine for a promising opening day. There’s a good chance of the event kicking off without delay. Friday sees the swell rebuilding with offshore-turning-variable winds through the day. Saturday will be clean and overhead in the morning, with some light onshore breezes later.
Everything after that is still a little long-range for certainty, but it does look like we could see a couple of days’ action early in the waiting period.
Keep an eye on your favourite forecasting site (or maybe even the WSL) closer to the starting date.
Replacements / Wildcards / Injuries
Jack Robinson, Miguel Pupo, Jadson Andre and Ramzi Boukhiam are all out injured, with confirmed replacements Carlos Munoz, Jacob Willcox Reef Heazlewood, Jarvis Earle, already in the draw and available for trading.
Margaret River locals Jerome Forrest, Jack Thomas and Bronte Macaulay have also earned a wildcard placement through their the local trials success (Jack got 2nd, but still earned a wildcard due to Robbo’s late withdrawal).
Margaret River MetricsKey:
Season = data from 2023 Championship Tour season
Win % = percentage of heats won
AHS = average heat score
Right = data from events held in right-hand breaking conditions
Reef = data from events held in reef break conditions
6-8' = data from heats run in 6-8' wave height conditions
MR = data specifically from Margaret River events
Avg Place = average finishing place for event (lower place is better, as 1st is an event win)
|Surfer Name||Season Win %||Season AHS||MR Avg Place||MR Win %||Right win %||Reef win %||6-8' win%||MR AHS||Right hand AHS||Reef AHS||6-8' AHS|
|John John Florence||71.43||13.35||6.3||80.00||66.35||71.43||74.70||16.03||15.00||14.98||14.92|
Pick ’em – fantasy suggestions
John John – With Jack out, John’s star shines even brighter. He dominates virtually every relevant metric, and his qualitative weighting at this venue (think 2017) is off the charts. He’s a virtual must-have.
Matthew McGillivray – 3rd here in 2021, and a masterclass in qualification grit last year to finish 3rd again. He averages 13.71 in heats across his two appearances at the event, with a 72.73% win rate.
Jordy Smith – a solid performer here, with a final in 2021 and quarters-or-better finishes since 2017. Solid metrics across all relevant conditions.
Italo Ferreira – a bit of a sleeper, and certainly not coming into Margies red hot, but carries some relevant runs on the board (statistically) for Margaret River metrics.
Flick ’em – be wary of these surfers
Yago Dora– I’m a big fan of Yago, and I can actually see him going deep if the lefts offer him some opportunities, but… he has traditionally struggled here in the rights, and his form is a little hot-and-cold to justify the risk.
Jacob Willcox – the local charger seems like a solid pick, but his win rate at this event is very low, and that’s after multiple appearances.
Ezekiel Lau – poor data for this event, and career-worst metrics for this season rule him out of statistical consideration.
Jack Robinson – he’s out. Basically, I’m reminding you to check your team.
Here’s the thing about data-driven fantasy selections: they almost always guarantee you a safe score. What they don’t earn you is a winning score, a score that is only gained through defying the popular choices with an against-the odds Sleeper. Here are some options that we have our eyes on:
Top Tier – how many times can we suggest Filipe as a Sleeper and get away with it? While we think Filipe will do well enough, our true top-tier sleeper is Caio Ibelli. He has the 5th-highest AHS for Margies and looks very comfortable at the Main Break rights.
Mid Tier – We suggested Nat Young last year, and he got a 5th. In fact, his history at the event reads: 5th, 3rd, 5th, 13th, 5th. Do with that what you will…
Low Tier – Last year, we suggested McGillivray, and he nearly stole the show. This year, Matt’s ranked too highly, so we’re looking to send some FSS juju towards Barron Mamiya. Let’s see if those big, right-hand, reef-break metrics serve him as well as we think they will.
Fantasy Surf Sessions
The loser gets a prize too; 12 months of digital stoke through a Surfing Life subscription, just to take the sting away.
All you need to do is make sure your team is saved before the event starts.
Best of luck,