Sunset 2023 - Fantasy Preview
Last updated February 11, 2023 by Balyn McDonald
Usually, the days after a Pipe final are filled with stories of heroics, striking images of overhead waves, and newfound hyperbole regarding the healthy state of competitive surfing. This year, we’re just going to quietly make our way up the Kamehameha Hwy to take refuge in the Hurley Sunset Pro. I’m stoked for Jack and Carissa, and impressed by Tyler, John, Joao, Leo and Caio, but I’m also glad for the promise a quick turn-around.
Let’s fantasy the shit out of this event, already.
Now that Sunset has been promoted from QS/Triple Crown staple back to championship jewel, it leaves a 19-year gap in CT data behind. Other than Slater, there’s nobody on tour with relevant CT metrics. This makes the ‘event’ data a little dicey, unfortunately. While a different beast, it’s worthwhile venturing a bit deeper to look at equivalent wave metrics (size, direction, reef-bottom) as well as recent QS history to paint a more detailed picture.
As for the wave itself, we’ll once again hand over to the majesty of Mr Encyclopedia of Surf himself, Matt Warshaw:
A vast wave field and endlessly shifting peaks mean that surfers have to paddle almost constantly to get into takeoff position, and often get caught inside; the tradewinds blow hard on this particular stretch of coast and hit Sunset side-offshore, which can make the take-off even more difficult. Crowds are also a problem. Few breaks in the world put a greater demand on a surfer’s fitness, as well as his strategic and tactical know-how, and even the world’s best often leave the water in boiling frustration. But the classic Sunset ride is long and exhilarating, as the wave whorls and explodes, then flattens and tilts back up, sometimes running through four or five distinct stages as it moves across the reef. “It’s fabulously imperfect,” San Francisco sportswriter Bruce Jenkins once noted. “It can give you the ride of your life, but you’ve got to earn it.”eos.surf
The WSL don’t have many guides for Sunset along the lines of their ‘Breakdown’ or ‘Vision’ series, but we did find an old Mechanics of Sunset Beach, and they do have a handy overview of the event here.
For the purposes of our data sets, we run Sunset as a right-hand reef break with a 6-8′ average. So watch the forecast and pick your teams accordingly.
Once again, the WSL are in no hurry to post an official forecast. Luckily, there’s more than one source. Alternative forecasts tell us that the opening day will start small, but a building overnight swell could provide a few days of overhead surf and favourable winds from Monday the 13th. Nothing crazy, but enough to keep surfers honest and fans interested (I’m look at you, Pipe).
Injuries / Wildcards
Pipe injury withdrawals Ramzi Boukaim, Johanne Defay and Sophie McCullock won’t be back until Portugal at the earliest, and will be replaced by Carlos Munoz, Teresa Bonvalot, and Luana Silva (instead of Alyssa Spencer), respectfully.
Jadson Andre will also be out, replaced by former CT surfer and one-hit-wonder, Keanu Asing (no disrespect; Kolohe is still chasing his…).
Wildcards for the event will be 2012 World Junior Champ, Zoe McDougall, as well as Hawaiian waterman Kai Lenny and junior phenom Eli Hanneman.
The men’s and women’s draws are as follows:
Sunset MetricsAll data drawn from the 2013-2022 seasons.
Empty values denote no data available.
Key: Win %= percentage of heats won for given criteria
AHS = average heat score for given criteria
Reef= metrics for events surfed at reef breaks
6-8'= metrics for heats when waves were deemed to be in the 6-8' range
Click the green + symbol to show these data sets
|Surfer Name||Career Win %||Career AHS||SUN Avg Place||SUN Win %||SUN AHS||Right win %||Right hand AHS||Reef win %||Reef AHS||6-8' win%||6-8' AHS|
|John John Florence||67.89||14.63||17||50.00||13.05||65.63||15.11||71.54||15.04||75.95||15.10|
Pick ’em – put these surfers on your fantasy teams
Jack Robinson – a wave that not only matches some of the heavy-water breaks of his home town, but has also seen him succeed before on both CT (5th last year) and QS (he won in 2019). He’s got momentum, a great seeding, and a ton of self-belief. Even without his great metrics, he’d still be a worthy selection.
Ezekiel Lau – Zeke’s a 2018 Vans World Cup winner and always looks comfortable at Sunset. It seems like, every year Zeke’s on tour, we warn that he isn’t great at Pipe, but we recommend him for Sunset. Last year he got 17th at Pipe, followed by a 5th at Sunset. This year, he got a 17th at Pipe…
John John Florence – Could John’s reputation at Sunset ever match that of Pipe? Possibly. He tops out virtually every relevant metric except actually making it to the pointy end of the contest last year (defeated by Jake Marshall, I might add). John could win this on a bad day.
Kanoa Igarashi – Kanoa got 2nd here last year, and he’s pretty cheap after a meager 17th at Pipe. Kanoa probably won’t be on a lot of teams, so he makes for a handy darkhorse.
Caio Ibelli / Joao Chianca – They’re top seeds, so you won’t have both, but these two could easily pull a rabbit from a hat; they’re so hot right now.
Flick ’em – select with caution
Goofy-footers – don’t get me wrong; I’m a right-foot-forward man myself, but history is against us beautiful weirdos when it comes to Sunset. Look at the draw and tell me who’s going to replicate Uncle Derek and Tom Carroll’s efforts to bring back the glory days of goofy dominance? Gabe? Maybe. I just don’t see it happening against the likes of John, Jack, Ethan, et al.
Kelly Slater – The only surfer in the draw who has surfed Sunset as a CT event more than once. Unfortunately, he hasn’t bested a 5th place at the event, and has a 25% win ratio.
Kai Lenny – one of the greatest big-wave innovators of his generation. Hasn’t really set the standard contest format on fire. I think there’s better ‘cheap’ options elsewhere…
Kolohe Andino – Has Brother got the chops to surf macking Sunset with the best in the world? You better believe it. Has he demonstrated even a sliver of confidence since he last made a final in 2019? No.
Here’s the thing about data-driven fantasy selections: they almost always guarantee you a safe, bankable score. What they don’t earn you is a winning score, a score that risks rising above the pack with an against-the odds darkhorse. For that, you need to back yourself with a solid sleeper pick.
Filipe Toledo – Filipe doesn’t suck as bad as you think in waves of consequence. He’s won Margies, won Haveiva, hell, he even got a 2nd at GLand. Last year’s 9th at Sunset was a loss to Ethan Ewing, who scored 18.24 to Filipe’s 16.5. Filipe isn’t a bad contrarian option for Sunset.
Samuel Pupo – Sammy was the surprise package from the 2022 rookie class. He had a great season and stepped up at a variety of events and wave types. It’s hard to paint a picture of Pupo as a surfer with specialised skills that match Sunset, but what he has shown is a lot of self-belief and determination against tough opponents. I think he screams darkhorse.
Matthew McGillivray – did many people get burned by taking a punt on Matty at Pipe? I think that the determination (to qualify), as well as the balls-to-the-wall surfing shown at Margies last year should be more than enough to suggest he can shrug off his dirty turd and make something happen at this event.
Best of luck!