Tahiti Fantasy Preview
Last updated August 9, 2022 by Balyn McDonald
With J-Bay a distant memory, and the frothy taste of Huntington still souring our collective mouths, it’s time to rinse and spit with a healthy dose of Teahupo’o.
But before we kick off the event preview, it’s only fitting that we take a moment to put the broader consequences of the final event of the regular season into context. As Parko reminds us, at Teahupo’o “there is nowhere to hide and nowhere to run”.
Men’s Finals Scenarios
Before the WSL debuted its finals model, Pipe’s season closer provided endless conjectural fodder for surf writers: qualification scenarios, Triple Crown points, world title possibilities, rookie glory, and, of course, career carnage. This time round, the mid-year cut and Challenger Series have stolen much of the thunder, with the finals providing the last nail in the coffin.
So, with top 5 seeding the only remaining point of interest, let’s look at the possibilities:
Ibelli has the honour of being the top-ranked surfer with absolutely no chance of making it to Trestles. So, well done and all Caio, but you’re virtually irrelevant from this point.
At the other end, Filipe and Jack are already locked in for Lowers. The only drama for the big dogs is the battle for top seed. A position change would require a 2nd place from Jack if Filipe gets 17th, or a win from Jack if Toledo makes one heat. The swell modelling will probably have more influence on this outcome than any other data set I can muster, to be fair.
From there, it gets a little more interesting.
John would have been a solid chance for a finals tilt if he’d have been 100%, but he’s instead finding himself in the wild, blue Pacific, looking for a new knee. Maybe he’ll make a late cameo; dropping anchor just wide of the reef during the early heats to catch the sets that Filipe leaves alone. I hope so.
Griff really needs to make a heat or two to keep the wolves at bay, but only really needs to worry about Kanoa and *maybe* Callum if he loses before the quarters. Most of the others (Connor and the Pupo bros) need to win the whole event, while Griff bombs, to even have a whiff.
These are the required results from the big players if they want to take matters into their own hands:
- Ethan – 5th
- Italo – 3rd
- Griffin – 1st
Of course, it’s a dynamic beast that constantly evolves with every elimination.
I can’t believe we’re about to give out a free trip to the Mentawais. I’m even more amazed that, despite designing, managing and analysing my own fantasy game, I’m barely in the running to win. So, it’s with some reluctance that I cast an eye over who’s in the running for the ultimate fantasy season prize.
Even if fantasy leaders simosan and Kalani Ball manage to completely tank at Chopes, they are still guaranteed 9975 points so long as they select a team and nominate their multipliers. The average winning fantasy score this season stands at a touch over 43798 points, but the maximum possible total is 53366. That would
Plus, there is still the unknown element of ‘throw-away’ scores. For this season, This means that, davesteelemates, ROUGH CUT v1, Barra Ling and SuddCat et al need less of a Samuel Pupo-esque miracle than you might think to finish on top. In fact, they could make even greater ground if they are nursing a shocker within their season total. They just need to pick the right multipliers, and silently pray for some poor results from the leaders.
I’ll be watching with green-eyed interest to see who gets the trip.
Now, back to the event preview…
If J-Bay is the most respected wave on tour in terms of overall wave quality, then Teahupo’o has to be the most respected out of raw fear. Surfline’s slightly dated but detailed ‘Mechanics of Teahupo’o’ gives an overview as to the background and physics of the break, and five-times event winner Kelly also weighs in on the analysis with his ‘vision’ series. Or you could just watch some footage of multiple 10s from years past.
For those uninterested in opening video tabs, here are the basics:
Teahupo’o’s unique super-deep-to-super-shallow bathymetry makes for a short, intense left-hand reef-break that can range from small and playful to career defining. Barrels are definitely the main scoring option, which is good because most surfers would be too fearful to attempt anything but a white-knuckle grab-rail straight to the channel when it’s firing. There is the potential to throw down manoeuvres when the swell backs off, but that’s not we’re watching for and the WSL know it. Importantly, and unlike the former tour event at Fiji, locals and trials winners have traditionally done OK out here. Irrespective of the size, Tahiti rewards surfers with absolute commitment, self-belief, and, of course, a solid left-hand barrel game.
For the purposes of our event metrics, we will be running averages in left-hand reef breaks that offer waves in 6-8′ range, which is based on the average conditions during previous years. It’s worth noting that, at this stage, the forecast looks smaller than average. This could impact surfer metrics and results.
The official forecast from the WSL doesn’t look amazing, but there’s hope for the back-end of the contest window:
· Surf will be slow through first-half of event window while offshore ENE trade winds prevail
· Surf looking to ramp up over second-half of event window, possibly going solid 17th-19th
· Conditions suspect second-half of window, but decent potential to see periods with favorable wind
Surfers OUT :
John John Florence – This is what I wrote for the event last time it ran in 2019: arguably the greatest surfer in the world, John’s absence is always a big loss. He has undergone surgery for his ACL injury, and is already back in the water (albeit paddling). Swap the word ‘paddling’ for sailing, and you’d be bang-on for 2022.
Gabriel Medina – while I’m cutting and pasting, I may as well use John’s blurb for Gabe as well. Medina seems to be recovering well, but won’t risk his knee since he’s not in finals contention.
Kolohe Andino – crashed out early at the US Open, trashed his board, then decided to skip the final event to get his ear drilled for exostoses (reportedly). Maybe he saw the forecast and decided it wasn’t worth it.
Yago Dora – replacing Gabe after missing his chance to surf the first half of the tour through injury and then surfing the house down at J-Bay.
Nathan Hedge – takes Kolohe’s spot as a sponsor wildcard (he is an ‘ambassador’ for OuterKnown). Hasn’t been on tour since 2014, but loves a meaty left.
Michel Bourez – the Spartan fell off tour in 2021 after a string of 17ths. He had knee surgery shortly after, and will make his first tour appearance since Mexico a year ago.
Kauli Vaast – the Tahitian prodigy won the trials and will be hungry to throw a cat among the finals-bound pigeons.
Vahine Fierro – another young local charger who will be well-placed to upset a few tour regulars in the women’s draw.
Win %= percentage of heats won for given criteria
AHS = average heat score for given criteria
Reef= metrics for events surfed at reef breaks
Left = metrics for events surfed at contest breaks with left-hander waves
6-8'= metrics for heats when waves were deemed to be in the 6-8' range
TAH - metrics for events surfed at Teahupo'o
|Surfer Name||Season Win %||Season AHS||Left win %||Left hand AHS||Reef win %||Reef AHS||6-8' win%||6-8' AHS||TAH Avg Place||TAH Win %||TAH AHS|
Kelly Slater – the 2022 season peaked quite early for the GOAT, with a Pipe win being one of the few highlights on an otherwise mediocre year. However, things look promising for a redeeming bookend, so long as some swell arrives. Kelly’s data for this event, and big, left-hand reefs in general, along with the absence of John and Gabe, paint a fairly hopeful picture for Slats.
Jack Robinson – this is Jack’s first event at Tahiti, surprisingly. His reef, left-hand and 6’+ data, as well as his broader anecdotal reputation, leave him a fairly obvious selection.
Seth Moniz – Seth’s had a pretty average finish to the year, with injuries and last-place finishes dotting his post-Hawaiian leg. His 3rd place finish at this event in 2019 looks promising, but approach with caution.
Nathan Hedge – probably a popular sentimental pick for players who remember his salad days on tour, but beneath the Hog’s bristling reputation, there lurks a hungry competitor who doesn’t mind a few reef slabs himself. He has a career heat win percent of 54.55%.
Miguel Pupo – Miggy has had a break-out year, no doubt, but his data for Tahiti is poor. Like, a win % of 7.69 poor. If the swell fails to materialise, though, I could eat my words.
Michel Bourez – let’s not pretend he can’t charge out here; he can and does. That doesn’t mean he’ll get the conditions he needs, nor perform well enough to recommend over other cheap options. His career heat win percentage at this event is a lowly 30%.
Nat Young – I was surprised by Nat’s data for this event. Maybe look elsewhere.
Filipe Toledo – I saved it until last because it seems too obvious, but if the Pacific provides any juice, Filipe could follow tradition and go to water.
Here’s the thing about data-driven fantasy selections: they almost always guarantee you a ‘safe’ score, i.e., they usually stop you from sucking completely. What they don’t earn you is a winning score, a score that can only be gained through defying the popular choices with an against-the odds Sleeper. Here are some options that we have our eyes on:
This is pure gut, as his metrics are surprisingly poor, but Griffin has everything he needs to charge his way through a few heats out here.
Connor O’Leary is a solid option, but the WSL fan picks have him as a popular selection for his heat, so maybe not as a contrary pick. A true sleeper could be Matt MacGillivray. We’ve seen that there isn’t a situation that Matt won’t throw himself headlong towards this year; why would Tahiti be any different?
The wildcards are hard to go past, but they could prove popular for this event. Same with Yago. We’re going for some nice-guys-finish-first optimism with a Jaddy semi-final finish.
Fantasy Surf Sessions
As usual, we’ll be offering prizes for this event; the Bells fantasy champion wins a 12-month subscription to fuel.tv, as well as 12 months access to Holistica‘s awesome surf training programs. 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 (don’t forget your multipliers) before the event starts.
Best of luck,