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Do ex-CT surfers or vaguely informed industry punters have a better chance at making accurate competitive surf predictions? Let's find out. Photo by WSL

How Accurate Were Our Pre-Cut Predictions?

Reflecting on the rookie-centric forecasts offered by CJ Hobgood, Stace Galbraith, Brett Simpson, and Mikey C.

Words by Holden Trnka
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Along with our usual event preview, we’ll have a Tahiti Betonline.ag predictions piece coming soon.

In terms of prediction, experts rarely perform better than dart-throwing chimps.

Luckily, here at Stab, we’ve got a number of dart-throwing chimps under employ.

Since the onset of the mid-year cleaving, we’ve begun each CT season with a set of forecasts surrounding how each rookie will fare under the big lights. Some of these predictive darts are lobbed by our in-house simians, while the rest are sourced from ex-CT surfers.

This year, CJ Hobgood, Brett Simpson, Mikey C, and Stace Galbraith laid their respective credentials on the line to make some loosely educated guesses at which freshmen would make The Cut.

Now, with Margaret River in the rearview, the exiled CT soldiers slapping Sydney closeouts, and Teahupo’o just eight days away, we reflect on how their predictions have aged. 

— — —

First guy over 100kg to win an event… ever? Photo by WSL

Cole Houshmand

Current Ranking: 8
Best Finish: 1st at Bells
Make The Cut?: Yep

After a pair of uninspiring results in Hawaii, the #1 Changas draft pick found his stride in Portugal, and continued his momentum to Bells, where he collected his first CT victory (and a Medina scalp). The resulting 10k points jumped him into single digit territory on the rankings. Not only did he make the cut, he looks poised to win Rookie Of The Year.

Mikey’s prediction (Wrong): “I love his surfing, I think he brings so much to the tour. However, I’m going to play the devil’s advocate. Everyone thinks he’s a shoe-in — I’ll say he won’t make the cut.”

Stace’s prediction (Correct): “Cole will requalify. I say 66 percent chance he requalifies.” 

CJ Hobgood’s prediction (Correct): “I’m a full Cole Houshmand super fan, full groupie. Only thing I don’t like about the dude is the turtle dye job, the hairdo. But I love his surfing. Man, if the judges go full Bobby Martinez and start gushing over his surfing, dropping 8’s for not doing too much, you’re gonna see this guy just go and go.

Brett Simpson’s prediction (Correct): “Not sure he really has a weakness, he’s by far the biggest fella on tour. The new destinations will maybe be trouble but he adapts pretty well to pretty much anything. I could see him having a big run at Bells on the backhand. I think he’ll make the cut with just the power and diversity in his surfing, good chance he’s your rookie of the year.”

— — —

“I will pretty much keep doing it until the funds say no. I feel like I’ve been putting in a lot of work to improve myself and improve my surfing, so I think at least if it doesn’t happen in these next couple of years, then I’ll be like, “Fuck, at least I gave it my all.” That’s probably another big reason that I’m over here in the Gold Coast. I’m giving myself 100% the best chance I can have of qualifying. I don’t want to be that guy that’s fucking sitting at the pub in 10 years or 20 years going, ‘I could’ve done that’. At least I know. Honestly, I believe my best years are still to come. Some people might not agree but they can get fucked. I reckon I’m coming into my prime with everything,” laughs Jacob. Photo by Beatriz Ryder/World Surf League

Jacob Willcox

Current Ranking: 28th
Best Finish: 9th at Sunset
Made The Cut?: Nope

Despite never losing in the Elimination Round, and showcasing a handful of shining moments through the season, the West Australian cusp-magnet simply couldn’t put together a breakthrough result. Four 17ths and a single 9th meant his farewell came at his hometown A-frame. 

Mikey’s prediction (Wrong):  “Since moving to the Gold Coast, it looks like his surfing has smoothed out so much. He’s a bit Callinan-esque to me. Which is the highest of compliments. He’s making it.”

Stace’s prediction (Wrong): “He just needs to be himself. He doesn’t need to go above and beyond to beat these top guys. He’s so naturally talented.”

CJ Hobgood’s prediction (Wrong): “I love Jacob, he’s got all the tools, he’s done a few laps, kind of non-rookie rookie. He’s kind of a big fella like Cole, there are similarities. The only thing is, for these WA guys, they’ve gotta have that travel mentality, being comfortable away for so long. But I think he does

Brett Simpson’s prediction (Mostly Wrong): “By far the most experienced of all the on coming rookies, has had lots of wildcards. I can see him upsetting some people at Pipe, haven’t seen much of him out there but the dude charges and definitely loves the tube. His surfing could bode well in Portugal where it’s solid tubes or big backhand hangers, which he has on lock. Must have a keeper out of the first two events to make the cut.”

— — —

“I made it a goal of mine to make this the year of the hardest work I’ve ever had. Working on heat strategy and then working with Troy Eckert as a mental coach — finding that helped me so much. Just getting on top of my mind has been the most helpful,” says Crosby. Photo by Aaron Hughes/World Surf League

Crosby Colapinto

Current Ranking: 12th
Best Finish: 3rd in Portugal
Made The Cut?: Yep

If Cros suffers from little sibling syndrome, he sure hasn’t shown much of it. As he gets his feet under him at the top level, poise under pressure, excellent waves nearly on demand, and reliable power surfing has characterized a solid few events. Here’s to a Tahitian Colapinto final to rival the Best Surfing Nate Lawrence Has Ever Seen. 

Mikey’s prediction (Correct): “I’ll say yes. He has everything he needs to do well at any of the first five events. I think he can easily make a quarter in any of those spots.”

Stace’s prediction (Correct): “He’s had enough experience for me, as much as a rookie can have at Pipeline and Sunset. He’s got a big frame and he knows how to ride the tube. We get really hung up on the cut on the men’s side, but history shows us it’s only two 9ths to make it. I definitely think Crosby has that in him.”

CJ Hobgood’s prediction (Wrong): “I’m gonna throw a little shade, just because there’s not a lot that stands out for me. I don’t know how the judges slot them into the storyline, I just don’t see the point of difference in their surfing. Fans have a real short space you can slide surfers into, and what is it for these guys? But I really hope they prove me wrong.”

Brett Simpson’s prediction (Correct): “The confidence is there but needs some early success in Hawaii to open up the floodgates, or he may start second guessing himself and that won’t lead to his best surfing. His surfing out at Sunset this season already looked very nice and I can see his long buttery swoops having much success in that event.”

— — —

Watch ‘One More’ by Eli Hanneman and Kalani Minihan here. Photo by Beatriz Ryder/World Surf League

Eli Hanneman

Current Ranking: 31st
Best Finish: 17th
Made The Cut?: Nope

For as remarkably gifted as Eli is, it was a surprise to see the kid from Maui unable to surpass a 17th. Chock it up to stature, headspace, or inexperience, but he’ll have to try again next year. Fortunately, it looks like he may get another chance, after a solid finish at the Narrabeen CS has left him sitting in 13th on the second tier tour. 

Mikey’s prediction (Wrong): “This is a really hard call. He’s one of the most technically talented surfers of his generation. Eli’s probably around my size — 5’5 or 5’6. But overall I’m gonna say yes.”

Stace’s prediction (Correct): “It’s tricky. Can I see three or four of the men shuffling out? The quality of the tour at the moment is really good. I just don’t see many changing out. It’s not five events for me, it comes down to one. If he’s to do it, it’s gotta be Sammy Pupo style — fifth at Pipeline and watch the roll continue from there. If he doesn’t come out of the gates at Pipeline, I worry if he’ll be able to pull it together. I guess it’s a no, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he comes out swinging.”

CJ Hobgood’s prediction (Correct): “Gonna contradict myself a little bit here, but Eli has a question mark. He’s somewhat of a freak, we all know that, and he does put a lot of pressure on himself. He needs to figure out how to draw on his Filipe Toledo, but be nothing like him. He needs to separate himself from Filipe, because if he shows the judges he’s a redux, he could get grilled. But if he shows up charging, being everything people wanted from Filipe, he could go compound return on investment. It’s a fine line, and he needs to figure it out. It could be, like whatever Filipe has on his boards or wetsuits, go the exact opposite. If Filipe’s doing these airs, do different ones. But I don’t know… “ 

Brett Simpson’s prediction (Wrong): “One of the most exciting of the rookies, he’s the smallest of them all physically but he sure packs a punch with his surfing. Isn’t scared of the big stuff and is top 5 in airs in my book. He’s put a lot of emphasis in the rail game the last few years and this will be his chance to match it up with the tour big boys. Have a feeling he comes outta the gates fast and gets a keeper result at the Pipeline.”

— — —

Will Kade overcome the bitter taste of initial defeat? Photo by Beatriz Ryder/World Surf League

Kade Matson

Current Ranking: 27th
Best Finish: 5th at Bells
Made The Cut?: Nope

When Kade marched to the quarters at Bells, it almost felt as though he surprised himself. The late surge put him within striking range at Margs, but he slipped through the cracks on the wrong side of a fairly judged buzzer beater. 

Mikey’s prediction (Correct): No

Stace’s prediction (Correct): “No, based on the experience from when I’ve seen Kade throughout the last couple of years around the North Shore and other locations. He’s just not as well-toured as some of these other kids. Nothing against his surfing. It’s just his seed and experience around the world might be his weaknesses. He deserved to be there without a doubt, but he’s coming in as the 32nd seed. It will be challenging, but if you’re surfing against those big dogs, what do you have to lose?”

CJ Hobgood’s prediction (Correct): No

Brett Simpson’s prediction (Wrong): “Probably the least known of all the rookies, but Kade is a confident kid, truly believes he can beat anyone and loves to rise to a big moment. Will it be easy for him? No. There will be some struggles, but I definitely see him having some success at places like Sunset, Bells possibly & Margs. Which bodes well for making the cut in my eyes.”

— — —

“I’m from San Clemente. I live right on the beach at the Riviera and I started surfing because my brother and Dad did it. Dad works as a web developer, Mom works in the medical industry as a Physician’s assistant. I played literally every single sport you could think of as a kid. Tennis, soccer, softball etc. Mom probably wanted me to be a tennis player, but I don’t really like running so I got over that pretty quickly. Last year was my second year on the Challenger and I ended up winning an event and qualifying pretty quickly. ” Photo by Aaron Hughes/World Surf League

Sawyer Lindblad

Current Ranking: 10th
Best Finish: 2nd at Margs
Made The Cut?: Barely!

From making her first ever backside tube in the midst of the Pipe contest to a last ditch, heroic second place at Margaret River, the smiling screwfoot from San Clemente has come a long way in just five events. Oh, and since Alyssa is out, Sawyer is officially ROTY.

Mikey’s prediction (Wrong): “It’s a no from me, but she’ll be back (soon).”

Stace’s prediction (Wrong): “I’ll say no based on how hard it is to requalify. The talent on the women’s side is so good. It’s so, so hectic to get a spot in the top 10. But she’ll ruffle some feathers along the way.”

CJ Hobgood’s prediction (Wrong): “Sawyer & Alyssa are the beneficiaries of that crew rallying together to achieve things. You can see they’re so used to there being a lot of rights on tour, and they’ve put in the work. Their backhands are so good, so tight. They’re maybe a little way off Caroline as the standard, but when have you seen a group of women whose backhands you can just like take notes on, like “I need to do that.” It’s so rad. If they bring it in the barrels, man, that’s a good combination. Sawyer is still improving, it might be tough for her this season.” 

Brett Simpson’s prediction (Correct): “Her backhand is her biggest weapon but her forehand is no slouch either. She’s gonna need to get through these first two Hawaiian events, the bigger stuff is her weakness at the moment. I think the middle of the season will open up for her, Bells could be a big result for her, and at a crucial time before the cut.”

— — —

With back to back CS fifth place finishes, we have little doubt Alyssa will return to her rightful place on the CT. Photo by Aaron Hughes/World Surf League

Alyssa Spencer

Current Ranking: 16th
Best Finish: 9th
Made The Cut?: Nope

Alyssa’s failure to accumulate a meaningful result was certainly not for lack of talent. Her backhand is World Class and we’d be surprised to not see her on tour again next year. 

Mikey’s prediction (Wrong):  “I think she’ll make the cut.”

Stace’s prediction (Wrong): I’ll say yes because I think she could sneak a result at Pipeline.“

CJ Hobgood’s prediction (Wrong):  “Yes”

Brett Simpson’s prediction (Correct): ““After several seasons battling, it’s great to see Alyssa crack the code. She has impeccable timing in her backhand and has been putting in the time at learning the barrel. I think she lacks a little explosiveness at times, which you need on tour to beat those top seeds. I could see her getting a result at somewhere like Bells, but I think she might be hard pressed to make the cut this season.”

— — —

Final Tally

Mikey C: 2/7
Stace: 4/7
CJ Hobgood: 3/7
Brett Simpson: 5/7

Did the experts outshine the apes? Kinda. 

Brett’s clerical knowledge served him best, with far and away the most precise prediction being his comments about Cole going on a Bells tear.

Mikey C, for all of his heat-by-heat gambling know how, ended up on the other end of the spectrum. 

To make your own predictions on the Men’s Rookie Of The Year and the World Champions, head on over to Betonline.ag.

For reference, here’s Mikey C’s Pre- Season picks (not that his above predictions should inspire too much confidence.)

Preseason bets

$375 on Seth Moniz to make the cut at -150 to win $250
$100 on JJF to make top 5 at -105 to win $95
$100 on Ethan Ewing to make top 5 at -125 to win $80
$625 on Gabriel Medina to make top 5 at -250 to win $250
$100 on Griffin Colapinto to make top 5 at -105 to win $95
$250 on Molly Picklum to make top 5 at -135 to win $185
$100 on Caroline Marks to make top 5 at -135 to win $74
$250 on Caity Simmers to make top 5 at -135 to win $185
$100 on Crosby Colapinto to win ROTY at +450 to win $450
$100 on Jacob Willcox to win ROTY at +350 to win $350
$100 on Molly Picklum to win WT at +700 to win $700
$100 on Caity Simmers to win WT at +600 to win $600
$500 on Filipe Toledo to win WT at +500 to win $2,500
$200 on Ethan Ewing to win WT at +600 to win $1200 

Make your picks here

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