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Close READER POLL 2017
We promise this won't (really) hurt.

Wanna win a new surfboard? We have a custom Chilli ‘Black Vulture’ to gift (plus all the trim you’d expect from a premium dealer). To be in the running, just answer a few questions for us. It won’t take long.

Why Neither Kelly Slater Nor John Florence Will Win Snapper

Maybe it's waiting an extra week for the tour to start but I'm more excited for the season to kick off than I have ever been. The WSL pushed the event back a week later this year, in an attempt to better their chance for good surf, and due to Murphy’s Law, during the window of the previous years, it was pumping. It seems the WSL can’t catch a break. Poor saps. They’ll be streaming live on Facebook, though; if that excites you… Anyway, here are my picks for the kick-off of the 2016 season. The cow is ripe, time to slaughter!

MIck Snap

How vulnerable must the bottom seeds of the tour feel when Mick decides to surf five events in 2016 and still ends up in the top 20?

Mick Fanning. 
John Florence recently admitted to Stab that his favourite surfers to watch are Dane Reynolds and the way Mick surfs heats. Mick would not have committed to this year if he didn't have the intention to win another title; he’s had his fun, now his mind’s returned to the competitive hammer. His technique and approach to heats, combined with his knowledge of the wave and finesse is too precise not to fare well in this event. Also, because he’s coming in at the 18 seed, he’ll have the opportunity to drop a few big names in the early rounds.


Jordy 4

If Jordy settled anything with his Trestles win, it's the big man can move plenty of water in minimal, gutless surf. Probably the outcome of the (almost) always waist high swell on tap in South Orange County.

Jordy Smith.
Jordy's spent more time in the water this offseason than previous years. Coming in as world number two, he's excited to compete and arrived in Oz early. His boards are dialled, one being the board that put him atop the Lowers' podium and more impressively smashed Filipe Toledo without going above the lip. I think we'll see the best competitive surfing out of Jordy this year since 2010 when he finished second behind Kelly.



Filly appeared unstoppable at Snapper last year until his injury in the semi-finals that kept him out of the water for the remainder of the Australian leg, and opened the port for Wilko's staggering start of the season.

Filipe Toledo.
Filipe's the best surfer if the waves are in the waist-to-chest high range, and the most exciting. I think his biggest challenge will be not boring the judges with above-the-lip surfing, however, in the recent years, his rail's been gradually scraping the sharpening stone. He just needs to surf with pace. The young father also has an extra mouth to feed, and nothing puts a fire beneath a man in his early 20’s like a newborn child.



After barely hanging onto qualification last year, Mr Freestone has a long ways to go to reach his competitive potential. 

Jack Freestone. 
Jack had a shocker his first year on tour, and because of it, he’ll come into 2017 with fists clenched, ready to strike. During Jordy's rookie year, he barely managed to requalify, and the following year he placed second. Jack is a top 10 surfer, but I think he suffers from the same tour guy/freesurfer problem as Jules. In his freesurfs he's going for big airs and clips rather than riding every wave like Mick does, to maximise a score. So when it comes down to competing, he misses sections and opportunities.


Jules Snapper Contest

The recently married heartthrob from the Sunshine Coast will be looking to better his round two exit of 2016. Photo: WSL/Cestari

Julian Wilson. 
For Jules, it's just a game of odds. Surely he'll win soon; it's been two full years. His latest edit was incredible and will hearten the harshest critic of his ability and slick style. Losing to lower calibre surfers, and watching them place better on a consistent basis isn't easy, and I don't think Jules can handle much more of it. Last year I said I didn't think Julian's surfing suits the speed of the wave at Snapper but with the conditions looking average, he could catch a break here. Hopefully, he starts off strong and rolls it into the rest of the year.


Ethan Ewing Tour Picks

How about that backhand control. Sure, won't do much good at Snapper, but this kid is very, very rounded. Photo: WSL/Ethan Smith

Best rookie result: Ethan Ewing.
Ethan is like a Bede Durbidge or Ace Buchan with the "wow" factor of Jordy or Julian. He's got the heat strategy and calculated approach eminent of Bede and Ace but also the flair – need I remind you of the constant references to AI? I don't think Ethan will need a year on tour before he finds his feet, he'll jump right in and get it done. At a brisk 18 years, he's just going to get better and stronger throughout the year.



We were going to use this space for a photo of Kelly or John at Snapper last year, but instead came across Kelly and his gal, Kalani Miller, in a black suit and Slater Designs hat. We'll just leave this here. 

Why no Kelly or John? 
Well, the forecast sucks, and with a weak forecast, Kelly loses interest. Hopefully, he leaves that Banana board at home. As for John, has a world champ ever won the first event following their title? Might need to ask Joe Turpel that fact but I don't think so. Also with all eyes on John, I don't predict a win in his future. A good result, maybe. But after winning everything a surfer could dream of in 2016, I wonder where his motivation lies.

Also: Kelly Slater went to the Justin Bieber concert in Brisbane last night. Isn't that something.

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