Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Surf's Up for New Online Fantasy League ; Pro Tour Spawns Web Site Catering to Fans Looking for Onshore Competition

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Surf's Up for New Online Fantasy League ; Pro Tour Spawns Web Site Catering to Fans Looking for Onshore Competition

Article excerpt

With an estimated 35 million Americans playing fantasy sports in the United States, surfers have followed the trend to create online competition.

One of the most surprising aspects of fantasy surfing is that there really is such a thing.

With an estimated 35 million playing fantasy sports in the United States alone, surfers have followed the trend to create online competition. Yes, wet-suit-clad surfers go onshore after surf sessions to analyze statistics for their fantasy surfing teams.

Vanguard surfers and 9-to-5 professionals have found their fantasy surf guru in the former professional surfer Shea Lopez, who writes a column for Surfer magazine. Lopez first looks to the swell forecast and thinks back on his 11 years of competing professionally in the Association of Surfing Professionals World Championship Tour.

"I'll think, 'I remember surfing against Taj Burrow here,' or 'I remember Kelly Slater at Pipeline' and go from there," he said.

His column is meant to be enjoyed on its own, of course, but it also has another purpose: helping surfing fans decide whom to put on their teams in the magazine's Fantasy Surfer game. Lopez is the official Fantasy Surfer writer, an essential component of the surfing world's answer to fantasy games in other sports like football, baseball and soccer.

In 2003, Surfer magazine employees were competing in fantasy football, said Ray Bergman, the manager of Fantasy Surfer. He said the co-workers asked one another, "Why don't we try and make this into something we could do for surfing?"

Bergman and his colleagues started building what would soon become Fantasy Surfer. "It was just a couple buddies in the office and it just steamrolled from there," Bergman said. "Before the end of the second year, we had a couple thousand people playing."

He estimates that more than 30,000 active players form teams that are on the site during the March-to-December season of the Association of Surfing Professionals World Championship Tour, which traverses the globe to chase the best waves in Australia, Fiji, Hawaii and Indonesia, among other destinations.

In Fantasy Surfer, players build a team of surfers and try to accumulate the highest point total for each A.S.P. contest. Fantasy Surfer is a free game, Bergman said, because "we try and keep it true to that surfing culture."

"It's just one of those things that we wanted to keep authentic and to our hard-core demographic," he said. "We're trying to keep it free so more people can enjoy and we can stoke more people out."

Players are allocated a $50 million salary cap to buy and trade as many as eight surfers for their teams in hopes that their cumulative scores from each event will propel them to the top prize, a trip to Hawaii with a day of free surf equipment rentals.

A majority of participants are from the United States and Australia, and a growing number of users are from South Africa and Europe, Bergman said. …

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