Since the Ancient Greeks first slapped down a wager on who could throw their big heavy disk the furthest, betting on virtually every sport known to man has become prolific.
Surfing, however, presents a rare exception.
For starters, there are very few websites in Europe that will allow you to do it. But more pertinently, surf fans interest in using the knowledge gathered over countless nocturnal hours in front of the WSL webcast has generally been confined to the make-believe world of fantasy surf leagues. And that’s great.
However, if you do fancy turning some of that otherwise useless, but doubtlessly sage, surfing wisdom into a bit of cold hard currency, there are places and ways to make that happen.
Before we get into it though, we’d like to remind you of the age-old and ever-so-true adage that the house always wins. A little Google searched revealed the founder of the website where I do my surf betting took home a record-breaking £265 million annual salary in 2017. That means, by the time the buzzer sounds after each and every 30-minute WSL heat, she’s made another £14.5k. These people are experts in parting you with your hard-earned cash and that ain’t about to change because you know Slater’s surfing with a gammy rib and their algorithms don’t.
That said, there are a few things you can do to give yourself an edge. Here are some hot tips to help you out…
Look at past stats.
There’s a very handy website called Surf-stats.com – ideal for those looking to lay bets backed by the data. Ahead of each event the site serves up a table that allows you to rank the surfers using all manner of metrics. The pre-J-Bay version, for example, offers columns featuring average heat score and win percentage on point breaks, on right-handers and in all different size conditions. You can organise surfers by past performance at the break, or simply sequence them using Surf Stats’ own algorithm based ranking, which crunches the data for you.
Obviously, the bookies have access to this historic data too and the odds will reflect, but it’s still a nice supplement to gut instinct and hard-won intuition.
Look at form.
There’s a reason the commentators blather on endlessly about momentum in competition. Generally, when someone’s looking good early on, they carry that performance through to the pointy end. We had a look and in almost all the events so far this year, the top heat scorer in round one has made it to the quarters or beyond.
There are of course exceptions, but when Kanoa won his round 3 heat at J-Bay with the highest heat total of the day, you’d have been mad not to slap a fiver on him taking out Peterson Crisanto the following day in the exact same conditions.
Watch the heat analyzer, read the punditry, and pick surfers based on how shit hot they’re looking in the current event above almost all else.
Look at who the audience picked
The WSL website allows you to pick a winner for each heat- and once you’ve done so, see who other fans have gone for too.
The ‘wisdom of the crowd’ theory suggests that pooling and averaging the knowledge of lots of people is often the best way to guess an outcome and so far at J Bay this year, the fans have picked the heat winner correctly 65% of the time. Again, we’re pretty sure the odds algorithm will have access to that data, but it’s definitely worth at least taking a look at what the crowd reckon before you put your bet down.
Look at the forecast
This is a big one. Right now, the market is already open for the upcoming quarter-final heats despite the fact the bookies have no way of knowing when it’ll run, or what the conditions will look like. Dig deep into the forecast in a way their algorithms can’t. Will the swell direction mean faster runners, giving the edge to the regular footers? Will the wind make aerials prominent or impossible? Figure out the most likely finals-day conditions and then combine that with the data from surf-stats to get an idea of who traditionally does better in those waves.
Play big accas or bet on a winner
While the odds for picking the winner of any given heat often yield minuscule returns (like 50p back if you put a quid on Medina to beat Owen in quarter-final one), you can increase your earning potential by creating accumulators, or betting on longer odds markets like outright winner or top finisher from a certain nation.
These latter markets only stay open up until the buzzer goes on the first heat of the day, but they’re well worth having a dig around in during the event downtime. Right now, for example, two-time event winner Filipe Toledo is still only on 3/1 to take victory, while a quid on Sea Bass would see you getting £20 back if he can pull a rabbit out the hat.
Now, you’re a sensible grown adult, so we don’t need to tell you to only bet what you can afford to lose and stop when you find yourself pawning your new JS because you reckon you’re definitely going to double your money anyway. Like the sport you’re watching, it’s all just ‘sposed to a bit of fun.