Day One Of The J-Bay Open Reminds Us Why Everyone But Gabs Medina Voted To Keep It On Tour
Julian Wilson finally demonstrates why he should be in the top five every year.
God bless the world’s best surfers for manning up and returning to J-Bay. This is a stop the world tour needs and the commish Kieren Perrow made a brilliant call in milking the day of competition from sun up till sun down.
The opening heat featured the man “who was always coming back” and nobody can stop talking about: Mick Fanning. He was the last competitive surfer in the water last year and first back in the water for the event this year and Mick Fanning fit the J-Bay wall as well as ever. And, let’s try not to bring up the S word again. From media point of view, 12 months ago was surfing’s 9/11. Surfing was on the world stage like never before and our golden boy was safe. And every surf media site from Stab to Surfer experienced their biggest ever days of web traffic as the mainstream poured in for the inside scoop. But, whatevs, Mick surfed great after hurting his ankle earlier in the week.
“It’s been a big week actually,” Mick told the WSL. “I got here early but then hurt my ankle so had to sit on the sidelines and watch the amazing waves go through. The medical staff have worked wonders and I’ve got it taped up. I feel good when I’m up and riding and each day my ankle gets better and better. It’s great to get back out there.”
There was a lot of talk about Conner being a threat after his performance in last year’s Wildfire web edit but that’s the difference between the young guns and the big boys: They can pull in 35 minutes what it can take the everyman pro a week to collect in digital performance. Mick never looked fazed and took it easily. Also, big shoutout to the WSL for their coverage. It wasn’t too theatrical but held enough drama to finally put the attack to bed. That’s no easy feat.
Julian Wilson in round one was finally surfing at his skill level and reminded us why he should be a top five surfer every year. He put up the highest heat total with two nine point rides. “It’s so nice out there today, there’s plenty of swell on the opening day and it’s incredible to be back,” said Jules. “It’s one of the best heats I’ve had all year and the conditions are really nice. I’m just enjoying the waves here and it feels good to have a strong heat.”
The man with the yellow jacket, Matty Wilko, along with Mr John Florence was knocked into round two elimination, where they stacked the chips back together and stayed alive. Rookie, Kanoa Igarashi, with a few long tunnels dropped JJF, but only after John opened with one of the best tubes of the day. “The first time I came to J-Bay I think I was 12 or 13-years old,” said John. “I’ve been coming here every year since. This is one of my favourite places in the world. Going into round two is always pretty stressful, but I am stoked because the waves are firing right now. It is a little less windy than it was this morning and I am excited that there are waves. It is fun to get some nice, open-faced waves.”
Although Gabs (and Jadson Andre) voted against the return to J-Bay for fear of being mauled, his surfing was un-haltered. He was in top form, stayed busy and with the best backhand snap on tour finished his heat with a 17.27 and left Dusty Payne and Alex Ribeiro combo’d. “I like J-Bay. It is a tricky wave, but at the same time it is good,” said Gabby. “I found a good board and tried to go for the set waves. After Fiji I have not been surfing and that was my second surf, so it feels good to surf well and make the heat.”
Jordy Smith and J-Bay are pure romance. The gent’s won twice here and his powerful surfing and fine flow are colour compliments to the wave. Despite Wiggolly Dantas racking up a near-perfect 9.27, Jordy advanced to round three with two eights. “You really have to surf out of your skin at J-Bay to get good scores,” he said. “It was a great heat and there were lot of opportunities. Last year I didn’t really get the opportunity to surf my best so it feels good to be back. It’s incredible to be home and have the crowd behind me. Every time you do a big turn you hear the crowd erupt and it feels great – it’s good to be home.”
When the waves are of “dream tour” calibre, 11x World Champ, Kelly Slater is still one of the most difficult to beat. After a good run in Fiji it’s lovely to see the king return to shape. Today could have been a difficult one against Filipe and Banting in peeling rights. He took the win with the second lowest winning heat score of the round. “Jeffreys Bay is so special because there aren’t many pointbreaks that barrel like here,” said Slater. “In that heat, I was just trying to find anything to give me a score. I did have a couple of good waves early, but it is tough out there with the bump on the face and the high wind gusts. I probably could have maximized a couple of other waves earlier in the heat and not put the stress on myself. I am super happy to win that heat and have another day to get acclimated and used to my boards and the waves.”
J-Bay Open Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Mick Fanning 13.67, Alejo Muniz 10.80, Conner Coffin 9.97
Heat 2: Italo Ferreira 13.33, Miguel Pupo 12.06, Ryan Callinan 8.43
Heat 3: Kanoa Igarashi 15.64, John John Florence 13.24, Keanu Asing 12.60
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza 14.76, Kai Otton 10.80, Josh Kerr 7.00
Heat 5: Gabriel Medina 17.27, Dusty Payne 12.77, Alex Ribeiro 12.27
Heat 6: Davey Cathels 11.33, Matt Wilkinson 10.33, Steven Sawyer 7.43
Heat 7: Kelly Slater 12.26, Filipe Toledo 12.00, Matt Banting 9.43
Heat 8: Kolohe Andino 14.16, Jadson Andre 12.66, Adrian Buchan 12.50
Heat 9: Jordy Smith 16.43, Wiggolly Dantas 15.10, Adam Melling 9.40
Heat 10: Caio Ibelli 15.26, Joel Parkinson 13.60, Jeremy Flores 12.90
Heat 11: Julian Wilson 18.77, Jack Freestone 10.17, Nat Young 7.50
Heat 12: Sebastian Zietz 17.90, Michel Bourez 9.90, Stuart Kennedy 9.74
J-Bay Open Round Two Results:
Heat 1: Matt Wilkinson 8.47 def. Steven Sawyer 7.93
Heat 2: John John Florence 17.27 def. Alex Ribeiro 11.77
Heat 3: Filipe Toledo 16.54 def. Kai Otton 14.34
Heat 4: Adrian Buchan 10.50 def. Keanu Asing 3.87
J-Bay Open Round Two Upcoming Match-Ups:
Heat 5: Michel Bourez vs. Ryan Callinan
Heat 6: Nat Young vs. Alejo Muniz
Heat 7: Joel Parkinson vs. Matt Banting
Heat 8: Wiggolly Dantas vs. Jadson Andre
Heat 9: Conner Coffin vs. Adam Melling
Heat 10: Miguel Pupo vs. Jeremy Flores
Heat 11: Josh Kerr vs. Jack Freestone
Heat 12: Dusty Payne vs. Stuart Kennedy
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