Dropping Like Flies – Round 3 and 4 Of The J-Bay Open
Story by Craig Jarvis “You fucking smoked him,” were the words delivered to Matt Wilkinson as he arrived back at the competitors’ area after knocking Kelly Slater out of the J-Bay Open. It was a classic heat, probably the best heat of the year for Wilko. Hot off a second place in Durban to Tim […]
Story by Craig Jarvis
“You fucking smoked him,” were the words delivered to Matt Wilkinson as he arrived back at the competitors’ area after knocking Kelly Slater out of the J-Bay Open. It was a classic heat, probably the best heat of the year for Wilko. Hot off a second place in Durban to Tim Reyes, the man was on fire and couldn’t seem to put a foot wrong if he tried. The waves, it must be said, were going totally mental, and Kelly, it must be said, had a shocker. “It honestly seemed that Matt was on waves that were better than mine the whole time,” said Kelly. “Whenever I took off on a wave it seemed like he was on a better-looking one. It seemed like he found slower waves as well.”
Kelly, finding himself in a rare combination situation, threw some huge turns off the lip in the feathering conditions but he fell a few times, somewhat uncharacteristically, in crucial situations. Still, as the cameras pointed on the Rip Curl team, and as Fletch started shaking with excitement, there were still the die-hards who were refusing to write Kelly off, citing all sorts of situations in the past when he had extricated himself from deep in combo-land. Not this time.
“I think I’ve been putting eights on pedestals too much,” said Wilko. “I now feel confident that I can put eights and nines on the table easily enough. I have the ability to do it, and there’s no need for me to doubt myself.” There was no need for any doubt, as Wilko was going fins-free on most turns, surfing big and vertical on set waves. His cheering support around the tower was raucous.
Slater was gracious in defeat, breaking out in a big grin, and cracking jokes with the media as they gathered, hungry for an explanation. There were people making under-the-breath comments about his equipment being ineffective, there were people saying that he hasn’t been surfing enough in J-Bay, and there were others saying he is getting so pulled by the people driving his new brand that it’s no wonder he was out of sorts. Maybe he just had a bad heat, a kak heat as they say in South Africa.
“Sorry about that,” said a surf fan to Kelly, standing outside the surfer area and looking in.
“That’s alright,” said Kelly with a smile. “No need to be sorry.”
While Kelly was left to digest the ranking implications at this crucial stage on the tour, Owen Wright sent John John packing after the Hawaiian floundered in his heat, and J-Bay was fast becoming goofy-foot city.
Previously, Kolohe Andino took to the skies in his heat against Julian Wilson, with his patented air approach including one giant punt to white-water disappear, getting him the win.
“He’s been practicing down here the whole week,” mentioned a contest official, pointing at the Impossibles section. “He’s been surfing down at the bottom and just going for airs.” The wind was light onshore, and ideal for launches, so Brother played the right game. When asked about his rivalries on tour, he tried to keep a straight face, started giggling a little, and waved his hand nonchalantly, saying, “I guess my rivalry is with Kelly Slater.” As nonsensical as it is true, it brought a few chuckles from the purposeful camera operators.
When Jordy took to the water, it looked like a no-brainer on paper. A two-times event champ, local favourite, 26-year-old, ravenous for a win and looking for a confidence boost on home turf, up against the 34-year-old goofy-footer ranked 20th in the world and searching for a dignified swan song. Jordy looked relaxed and confident, and the waves were marching in at the bottom of the point. Despite a slow start, it was still all going to plan when Jordy picked up his first scorer, banking eight points. CJ however, was pocketing sevens, and we had a heat on our hands. Whenever Jordy paddled, the crowd whistled and cheered, willing their hero on, willing a South African result. Jordy looked fast and dynamic, had good variety and exuded victory.
Needing a paltry six points to get into the lead, Jordy picked up a good looking set wave and started carving, floating and flying all the way down to the gully. It was done, in the bag. Or so it seemed. Jordy’s first few moves were solid, but he needed to finish off with something big to put more than six points into the account, and he pushed too hard, over-extended and fell short. It was awarded a 5.87, and CJ won by a 0.13 margin. Close, but no cigar. “That was so heavy,” said an 11-times world champ as he watched the replay on the webcast. Jordy was beaten by Florida, and joined the list of big flies to drop.
The beach sighed, and as one they started slowly moving, the event over for them. As Alejo Muniz took on Michel Bourez, and beat him, no one seemed to be watching. They were either earnestly discussing Jordy’s loss, or walking slowly away from the beach.
The contest organisers headed straight into round 4, as the waves were still pumping, but the interest was waning with the day, and being a non-elimination round, the interest was less. The damage for the day had already been done.
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