Top 34 vote on a World Tour event at J-Bay in 2016
Words by Craig Jarvis
At a WSL meeting during the Quiksilver Pro, France, the details of which somehow made it all the way into my grubby little iPhone, J-Bay 2016 was discussed. The surfers had a vote, and most of them, led by Mick Fanning and Julian Wilson, were keen for another round at the world’s most perfect right pointbreak. The problem is, a few surfers are adamant that they won’t return to surf J-Bay in 2016 and voted a firm negative, putting the event in jeopardy.
It’s only fair to let the surfers decide on returning to J-Bay. After all, they’re the ones who will be in the water, surfing at the place where they all witnessed a shark encounter. Putting the decision-making in the hands of the surfers is a fair call from the WSL, and one that can only be applauded – though, one has to wonder what sort of precedent this could set: Would the Margaret River tour stop survive a surfer vote?
The WSL as a commercial entity must be confused about it. The J-Bay Open 2015 broke viewership records (22.3 million views on the clip above), and the 2016 event will undoubtedly be the most watched surf event in the history of the sport. The whole world will dial in (or see it in the news), and the J-Bay 2016 event could be that final push that takes surfing firmly into the mainstream; the obvious goal of the WSL to make the juggernaut a commercial success. But then, there’s also the very real possibility, no matter how small, that another attack could occur on live broadcast again.
So, who are these surfers? There's two that were particularly vocal. And how shall I put this…
They’re both Brazilian, both goofyfooters, neither of them are rookies, and neither are consistent standouts at J-Bay. One of them may or may not have a world title. You can’t help wondering about an ulterior motive. J-Bay as a tour stop isn’t in Gabriel Medina’s best interests. Jadson Andre, who doesn’t have a world title in his near future the way Gabs does, is probably just really scared, and who the hell can blame him? Perhaps Gabs is genuinely scared too, but… it’s interesting regardless.
When I asked Jordy Smith recently about his opinion on J-Bay, the two-time event winner was adamant.
“The 2016 J-Bay Open will probably be the most watched event in the world,” Jordy said. “Why would they not have it? I remember two years ago, the first time we surfed The Box, there was a shark in the water, thrashing around between me and Miguel, and we carried on surfing that event.”
Taj Burrow, enjoying the new thrill of fatherhood, was of similar mind. “Yes, I think J-Bay 2016 should be on,” said Taj of the contest. “It’s one of the best events to participate in as well as to spectate.”
Since the J-Bay Open 2015, Billabong South Africa held a South African Junior Championship at The Point in J-Bay, and were extremely vigilant in their shark monitoring approach during the five-day event, with extra skis in the water, drones monitoring the line up and beaming back to a permanently monitored screen, with shark spotters permanently positioned in elevated positions on the beach. There were no problems.
There’s also been talk of the WSL commissioning an Australian company that specialises in monitoring below-surface activity in a focused area (i.e. a lineup). More on that as it develops.
As for the town of J-Bay… Well, the local surfers are going to paddle out and score ridiculous waves, regardless of whether there’s an event or not.
What do you think? Should the World Tour Return to J-Bay?