Action continued today at the J-Bay Open, Stop No. 6 on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT). The competition ran through the remaining heats of Round 3 in two-to-four foot (0.5 – 1 metre) surf at Jeffreys Bay and the world’s best fought for a place in Round 4.
Top seeds Adriano de Souza (BRA) and Mick Fanning (AUS) were dominant, winning through their heats alongside Kelly Slater (USA) and the day’s standout performer Gabriel Medina (BRA). Round 3 also dealt out upsets when both Filipe Toledo (BRA) and Joel Parkinson (AUS) were eliminated from the competition in 13th place at the hands of Alejo Muniz (BRA) and Wiggolly Dantas (BRA).
Reigning WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) came out firing in his heat against Matt Wilkinson (AUS), and his aerial antics earned him a near-perfect 9.47 on his opening ride. He backed it up with another excellent score but Wilkinson quickly answered with a 9.57 for a series of critical snaps all the way down the line to put him back in contention. In an impressive return to form another backside air from the Brazilian just before the buzzer netted him a 9.60 and the highest heat total of the competition so far, a 19.07.
“That was a pretty fun heat,” said Medina. “I got a lot of waves. The year has been pretty tough for me and it feels good to make this Round 3. Now it’s a no-loser round so it’s more relaxed. You can choose your waves and do your thing. I just want to keep going and keep the ball rolling.”
Jeep ratings leader Adriano de Souza (BRA) took on wildcard Dane Reynolds (USA) in Heat 6 of Round 3. Both surfers kept busy through the heat but De Souza netted a heat high 7.00 and left the former World No. 4 searching for a 6.21. The J-Bay Open marks the third CT appearance of the year for Reynolds and he was eliminated in 13th place while De Souza moved through to Round 4.
“Every day is different and you have to prepare yourself for any kind of conditions,” De Souza said. “I wanted to compete yesterday in amazing conditions but I surfed early this morning just to try it out. I realized the sets were slow and I would have to try to put pressure on him (Reynolds), so that’s what I did and it worked. I’m happy to move forward and I’m really hungry for this contest. I’m really prepared for J-Bay, I came 10 days early and worked so hard. The results right now are going good and it’s showing me that I have to keep it going, keep rolling and keep my strategy. I hope I walk away with a good result, that’s what I’m looking for here.”
Defending three-time event winner Mick Fanning (AUS) looked at ease in the morning conditions at Jeffreys Bay. Fanning faced C.J. Hobgood (USA) in Heat 7 of Round 3. The exceptional speed and power of the three-time World Champion netted him two excellent scores and left Hobgood in a combination situation. The American was able to escape with a 7.83 but couldn’t find the near-perfect score he needed to overcome Fanning and goes home with his best result of the season.
“I knew I had to put it all together and I got a couple of 8’s which settled the nerves a little,” said Fanning. “But still, C.J. (Hobgood), he’s a World Champion, he’s a hero of mine and he never gives up. That’s what I love about him. I still had to keep my head on the whole way through.”
11-time World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) is the most successful surfer at Jeffreys Bay with four CT wins and he faced current World No. 30 Kolohe Andino (USA) in Round 3 today. Slater used his experience and wave knowledge to deliver smooth, powerful surfing that was too much for Andino to overcome. Currently in 11th place on the Jeep Leaderboard and without a podium finish since Tahiti last year, Slater is looking for a good result in J-Bay to improve on a disappointing start to the season. Slater will face Fanning and Medina in an all-star Round 4 match-up when competition resumes, with 15 World Titles and seven J-Bay Open wins among the trio.
“J-Bay is one of those waves you grow up wishing you could surf,” said Slater. “I just have great memories here and it’s a really fun place. This morning was tough, that first heat with Parko and Wiggolly (Dantas), I would have been scared to be in that heat. The conditions are alright now, there are a few waves but the swell is dying.”
Current World No. 2 Filipe Toledo (BRA) faced in-form replacement surfer Alejo Muniz (BRA) in the final heat of the day. Toledo held the lead until Muniz found the wave of the day, posted a near-perfect 9.80 and snatched the top spot. Despite two impressive 8-point rides from Toledo he was eliminated in 13th place while Muniz moves through to Round 4.
“I don’t know where that wave came from but I knew it would be the only chance I had,” said Muniz. “Filipe (Toledo) is the best surfer right now. He doesn’t need a big wave to get the high scores. To be able to surf against him here as a wildcard, I just feel so lucky. I’m feeling amazing. Last year I learnt a lot and I took everything I learnt and put it to work on the QS, which is my main goal this year. I’m stoked to have one more opportunity to make some heats here.”
After an outstanding performance yesterday Joel Parkinson (AUS) was taken out by rookie Wiggolly Dantas (BRA). Parkinson was the first to build his scoreline after a heat restart but the Brazilian surfed like a seasoned campaigner and netted himself the score of the heat, an 8.33. The young goofyfooter kept busy and backed up his score, leaving the 2012 World Champion in need of an 8.63 to stay in the competition. Parkinson waited patiently as the time ran out but wasn’t able to find a wave and the two-time event winner was eliminated in 13th place, his worst ever result in a CT event at Jeffreys Bay.
“I just kept focused and I just wanted to get the bigger waves,” said Dantas. “I know Parko surfs this wave pretty good. He’s been coming here for like 15 years already. I’m the rookie and I just want to do my best and just get the best waves, and I’m so stoked I made it.”
“There’s always going to be a winner and a loser, but there just wasn’t a lot of opportunity,” said Parkinson. “It is a bit disappointing to think that I’m sitting kind of midway in the Tour and I really feel like I should be a lot higher up. No hard feelings against Wiggolly (Dantas) but I’d really like to get him in a nice consistent Trestles or something.”
Another rookie to upset his more experienced opponent was Keanu Asing (HAW) in Heat 10 who eliminated World No. 8 Josh Kerr (AUS). Asing moves through to Round 4 where he will face Muniz and Michel Bourez (PYF), who defeated Bede Durbidge (AUS) in Heat 11 with a tie break win.
“It’s so hard, Josh (Kerr) is such a great competitor,” said Asing. “He’s such a good athlete and he’s in the top 10 for a reason, I have so much respect for him. It brings the best out of me to compete against these top guys. It’s tough being a rookie, you’re still learning.”
“You get more hungry when you’re out,” said Bourez. “You feel like you’re missing something big watching from home. I realized I needed to get back on my feet and I started training. I really wanted to surf in Fiji but I’m happy to be here in J-Bay.”
The J-Bay Open is webcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com.
The world’s best surfing is also broadcast LIVE on Fox Sports in Australia, MCS Extreme in France, EDGE Sports in China, South Korea, Malaysia and other territories and on Globo TV in Brazil.
The J-Bay Open is the showcase event at the J-Bay Winterfest, a multi-sport and music festival in Jeffreys Bay from July 8 – 19. More details at www.jbaywinterfest.com.
J-Bay Open Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.50 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 15.40
Heat 2: Kai Otton (AUS) 15.50 def. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.83
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) 17.94 def. Fredrick Patacchia Jr. (HAW) 8.40
Heat 4: Nat Young (USA) 16.87 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 8.03
Heat 5: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 15.13 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.40
Heat 6: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.17 def. Dane Reynolds (USA) 11.90
Heat 7: Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.50 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 13.83
Heat 8: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 19.07 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 16.07
Heat 9: Kelly Slater (USA) 14.16 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.27
Heat 10: Keanu Asing (HAW) 14.83 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 12.33
Heat 11: Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.67 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 15.67
Heat 12: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 17.83 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 17.23
J-Bay Open Round 4 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Adrian Buchan (AUS), Kai Otton (AUS), Julian Wilson (AUS)
Heat 2: Nat Young (USA), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Adriano de Souza (BRA)
Heat 3: Mick Fanning (AUS), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Kelly Slater (USA)
Heat 4: Keanu Asing (HAW), Michel Bourez (PYF), Alejo Muniz (BRA)