The Corona JBay Open, mens and womens surfing event, the biggest surfing event in the country descends on JBay in July and will be the anchor event of the Jeffreys Bay WinterFest that runs from 6th to 22nd July this year.
Many who live in the region are familiar with the event and its fiscal importance to the Kouga region but for those new to the area, St Francis Today will be publishing a series of informative articles on both the surfing event that attracts a huge International viewership as well as information on the many other events that make up te Jeffreys Bay WinterFest.
From its modest beginnings back in the early 80’s, to what it is now, a massive event with a huge global audience, the professional surfing competitions at Supertubes have always been about the surfers, and for the surfers.
From the days of local resident and entrepreneur, Cheron Kraak association through the Billabong/Country Feeling editions, to the current Corona JBay Open, the contest has always enjoyed a warm and special vibe about it. Possibly it’s cold early morning starts with icy cold, the cold, stiff offshore breeze, the icy water, the sharp rocks and big sets, or maybe even the subtle awareness of sharks, but the JBay event has always been the one to compete in.
“It is one of my favourite places to be in the world,” said Durban-born two times event winner Jordy Smith of JBay. “It has such a unique feel to the place. Something different.”
Last year the Women’s Tour was introduced to the event and there is no doubt it added to the event as only the wonderful women from the Championship Tour. The ladies are back this year adding not only the the great surfing but adding their own touch of style and beauty to the event and adding a whole new group of spectators attending and watching online.
The contest has had its fair share of drama over the years including a serious shark encounter, and other less serious shark encounters over the last couple of years.
Mick Fanning got bumped off his board during the final of the 2015 event while competing against fellow Australian Julian Wilson. Fortunately no one was injured although the surfers were a little shaken up by the encounter.
Since then there has been a step-up of shark mitigation processes with drones and spotter planes now used to ensure there are no repeat surprises for the competitors for the safety of the surfers is paramount.
There have been many stellar performances over the years, which is bound to happen when the best surfers in the world meet up with one of the best waves in the world. Kelly Slater has forever been one of the most incredible standouts at the event, with four titles behind him, but there are a group of Australian natural footers who have always dominated at Supers. Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson and Taj Burrow have all retired from profession surfing, but their legacy at JBay will live on.
The South African wildcards always draw local support and several locals have attained wildcard entry to the event including St Francis’ Dale Staples, WSL World Long Boarding Champion Steve Sawyer of Jeffreys Bay with last year it was another Jeffreys Bay surfer, Matt McGillivray who entered the water as our wildcard. These days the wild card goes to the highest placed South African on the global World Qualifying Series (WQS) Tour prior to the event starting.
Talking of the girls event, this year will be the first that the competition will see pay parity in the prize money, with the winner of the Women’s division receiving the same as that of the Men’s division. In their first event at Supertubes last year since the year 2000, the girls embraced the opportunity they had been given, and threw everything at it at every opportunity.
The town of JBay is blessed to have a wave like Supertubes on its doorstep, attracting the World Surf League and the best surfers in the world. There are very few such towns on the tour that enjoy this sort of close proximity and intimacy with the waves and the surfers. Lets hope that this year is a cracker of an event.
Thank you to Surf Journalist Craig Jarvis for information input