3-metre great white shark interrupts Corona Open J-Bay
|Perfect Surf, 10 Point Rides, Re-Surfed Heats, Champions Eliminated and a Shark at Corona Open J-Bay
In the most dramatic day of competition surfing experienced at Jeffreys Bay, the world’s best surfers competing in the Corona Open J-Bay revelled in perfect two metre waves, re-surfed two heats, recorded three 10 point rides, had an extended two hour break, saw two world champions eliminated and went on hold for 30 minutes during the first quarterfinal while a three metre Great White Shark cruised through the lineup.
The day started with the remarkable sight of a six metre inflatable boat surfing an enormous 3.5 metre wave and ended with rookie Frederico Morais (PRT) posting a last minute perfect 10 point ride in a come-from-behind quarterfinal upset over reigning WSL champion John John Florence (HAW).
The inflatable boat, part of the Dolphin Coast Water Patrol team who handle the water safety at the event, was sitting outside the break as South Africa’s Jordy Smith (Durban), Filipe Toledo (BRA) and Julian Wilson (AUS) paddled out to re-surf their Round 4 heat which was abandoned yesterday when a shark was sighted breaching in the vicinity.
Realising that an approaching set of waves was going to swamp the boat, the quick-thinking skipper headed across the wave, skilfully avoiding capsizing and preventing a possible disaster by outrunning the broken wave until he could turn out over the top and speed into deeper water.
Smith, who was leading the heat when it was abandoned yesterday, started well this morning but was overtaken by Toledo. The Brazilian utilised the NW crosswind to stick a massive 360 degree aerial for a 9.0 and then repeated that with two similar manoeuvres on the next wave to earn his second perfect 10 point ride of the event, advancing directly to the quarterfinals and relegating Smith and Wilson to Round 5 elimination battles.
With overhead waves pouring through the lineup, current No. 1 on the Jeep Leaderboard Matt Wilkinson (AUS) outpointed Conner Coffin (USA) and Michel Bourez (PYF) to secure his quarterfinal berth.
In Round 5 World Champions Mick Fanning (AUS) and Florence put paid to the chances of Joan Duru (FRA) and Owen Wright (AUS) in Heats 1 & 2 to set up quarterfinal clashes against Gabriel Medina (BRA) and Frederico Morais (PRT) respectively.
Smith did battle with Coffin and defeated the Californian before Julian Wilson applied his patented sweeping turns to great effect in his duel with Michel Bourez (PYF).
WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow then put the event on hold for two hours over the high tide, making dozen of locals really happy as they took to the long lines of overhead swell peeling down the rock-lined point.
During the break a decision was taken to re-surf Heat 3 of Round 5 after video evidence was produced that showed that part of one of Coffin’s ride had not been seen by the judging panel and the young Californian had been awarded a score that was too low.
Restarting at 1.30 pm in classic conditions in hollow tubes and an offshore breeze grooming the faces of the waves, an in-form Smith opened with an excellent 9.37 and quickly backed it up with his third Perfect 10 of the event. Two excellent scores from Coffin were not enough and his was eliminated in 9th place while the two-time event winner advanced on to the quarterfinals where he will face Toledo.
“I’m pretty stoked to get that one out the way,” said Smith. “Filipe (Toledo) surfed a great heat this morning and went absolutely mad. I tried my best but Filipe took to the air and did what he does best. You have to start fresh every day and it’s pumping out there so you just want to try and dominate.”
The first of the quarterfinals saw 2015 WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) in sync with the set waves, carving vertical backhand turns to bag a pair of eight point rides. His opponent Mick Fanning (AUS), the three-time world champ and four-time J-Bay winner, needed a combination of two rides totalling 17.41 for the win when the contest was put on hold after a Great White Shark was spotted 300 metres away at the Lower Point.
Fanning, who had previously experienced a previous shark encounter during the final of 2015 J-Bay event, and Medina were immediately picked up by jetskis and taken to the inflatable boat behind the lineup, along with Florence and Morais who had paddled out for their quarterfinal clash.
Incredible footage of the shark being followed by a jetski taken from a drone positioned overhead and broadcast on the big screens at the event site enabled the crowds at the beach and the tens of thousands of people watching online to follow its progress right through the contest area.
After 20 minutes, when the had shark exited the area and passed through the Boneyards section of the point, the organisers consulted with the surfers on the inflatable boat and Fanning and Medina were dropped back in the lineup and heat resumed with five minutes remaining. No waves were ridden and Medina advanced to the semifinals while Fanning was eliminated in equal 5th place overall.
“I’m really glad they got us out of the water but I felt really safe out there with the skis, the drones and the plane so it was an easy decision to paddle out,” said Fanning. “We had a slow start to the heat and I made a few mistakes but Gabe (Medina) is just surfing so well at the moment. It’s been such an incredible contest though. I think we’ve seen some of the best surfing to see how many 10-point rides have gone down. What else could happen here?”
Morais, who caused an upset by defeating WSL Champion Florence yesterday to reach the quarterfinals, upset the reigning WSL champion again today to earn a spot in the in the Semifinals for the first time this season where he will face Medina.
Florence put the pressure on early with two big nine-point rides. The rookie rose to the challenge and selected a beautiful wave to score 9.77 but Florence answered back and improved his situation with a 9.10. With three minutes on the clock and first priority, Morais let go of all the pressure, found a perfect looking set wave and was rewarded with a Perfect 10-point ride, his first on the CT and the eighth of the event, to send home the World Champion.
“The waves are so much fun out there,” Morais said. “We had a little adventure out there with the shark at the beginning but everything was great and we’re safe and taken care of. Every time I surf against John (Florence) we have really close heats and really tough match-ups. He had me on the ropes until the last minute but I had priority and I used it well. I love a good challenge and this heat was a big, big challenge and I loved it and I’m into the Semis. Honestly I hate sharks, we don’t worry about that in Portugal so I’m not used to it, but we were safe so we surfed and it was fine. When you’re focused on the heat you forget all about that. It’s my first 10 point ride on the Championship Tour and on day like this and against John is emotional.”
The action was called off after the second quarterfinal and when it resumes Jordy Smith (ZAF) will be up against Felipe Toledo (BRA) in Quarterfinal 3.
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. local time to assess conditions and make the next call.
Surfline, official forecaster for the Corona Open J-Bay, are calling for:
The event will be broadcast LIVE via WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL app and on Facebook LIVE via the WSL’s Facebook page.
For more information, check out WorldSurfLeague.com.
Corona Open J-Bay Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 18.74, Joan Duru (FRA) 16.07, Owen Wright (AUS) 13.10
Corona Open J-Bay Round 5 Results:
Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.80 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 15.27
Re-Surf of Round 5 Heat 3
Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 19.37 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 17.74
Corona Open J-Bay Quarterfinal Results:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.40 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 11.33
Corona Open J-Bay Upcoming Quarterfinal Match-Ups:
Heat 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF)
Corona Open J-Bay Upcoming Semifinal Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Frederico Morais (PRT)
The Corona Open J-Bay is the showcase event at the J-Bay Winterfest, a multi-sport and cultural festival in Jeffreys Bay from July 12-23. More details at www.jbaywinterfest.com. .