Surfing Today, presented by Rip Curl South Africa.

Surfing Today, presented by Rip Curl South Africa.

Two Major Surfing Contests Just Wrapped. The first is the Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Haleiwa Challenger. 

John John Florence claimed victory at the World Surf League  Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Haleiwa Challenger. It was the final stop of the 2021 Challenger Series. Still, after overpowering XL swell at the iconic North Shore reef break along with Jack Robinson (AUS), Kanoa Igarashi (JPN), and Samuel Pupo (BRA). A thrilling, action-packed Final. It was Florence’s ninth North Shore, Oahu victory in his career to tie the late 3X WSL Champion Andy Irons (HAW). 

Two Major Surfing Contests Just Wrapped. John John won the first one.

“I’m feeling good, really good, and it’s just so much fun being here and competing again,” said Florence. “After those injuries the last few years, it just feels good to be here. I just want to say thanks to my wife, my family, my whole team, and everyone who’s there supporting me. It’s been huge going through these last couple of years, and to be here winning again is awesome.”  

Perfect 10

An early start from Pupo got the attention of eventual winner Florence. The North Shore, Oahu surfer, unleashed an array of his signature power and progression on a wave at the midway point of the Final for a perfect 10. So, it had the crowd erupting in cheers and applause. The 29-year-old, 2X WSL Champion, wasn’t to be stopped – holding the highest single-wave score and heat total throughout the event – and placing all of the remaining finalists in a combination situation.

It was Jack Robinson’s first-ever Finals appearance on the hallowed grounds of Haleiwa, and he surged through the competition on his way to a runner-up finish. The 2021 CT Rookie will return to compete against the world’s best with renewed vigour following dominant performances at Haleiwa.  

Paddle Battle

 “That was a good run, and it was funny because John and I were in a paddle battle before he just turned and went on a wave,” said Robinson. “I think that put him in a good rhythm with those two waves, and I turned around thinking what just happened. But it was such a fun event and a good tune-up for next year. It’s funny. It’s been two years since I’ve qualified now, and everything here feels so different. Still, at the same time, it’s the same beautiful place, and I’m just excited to be back here.”

 A third-place for Igarashi kept him atop the Challenger Series rankings to close the 2021 season as Pupo’s fourth-place notched a career-best in a major WSL event.

The Alaïa Open Winter Cup in Switzerland

 Sion, Switzerland – The snow and rain stayed away. It was a beautiful and fresh day for the finals of the Alaïa Open Winter Cup finals at the Alaïa Bay wavepool facility. It was the first event of this magnitude to be held at the wavepool. To celebrate, the opening day saw light snowfall throughout most of the day’s competition. 

Two Major Surfing Contests Just Wrapped. Alaïa Open Winter Pro was the second

It was top action all the way on finals day, as the surfers fought out some fierce battles to be in the cash and prizes. The day featured progressive surfing, some big aerial moves, and speed, power and flow scoring high from the judges.

Jamie Veselko was victorious in the Kids Division, beating Alejo Valedi and Fransisco into minor positions. In the junior Division, Kai Odrozola took the win from Hans Odriozola and Axel Domingues.

The Ladies Division was dominated by an experienced Maud Le Car, who beat dynamic Nadja Erostarbe Beiser into second and Lucia Martino into third place.

The Winners

The Men’s Division saw the Brazilian contingent rise up for the win, with power surfer Pedro Menezes taking the win from fellow Brazilian Franklin Serpa. Justin Becret had a great day on the opening day at Alaïa Bay. Still, had to settle for third place in the finals. 

Pedro Menezes taking the win from fellow Brazilian Franklin Serpa. Justin Becret had a great day on the opening day at Alaïa Bay but had to settle for third place in the finals. 

Last week’s column right here

 

World Title to be decided in Hawaii

Contenders – John John Florence (HAW), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Jordy Smith (ZAF) and Julian Wilson (AUS)

For 35 years, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing has been sharing and celebrating one of the most significant sporting series in the world. The Hawaiian Pro, the Vans World Cup of Surfing, and the Billabong Pipe Masters make up the three-event series that crowns the World Surf League (WSL) Champion, determines the new WSL Championship Tour (CT) roster and names the best professional surfer of the Hawaiian winter season in dramatic fashion. This year, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (VTCS), which takes place November 12 – December 20, will bring one of the tightest World Title races in recent history to the North Shore of Oahu.

All four title contenders – John John Florence (HAW), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Jordy Smith (ZAF) and Julian Wilson (AUS) are confirmed to compete in one or more events in the VTCS. These top professional athletes represent a geographically diverse scale of surfing’s global reach and its infiltration into mainstream big-league sports, with four different countries characterized in the World Title race.

Florence will wear the yellow Jeep Leader jersey heading into the Hawaiian Pro, event No. 1 of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Image: WSL/Masurel

Heading into Hawaii, Florence holds the no. 1 spot on the Jeep Leaderboard rankings, but with only 3,100 points separating he and Medina, the competition will be intense as Florence fights to defend his 2016 World Title at his home break.

“I’m really excited to go surf Pipe and hopefully we get some good waves,” commented Florence after his Quarterfinal loss at the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal in October. “If I win at home it will be even more meaningful.”

The VTCS encompasses three different and equally storied wave venues along seven miles of hallowed coastline – Haleiwa Ali‘i Beach, Sunset Beach and Pipeline, the latter being Florence’s literal backyard. The first gem of the series, the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, begins November 12 – 24 and will showcase a mix of 128 local and international athletes including Florence, who will look to back up his 2016 Hawaiian Pro victory and warm up for the winter season at home.

A win at the Hawaiian Pro is a strong indicator – approximately 30 percent – that the victor will go on to claim the VTCS title. Ten surfers have secured the series win after finding success at Haleiwa including Hawaii athletes Florence, Sebastian Zietz, the late Andy Irons, Sunny Garcia and Kaipo Jaquias. The wave at Haleiwa is the best venue of the three for progressive surfing and with 26 of the CT’s top 32 athletes confirmed to compete, the Hawaiian Pro will serve up a sensational kick-off to the celebrated series.

Jordy Smith Perfect 20

Current equal No.3 on the Jeep Leaderboard Jordy Smith of South Africa

The VTCS boasts a combined prize purse of more than one million dollars across all three events with a hefty $50,000 going to the surfer who wins the series title. Hawaii athletes have dominated the North Shore’s competitive surf season and in 35 years, 60 percent of VTCS champions have hailed from the “Aloha State”. However, each year the competition gets fiercer and there are plenty of shake-ups to elevate the drama of qualification for both the Qualifying Series (QS) and CT.

Shark interrupts Corona Open

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.

Shark interrupts Corona Open J-Bay

Response and Safety Teams placed the athletes onto boats and monitored the shark as it exited the lineup. After discussion with the Commissioner’s Office and the athletes, competition resumed with Medina besting Fanning and advancing to the Semifinals today Wednesday July 19, 2017. PHOTO: © WSL / Gumboot.camera SOCIAL : @wsl @gumboot.camera.

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:
Very solid SW swell will build through the day on Thursday, peaking overnight, before trending down on Friday (although still quite strong through Friday morning). Strong offshore flow on Thursday will give way to much lighter offshore wind on Friday. The surf will drop over the weekend with much smaller leftovers. 

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
Heat 2: Frederico Morais (PRT) 19.07, John John Florence (HAW) 17.17, Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.90
Heat 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 19.00, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 17.40, Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.50
Heat 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 17.93, Conner Coffin (USA) 15.33, Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.20

Corona Open J-Bay Round 5 Results:

Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.80 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 15.27
Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) 16.50 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 10.00
Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs Conner Coffin (USA) – Result Void
Heat 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 15.94 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 8.83

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
Heat 2: Frederico Morais (PRT) 19.77 def. John John Florence (HAW) 18.67

Corona Open J-Bay Upcoming Quarterfinal Match-Ups:

Heat 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF)
Heat 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Julian Wilson (AUS)

Corona Open J-Bay Upcoming Semifinal Match-Ups:

Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Frederico Morais (PRT)
Heat 2: TBD vs. TBD

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. .

 

Corona Open J-Bay

Corona Open J-Bay Rounds 2 & 3

Action continued today at the Corona Open J-Bay, stop No. 6 on the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT). Competition ran through the remaining 10 heats of Round 2 in excellent conditions at Jeffreys Bay and a series of thrilling match-ups saw surfers battle to avoid early elimination.

Filipe Toledo (BRA) was the day’s top performer and stormed his way to victory in Round 2 over Kanoa Igarashi (USA). An incredible 19.63 heat total (out of a possible 20) secured a Round 3 berth for the Brazilian. Toledo claimed the first perfect 10 of the competition with a long barrel ride followed by two big turns. With ten minutes remaining Igarashi found a long tube ride of his own for a 7.33 but couldn’t escape the combination and is eliminated in Equal 25th place.

Filipe Toledo (BRA) scores a Perfect 10 in Round 2 of the Corona Open J-Bay.
Credit: © WSL / Tostee

“It feels good to be back, especially surfing perfect waves at J-Bay,” Toledo said. “You just have to enjoy it out there. Our heat was definitely amazing with pumping surf non-stop. My froth level is over the moon and I get super excited to get out there and have my heat and put on a good show.”

The 2017 rookie class shone today with five of seven surfers making it through to Round 3 and sending home some big names in the process.

Ezekiel Lau (HAW) challenged Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) in the penultimate heat of the day and took a narrow victory to earn his place in the next round. A pair of eight-point rides from each surfer made for an exciting match-up, but it was Lau who took the slight edge with his final ride and sent the Brazilian home early.

“I told myself that if I just finished up two waves I’d be happy but I ended up getting lots of opportunity,” Lau said. “I was just trying to be relaxed and enjoy it out there because it’s firing. It was a full battle until the end so I’m really happy with the way it turned out. I was bummed that I was in Round 2, but I just had to roll with the punches and keep fighting.”

Round 2 Heat 7 delivered a high-scoring match-up between current No. 10 on the Jeep Leaderboard Sebastian Zietz (HAW) and 2017 WSL rookie Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA). Zietz opened with an impressive 9.83 for a combination of barrels and powerful turns, but two eight-points rides from the Italian were enough to take the lead. The surfer from Hawaii continued to hunt for a back-up 6.80 but could only find a 5.93 and was eliminated from the competition in Equal 25th place while the rookie advanced on to Round 3.

“I am frothing right now,” said Fioravanti. “We’re in J-Bay and the waves are absolutely pumping. It’s a dream to be here and I think it’s the best waves I’ve ever surfed in my life in a heat. My goal was to try and get a big score at the start and then back it up. It was in a tough because Seabass (Sebastian Zietz) is an incredible surfer so I’m stoked to make that heat. Win or lose, we surfed pumping J-Bay so I’m just happy to be here.”

Joan Duru (FRA) laid down an excellent 9.00 on one of the biggest waves of day, despite falling on the final maneuver. The score will see the rookie move on to Round 3, while Adrian Buchan (AUS) is dispatched in 25th place.

“I’m so happy to be here because the waves are perfect,” Duru said. “It’s hard to wait for the good ones but you have to choose the right waves, surf them well and not fall. I love South Africa and I’ve had good results here in the past so hopefully that plays in my favor.”

Caio Ibelli (BRA) had an impressive start in Heat 9 and built a solid 16.43 heat total to take a convincing lead, and eventually win the heat, over opponent Stuart Kennedy (AUS) putting the Brazilian on the right track to improve on his 13th place finish at Jeffreys Bay last year.

“I think I went for the right waves and worked with my nerves,” said Ibelli. “I was not very positive this week because I haven’t surfed well and my ankle hurts. I’m stoked to make it through this round. It definitely gives me confidence getting this win so I’m taking the pressure off. I’m super stoked to be in J-Bay and it’s the best waves here I’ve ever surfed in my life.”

An exciting battle played out between Jadson Andre (BRA) and Kolohe Andino (USA) in Round 2 Heat 4. Andino held first place after the opening exchanges but the Brazilian was able to turn the heat with a 7.83 at the halfway mark. Andino, current No. 9 on the Jeep Leaderboard, quickly answered with multiple barrels and a series of big carving maneuvers for a 7.03, but the score was just short of what was required. A deep barrel from Andre earned him a 7.97, increased his lead and secured his third CT heat win of 2017 while Andino was sent home with his second 25th place finish of the season.

“Yesterday I went for a freesurf and pulled into a barrel and fell,” Andre said. “My fins went straight into my head and I had six stitches and broke my favorite board. I’m stoked to finally beat Kolohe (Andino) in a heat. This time I just focused on getting the right waves. I feel like I’ve been surfing well this year but just making the wrong decisions and at this stage there’s no room for mistakes. Let’s see what’s going to happen in Round 3.”

Julian Wilson (AUS) took on Josh Kerr (AUS) in Heat 5 of Round 2 and the pair got to work quickly. Wilson led from the start with a 7.67 on his second ride and backed it up with 6.60 and built a solid heat total. Kerr continued to hunt down the score, in need of a 7.35, but wasn’t able to compete with the World No. 8 and is eliminated from the event in equal 25th place.

“It’s so enjoyable out here and it’s only going to get better” said Wilson. “It’s a beautiful day to be out there with just one other guy. If it has a big long wall with some size on it and barrels on the inside – that’s what everyone wants. It was really nice to have some exchanges out there and get some nice waves.”

Current No. 3 on the Jeep Leaderboard Owen Wright (AUS) took on 2017 WSL Rookie Ethan Ewing (AUS) in the opening heat of the day. The more experienced competitor controlled the majority of the 35-minute heat, the first head-to-head match-up for the pair, with two mid-range scores. A 7.33 with six minutes remaining put the rookie back in contention but he wasn’t able to back it up and is sent home with his sixth 25th place finish of the season.

“It feels nice to get going and get that Round 2 out of the way,” said Wright. “It was a scrappy heat but it played out to my advantage. I felt like it was going to be a slow one so I knew I needed to get going. When you don’t get the best wave of the heat it’s tough to come back.”

11-time WSL Champion and four-time event winner Kelly Slater (USA) has broken two bones in his foot while freesurfing this morning at Boneyards and has officially withdraw from the competition.

Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. local time to assess conditions and make the next call.

Surfline, official forecaster for the Corona Open J-Bay, are calling for:

Monday will see a temporary decreasing trend in the morning with NW/WNW winds. New SW to SSW swell looks likely to build over the later afternoon and evening hours Monday as stronger offshore winds develop. Swell peaks on Tuesday with solid surf and moderate offshore winds. Wednesday will see a decreasing trend through the day with lighter winds. New SW to SSW swell fills in for Thursday PM and continues Friday AM before fading. Smaller surf looking likely for next weekend.

The event will be broadcast LIVE via WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL app and on Facebook LIVE via the WSL’s Facebook page. Also check the local listings for coverage on CBS Sports Network in the U.S., Fox Sports in Australia, ESPN in Brazil, Sky NZ in New Zealand, SFR Sports in France and Portugal and as part of the EDGEsport Network.

For more information, check out WorldSurfLeague.com.

Corona Open J-Bay Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 10.67 def. Dale Staples (ZAF) 10.27
Heat 2: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.10 def. Michael February (ZAF) 11.67
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) 12.34 def. Ethan Ewing (AUS) 11.10
Heat 4: Jadson Andre (BRA) 15.80 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 13.20
Heat 5: Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.27 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 12.53
Heat  6: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 13.40 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 13.10
Heat  7: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 16.63 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 15.76
Heat  8: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 19.63 def. Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 12.83
Heat  9: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 16.43 def. Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 14.80
Heat 10: Joan Duru (FRA) 15.87 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 14.00
Heat 11: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 17.03 def. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 16.37
Heat 12: Frederico Morais (PRT) 15.73 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 14.00

Corona Open J-Bay Round 3 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 4: Connor O’Leary (AUS) vs. Frederico Morais (PRT)
Heat 5: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)
Heat  6: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat  7: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat  8: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)
Heat  9: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Heat 10: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Conner Coffin (USA)
Heat 11: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Heat 12: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)

J-Bay Winterfest welcomes top surfers

JBay Winterfest welcomes top surfers for Corona Open J-Bay

The world’s top surfers have arrived in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, for Stop No. 6 on the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the Corona Open J-Bay. The event window opens today and runs until July 23, 2017 and will resume this season’s thrilling title race, with the top five athletes on the Jeep Leaderboard separated by just 600 points.

Top surfers for Corona Open J-Bay

From L to R: Dale Staples, Matt Wilkinson, Jordy Smith, John John Florence, Mick Fanning and Adriano De Souza at the press session for the Corona Open J-Bay. Credit: © WSL / Tostee

Current No. 1 on the Jeep Leaderboard Matt Wilkinson (AUS) returns to South Africa this year wearing the Jeep Leader Jersey at this event for the second season running after his recent win at Stop No. 5 in Fiji. The Australian will need a strong result at Jeffreys Bay to retain the yellow jersey with four surfers close behind him on the rankings. Wilkinson will match up against Jeremy Flores (FRA) and Ethan Ewing (AUS) in Round 1.

“Coming into the last event the Jeep Leader Jersey didn’t even seem like an option so to come out of Fiji back in the yellow jersey is great,” Wilkinson said at the press session today. “At this stage last year I had a pretty solid lead for the first time in my career, which really came out of the blue. Now I feel like it’s different and there’s four guys right behind me by only a few hundred points. I’m really excited to be back in this position and hopefully this year I don’t fall off so many times out here and I can win a few heats.

“Last year I came here in a strange situation and it was a bit scary,” continued Wilkinson. “Now I know that unless I keep attacking for the rest of the year I’m not going to keep this position. I’m more aware of what it’s going to take and I’m definitely excited. It’s about time I step it up and win this for the goofy-footers. When it was big and pumping out here in 2014 it felt like the best back-hand surfing I’ve ever done. The forecast is looking really good so hopefully I can do it again.”

Reigning WSL Champion John John Florence (HAW) sits just 250 points behind Wilkinson and the 2016 event finalist will meet Ian Gouveia (BRA) and Dale Staples (ZAF) in Round 1.

“J-Bay was a great event for me last year and surfing in that final with Mick (Fanning) was incredible,” Florence said. “I’m excited to get some waves this year and hope we get some firing barrels. My goal is to win another world title for sure but you never know what happens and there’s still a lot of events to go. I learnt a lot last year and I’m going to keep working hard and keep learning.”

Three-time WSL Champion and four-time event winner Mick Fanning (AUS) is yet to make it beyond the Quarterfinals this season and sits outside the Top 10 in 13th place coming into the event. The defending event winner is one of the most dominant surfers at Jeffreys Bay and in need of a strong result to move up the rankings. Fanning will take on Sebastian Zietz (HAW) and Joan Duru (FRA) in Round 1 of competition.

“I really feel at home here and so comfortable and relaxed,” said Fanning. “The people are so nice and the wave is amazing. When you come to a wave you love then the excitement levels really goes up and I feel much more motivated. I get up early in the dark each morning to check the surf and I can’t wait for things to get underway. This is a place that I really look forward to each year.”

Two-time event winner and the sole South African on the Championship Tour Jordy Smith (ZAF) is currently tied in third place on the Jeep Leaderboard. Fresh from victory at the Ballito Pro Qualifying Series 10,000 event, Smith looks in fine form and will battle Conner Coffin (USA) and Michael February (ZAF) in Round 1.

Jordy Smith in action

Jordy Smith in action during his victory at the Bells Beach Pro in Australia at Easter – Photo: WSL / Sloane

“This is by far one of my favorite places in the world and I love coming here each year,” said Smith. “I don’t feel much pressure surfing in front of my home crown because I’ve surfed here my whole life. The year for me has been great so far but it’s such a tight world title race. I’m extremely thankful and excited to be in the position I’m in now and I don’t think I’ve been this excited since I qualified for the tour. My year starts now and I know I’ve got to put my head down and give it everything.”

2015 WSL Champion Adriano de Souza (BRA) sits in equal third place on the Jeep Leaderboard. With a win at Supertubes in 2012 when the event was on the Qualifying Series and a string of Quarterfinal finishes, the Brazilian is keen to improve upon his past results. De Souza will surf against Frederico Morais (PRT) and Jadson Andre (BRA) in Round 1.

“I definitely feel better now than in 2015 when I was carrying the yellow jersey for six events and felt a lot of pressure,” said De Souza. “I’m feeling great and very blessed to be back here. I’ve been here for two weeks so I’ve had some time to work on my surfing and get some time before everyone else got here. I want so badly to win this contest – I’m excited and want to do well. I’m trying not to bring pressure to the ocean. 2012 was such a special year and those memories are some that I’ll keep forever and this year I hope we have waves like that again. We have a different story and a different scenario this year and I can see everyone really fighting for the world title here in Jeffreys Bay this year.”

Local surfer Dale Staples (ZAF) will join the WSL Top 34 as a wildcard after winning the 2017 edition of the JBU Supertrials and takes on Florence and 2017 WSL Rookie Ian Gouveia (BRA) in the opening Round of competition.

JBU Supertrials Jeffreys Bay

Dale Staples from St Francis Bay won the 2017 edition of the JBU Supertrial -AlanvanGysen

“Surfing J-Bay with just a couple of guys is just incredible and I can’t wait,” said Staples. “When I first competed here I was new on the QS but I’ve had had some more time now and I’m more confident and feeling much better about competing this year.”

Staples will be joined by fellow South African Michael February (ZAF) who has been awarded the second WSL wildcard after a stellar run of results on the Qualifying Series (QS) this year. February will face Smith and Conner Coffin (USA) in Round 1.

“I’m really, really happy about the wildcard for J-Bay,” said February. “Reaching the Semis at Ballito was such a cool achievement and then when Travis Logie (WSL Deputy Commissioner) told me about the wildcard I was really stoked.

“I was given an injury replacement spot at J-Bay in 2015, but that was a last minute decision so this time I have a little more time to prepare for it,” continued February. “The forecasts look like the event will start a couple of days into the window period and after this last result I’m feeling comfortable and couldn’t be better prepared for going into a CT event.”

Corona, title partner of the event, will be showcasing their partnership with Parley at the event and reinforcing their commitment to protect the oceans, bringing Parley for the Oceans’ AIR strategy to end marine plastic pollution (Avoid; Intercept; Redesign plastic) to a WSL audience. Corona and Parley for the Oceans are working together to apply this thinking to the event and are developing several initiatives to reduce the plastic footprint of the Corona Open J-Bay event, educate surfers and audiences about the need to develop more responsible behaviors when it comes to single-use plastic, and raise global awareness of this issue.

Surfline, official forecaster for the Corona Open J-Bay, are calling for:

Small/fun SSW swell will build through Wednesday before easing on Thursday. A larger swell is expected to build through Friday before temporarily trending down on Saturday. Medium size (or possibly better) SSW swells are lining up for Sunday and Tuesday as well.

The event will be broadcast LIVE via WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL app and on Facebook LIVE via the WSL’s Facebook page. Also check the local listings for coverage on CBS Sports Network in the U.S., Fox Sports in Australia, ESPN in Brazil, Sky NZ in New Zealand, SFR Sports in France and Portugal and as part of the EDGEsport Network.

For more information, check out WorldSurfLeague.com.

Corona Open J-Bay Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS), Bede Durbidge (AUS), Josh Kerr (AUS)
Heat 3: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Frederico Morais (PRT), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Jeremy Flores (FRA), Ethan Ewing (AUS)
Heat 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Conner Coffin (USA), Michael February (ZAF)
Heat  6: John John Florence (HAW), Ian Gouveia (BRA), Dale Staples (ZAF)
Heat  7: Kolohe Andino (USA), Italo Ferreira (BRA), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat  8: Julian Wilson (AUS), Kelly Slater (USA), Kanoa Igarashi (USA)
Heat  9: Connor O’Leary (AUS), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Jack Freestone (AUS)
Heat 10: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Caio Ibelli (BRA), Stuart Kennedy (AUS)
Heat 11: Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Mick Fanning (AUS), Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 12: Michel Bourez (PYF), Filipe Toledo (BRA), Ezekiel Lau (HAW)