Low waves at JBay stalls Billabong Pro start
Cloudless skies, windless conditions and tiny 0.3 metre waves greeted the world’s top 32 ranked surfers plus three wildcards and five trialists in Jeffreys Bay on the opening day of the 11-day waiting period for the R3 million Billabong Pro J-Bay this morning.
Contest director Eric Stedman immediately put the contestants on standby until 10 am in expectation of an increase in swell size as the tide starts to fill in after the Spring Low tide at 9.30. When the event gets underway the first heat to be contested will be the VonZipper Superheat where five hopefuls will be battling for one coveted wildcard to take on the world’s best at Supertubes.
The winner of the VZ Superheat will be one of local Pro Junior standouts Shaun Joubert (Mossel Bay) and Dale Staples (St Francis Bay), international Granger Larsen (HAW) and ASP World Junior Champion Jack Freestone (AUS) or the winner of the locals only Xcel Pro Showdown at Supertubes, Shaun Payne (St Francis Bay).
Their ASP ranking will determine whether the winner comes up against either top seed and 10-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) or second seed and defending Billabong Pro J-Bay champion Jordy Smith in Round 1 of the main event. Sean Holmes from Cape Town, whose phenomenal feats as a wildcard over the past 10 years include eliminating a host of the top contenders from the event, along with three quarterfinal results, will take on the other of the top two seeds.
The well attended opening Press Function for the continent’s most prestigious surfing event saw a host of dignitaries, politicians, VIP’s, surf industry big-wigs, the cream of the world’s surf media corps and a panel of the top contenders meet and mingle. The only notable absentee was top seed Kelly Slater who, knowing that the swell is small in Jeffreys Bay, is in Fiji taking advantage of an ideal swell at Cloudbreak, one of his favourite surf spots.
In the panel discussion, Jordy Smith was relaxed and confident as he expressed his readiness for the event, citing good surfboards and the pleasure of surfing Supertubes with just one other surfer in the line-up as motivations. Adriano de Souza, 24, winner of the last ASP World Tour event and the first Brazilian ever to lead the ASP World Title Race rankings, said he had been coming to J-Bay since he was 11 years-old and was looking forward to improving on his four quarterfinal results in the event.
At the Press launch Holmes said: “I’m fitter this year and feeling good. I tweaked my back last year doing stretches but there’ll be no injuries this year”.
And Billabong team rider Joel Parkinson is pumped and hungry for another win. He is no stranger to this prime point break. Parkinson won his first WCT event at the JBay Billabong Pro in 1999 and in 2009.
Some early upsets though, include the pulling out of this top surfing competition by 25 year old Californian Dane Reynolds because of ongoing problems with an injury that has kept him out of previous competitions. Then Adriano de Souza injured his knee while attempting a backhand air reverse in the Maldives three weeks ago. Although a doctor advised he take a month off to recover the Brazilian believes he is strong enough to compete.
The Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay is stop Number 4 of 11 on the ASP World Tour, the series of surf events that determine the annual men’s World Surfing Champion.
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