Round One of Billabong Pro J-Bay underway

 The world’s top surfers went to work in glassy one to 1.3 metre (3-4 foot) waves at Supertubes in Jeffreys Bay this morning

Contest director Eric Stedman got Round 1 of the R3 million Billabong Pro J-Bay underway at 7.30am. Despite the continued cloudless skies and windless conditions generated by the unseasonable high pressure system dominating the Southern tip of the continent, the predicted swell arrived on cue and Stedman did not heistate to send the first of the 12 heats in the opening round into the water soon after dawn.

He also put Round 2 on standby for a possible start this afternoon. The first heat saw Portuguese star Tiago Pires secure a comfortable victory over No. 6 seed Bede Durbidge (AUS) and Corey Lopez (USA), who gained entry to Stop No. 4 of 11 on the 2011 ASP World Tour as a replacement after Dane Reynolds (USA) withdrew due to injury.

Pires advances directly to Round 3 while Durbidge and Lopez will contest sudden death, man-on-man Round 2 heats with the winner progressing and the loser going home with US $7 000 and 500 rankings for equal 25th place in the event. South African eyes will be fixed on Heat 5 starting at approximately 9.30am when No. 2 seed and defending event champion Jordy Smith will be up against Adam Melling, the Australian he beat in last year’s final, and fellow South African Sean Holmes (Cape Town), the dangerous wildcard who has wrecked the aspirations of so many of the world’s best surfers at Jeffreys Bay.  While the smaller waves and calm conditions favour Smith’s outrageous progressive style and repertoire of aerial manoeuvres, Holmes can never been written off given his seemingly prescient affinity with Supertubes.

Heat 6 features Shaun Payne from St Francis Bay, who yesterday became the third South African in the event when he earned a wildcard by winning the VonZipper Superheat. Payne’s chances of winning his opening heat in the main event have improved considerably due to the absence of top seed and 10-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) who only left Fiji yesterday (Thursday) en route to the contest.

 While Payne will still have red-hot Dream Tour rookie Alejo Muniz (BRA) to contend with in Round 1, the earliest Slater can get to Jeffreys Bay is tomorrow morning and the three-time former J-Bay champion may already be eliminated from the contest by then if Round 2 is started today as would be in the first heat of the second round.

Surfline, the official surf forecasters for the Billabong Pro J-Bay 2011, predict that the current contestable swell from the southwest will drop slightly during the day and on Saturday before getting bigger again on Sunday.  Swell conditions are likely to be small for the first half of next week but the prognosis for next weekend has improved.

 Tonight sees the first of three nights of major underground music talent at the 2011 Billabong Pro Music Festival. Taking place at the Jolly Dolphin in Jeffreys Bay, the lineup for the opening show features La Vi, Rambling Bones, Holiday Murray and aKing. Tickets are limited and can be purchased at any Billabong Store countrywide.

All the action at the Billabong Pro J-Bay 2011 is covered live via webcasts on http://www.billabongpro.com featuring real-time scoring, expert commentary and interviews, video footage with multiple camera angles, slow-motion replays, video on demand highlights of previous heats and online competitions with valuable prizes.

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