Edited by Bev Mortimer
The stage is set for a tough battle between the top five leading surfers on the Jeep Leaderboard, who are separated by just 600 points.
Excitement and nervous energy is high on who is going to take the JBay champion crown among the world’s best surfers, now in Jeffreys Bay, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa for the international World Surf League, the Corona Open J-Bay. The event window openstoday and runs until 23 July.
“I can see everyone really fighting for the world title here in Jeffreys Bay this year,” 2015 WSL Champion Adriano de Souza of Brazil, who sits in equal third place on the leaderboard and who won at Supertubes in 2012, said at the World Surf League press conference last night, 11 June.
Photo supplied. Fromleft, 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.
He and other top surfers met the press and, sponsors and invited guests at an event held at Casa Corona in JBay. There are three South African surfers among the contestants: Jordy Smith, fresh from his victory at the Ballito Pro Qualifying Series 10,000 event, and two wildcard winners, Dale Staples from St Francis Bay and Michael February.
Current No 1 on the Jeep Leaderboard, Australian Matt Wilkinson (AUS), wearing the Jeep Leader Jersey and after his recent win at Stop No. 5 in Fiji, will need a strong result at Jeffreys Bay to retain the yellow jersey with four surfers close behind him on the rankings.
“To come out of Fiji back in the yellow jersey is great,” Wilkinson said at the press conference last night. “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.
I’m definitely excited. It’s about time I step it up and win this for the goofy-footers. The forecast is looking really good…”
Reigning WSL Champion John John Florence from Hawaii , just 250 points behind Wilkinson and the 2016 event finalist said: “J-Bay was a great event for me last year and surfing in that final with Mick (Fanning) was incredible. 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.”
Three-time WSL Champion and four-time event winner Mick Fanning from Australia 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.
“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, South African, Jordy Smith is currently tied in third place on the Jeep Leaderboard. Smith looks in fine form .
“This is by far one of my favourite places in the world and I love coming here each year. I don’t feel much pressure surfing in front of my home crown because I’ve surfed here my whole life. 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, de Souza,won 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.
“I definitely feel better now than in 2015 when I was carrying the yellow jersey for six events and felt a lot of pressure,” De Souza said. “I’m feeling great and blessed to be back here. “I want so badly to win this contest – I’m excited and want to do well. We have a different story and a different scenario this year …”
Local South African surfer Dale Staples will join the WSL Top 34 as a wildcard after winning the 2017 edition of the JBU Supertrial. “Surfing J-Bay with just a couple of guys is just incredible and I can’t wait,” Staples said. “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 is joined by fellow South African Michael February, who has been awarded the second WSL wildcard after a stellar run of results on the Qualifying Series (QS) this year. “I’m really, really happy about the wildcard for J-Bay,” said 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 behaviours when it comes to single-use plastic, and raise global awareness of this issue.
The event will be broadcast LIVE via WorldSurfLeague.com and Facebook LIVE via the WSL’s Facebook page.
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)