Three-time WSL Champion Mick Fanning won the J’Bay Open one the weekend, defeating John John Florence in an exciting Final in three-to-four foot (1 metre) surf at Jeffreys Bay.
The incredible victory comes a year after a dramatic incident during the 2015 J-Bay Open Final where Fanning was attacked on live television by what is believed to be a Great White Shark.
“It’s definitely a very different feeling this win,” said Fanning. “There was a real emotional build up coming back here this year. That Semifinal with Julian was really special and it was wonderful to have a heat with him again. Definitely some emotions went into it paddling out and it was just really special having a surf with him out there and both of us come in safe. I’m stoked that I got to come back and right the wrongs that happened last year. I’ve done that now so I can move on.”
The win today is Fanning’s 22nd Championship Tour victory and his fourth at the J-Bay Open, which sees him equal Slater’s record of four event wins at Jeffreys Bay. Fanning defeated Filipe Toledo (BRA) and Julian Wilson (AUS) en route to the Final today.
Fanning, who is taking a personal year in 2016 and only surfing in select events this season, leaps up from 16th to 5th place on the WSL Jeep Leaderboard.
“It’s awesome to be in 5th place but I don’t really care about results this year,” said Fanning. “I just want to thank everyone who has supported me over the past year, I’ve had so much support, and I’m looking forward to celebrating. For me this year feels a lot lighter not going for a world title so I’m really enjoying my surfing and having a lot of fun. I’ll be surfing at Trestles and I think that might be my last event of the year. World titles aren’t the biggest thing for me at the moment – I’m all about enjoying my surfing.”
Today’s runner-up finish for Florence sees him move up to second place on the Jeep Leaderboard for the first time in his career and close the gap on ratings leader Matt Wilkinson (AUS) heading into the next event on the CT, the Billabong Pro Tahiti.
Fanning got things started in the Final with a solid 7.17 but Florence answered with a technical aerial maneuver followed by two aggressive turns and was rewarded with an 8.50 and the lead. The Australian went on to find the wave of the Final and unleash his trademark turns on the walls of Jeffreys Bay to secure a near-perfect 9.93 and an impressive advantage. Florence fought back with an air reverse with eight minutes remaining to post a back-up score but it wasn’t enough to take first place. The final exchange saw Fanning race down the line while Florence delivered two full-rail carves and another air reverse. Florence earned an 8.63 but the score fell short and Fanning took the win with a 17.70 heat total.
The next stop on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour will be the Vans US Open of Surfing, which will see the world’s best female surfers resume this season’s title race from July 25 – 31.
For more information, check out WorldSurfLeague.com
J-Bay Open Final Results:
1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.70
2: John John Florence (HAW) 17.13
WSL Jeep Leaderboard Top 5 (after J-Bay Open):
1. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 34,250 pts
2. John John Florence (HAW) 31,900 pts
3. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 29,200 pts
4. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 24,400 pts
5. Mick Fanning (AUS) 23,450 pts