You’d be forgiven for not noticing the J-Bay comp started today with the news in a constant tailspin at the moment. There’s just too much happening. Huge news stories are struggling to get noticed as history stumbles onwards. But. Surfing is a solace. Sure you might consider it sticking your head in the sand while the world goes to hell in a hand basket but it’s probably wise.
There’s been some good surfing going down today at the bay of Jeffrey. Some favourites did as expected, Jordy, Slater, Medina and the keenly watched, lightly injured, Mick Fanning zipped up the round one heats neatly.
JJF, Parko and Wilko didn’t. But Wilko lives to fight another day as he squeezed through a ridiculously low scoring round two heat that was there for the local wildcard Steve Sawyer’s taking. But the ocean had other ideas. JJF had to bounce back from being pipped by a grom in round one, a notch in the belt for Kanoa Igarashi, but again JJF brought his A-game in round two nailing one of the best waves of the day. Flip Toledo also looked particularly lethal in Rd2…
All in all it was a welcome diversion from real life. Which in the end is what makes surfing so great. Whether you doing it or watching it you can just unplug your mind from the world and enjoy the dance … for a while at least.
The J-Bay Open, Stop No. 6 on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), commenced today and the world’s best surfers took to the water for a full day of exciting action at Jeffreys Bay. Competition ran through Round 1 and the opening four heats of Round 2, and the WSL Top 34 battled for a place in Round 3 in building three-to-five foot (1 – 1.5 metre) surf.
All eyes were on three-time WSL Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) who surfed in the opening heat of the day — his first heat at Jeffreys Bay since the dramatic J-Bay Open Final last year where he was attacked on live television by what is believed to be a 12-to-15-foot Great White Shark. Despite suffering an ankle injury during a freesurf last week, Fanning looked confident and claimed a solid victory over Alejo Muniz (BRA) and Conner Coffin (USA). Fanning found a classic Jeffreys Bay wave, one of the longest rides of the day, for a 7.50 to secure his win, while his opponents were unable to find the back-up scores required to challenge the Australian.
“It’s been a big week actually,” said Fanning. “I got here early but then hurt my ankle so had to sit on the sidelines and watch the amazing waves go through. The medical staff have worked wonders and I’ve got it taped up. I feel good when I’m up and riding and each day my ankle gets better and better. It’s great to get back out there.”
Julian Wilson (AUS) looked untouchable in the penultimate heat of Round 1 and delivered the day’s biggest scores. Wilson showed skillful wave selection and earned two excellent nine-point rides for a combination of barrels and carves. His near-perfect 18.77 heat total sees him move directly to Round 3, while his opponents Nat Young (USA) and Jack Freestone (AUS) will surf again in elimination Round 2 when competition resumes.
“It’s so nice out there today, there’s plenty of swell on the opening day and it’s incredible to be back,” said Wilson. “It’s one of the best heats I’ve had all year and the conditions are really nice. I’m just enjoying the waves here and it feels good to have a strong heat.”
Another of the day’s top performances came from replacement surfer Sebastian Zietz (HAW). A huge opening score (a 9.17) from Zietz gave him an early lead over Stuart Kennedy (AUS) and Michel Bourez (PYF) in the final heat of Round 1. The Hawaiian quickly found an excellent back-up score for an impressive combination of attacking carves and left his opponents searching for opportunities.
“I am excited to be here in J-Bay and make it out of that heat,” said Zietz. “My boards were feeling good and after Fiji I got down here early to get my feet in the wax. I’m stoked to advance to Round 3 and excited to catch more waves.”
2016 CT Rookies Davey Cathels (AUS) and Kanoa Igarashi (USA) delivered big upsets today, both winning through their Round 1 heats and advancing directly to Round 3.
Cathels defeated No. 1 on the Jeep Leaderboard Matt Wilkinson (AUS) in Round 1 Heat 6, sending him to elimination Round 2. Cathels managed to manufacture an 11.33 two-wave heat total to edge out Wilkinson and wildcard Steven Sawyer (ZAF) and claim an important Round 1 win.
“This is an event that I’ve always watched and wanted to come and compete at,” said Cathels. “It’s great to be here and really fun. Wilkinson is always so good out here and he’s having a hell of year so it feels good to get that win.”
Wilkinson went on to win through Round 2, defeating Sawyer in a close-fought battle. The South African finishes the event in equal 25th place and Wilkinson will advance on to Round 3. Wilkinson’s victory will see him retain the Jeep Leader Jersey heading into the next event on the CT, the Billabong Pro Tahiti.
“That was a super tricky heat,” said Wilkinson. “I’m lucky I can keep this jersey. I was so excited out there but I kept falling, so luckily I got through it. I’m excited to keep that jersey and excited to make it through.”
“It’s definitely a setback being ill, but it wouldn’t have changed the end result I don’t think,” Sawyer said. “I was falling and doing silly things out there. I was just waiting for that bomb but was uncomfortable on the waves I got. It’s bit of a bummer because I know I could have done it but I’ll have to come back next year.”
Igarashi caused another upset, defeating John John Florence (HAW) and Keanu Asing (HAW) in Round 1 Heat 3. It was a polished performance from the rookie who asserted himself early on in the heat with an excellent 8.17 for multiple tube rides. Igarashi, who showed no nerves taking on Florence, backed up his score with 7.47, leaving his Hawaiian opponents searching for scores.
“I’ve been here for six days now and I’ve just been surfing as much as I can,” Igarashi said. “I have a lot of experience around me, which probably helps me get more experience that I was lacking before. I feel like I haven’t been able to do my best surfing this year yet and I want to show what I can do in good waves like this. I’ve been having a good time, my boards are feeling good and I’m learning a lot so I’m excited for the rest of the season.”
Florence recovered from his Round 1 loss by storming to victory in Round 2 Heat 2 against Alex Ribeiro (BRA). Just two waves from the Hawaiian were enough for him to build a 17.27 heat total and advance to Round 3.
“The first time I came to J-Bay I think I was 12 or 13-years old,” Florence said. “I’ve been coming here every year since. This is one of my favorite places in the world. Going into Round 2 is always pretty stressful, but I am stoked because the waves are firing right now. It is a little less windy than it was this morning and I am excited that there are waves. It is fun to get some nice, open-faced waves.”
Current World No. 2 Gabriel Medina (BRA) was in top form, winning through his Round 1 heat with a 17.27 heat total. Medina kept busy throughout the 35 minute bout and dominated from start to finish. A combination of powerful turns and high-risk maneuvers earned the 2014 WSL Champion an excellent 9.10 and the win. Dusty Payne (HAW) and Ribeiro were both left in a combination situation and sent to Round 2.
“I like J-Bay. It is a tricky wave, but at the same time it is good,” Medina said. “I found a good board and tried to go for the set waves. I am feeling good. After Fiji I have not been surfing and that was my second surf, so it feels good to surf well and make the heat.”
Jordy Smith (ZAF) looked fired up for his first heat at Jeffreys Bay. The two-time event winner and lone South African on the men’s CT pulled together an impressive combination of maneuvers to find two excellent scores – an 8.10 and 8.33. Despite a near-perfect 9.27 from opponent Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Smith took the win, sending Dantas and Adam Melling (AUS) to Round 2.
“You really have to surf out of your skin at J-Bay to get good scores,” said Smith. “It was a great heat and there were lot of opportunities. Last year I didn’t really get the opportunity to surf my best so it feels good to be back. It’s incredible to be home and have the crowd behind me. Every time you do a big turn you hear the crowd erupt and it feels great — it’s good to be home.”
11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater (USA) defeated Filipe Toledo (BRA) and Matt Banting (AUS) in Round 1 Heat 7 and will advance directly to Round 3.
“Jeffreys Bay is so special because there aren’t many pointbreaks that barrel like here,” said Slater. “In that heat, I was just trying to find anything to give me a score. I did have a couple of good waves early, but it is tough out there with the bump on the face and the high wind gusts. I probably could have maximized a couple of other waves earlier in the heat and not put the stress on myself. I am super happy to win that heat and have another day to get acclimated and used to my boards and the waves.”
Toledo went on to storm through his Round 2 heat by taking to the air and netting an impressive 16.54 heat total to eliminate Kai Otton (AUS) from the competition.
“I’ve really been working a lot and trying to improve at places like J-Bay,” said Toledo. “I’m super excited to be here and surfing in perfect waves like this. I’m really happy. Surfers like me love to do airs and crazy maneuvers, but I know if I want to be a world champ I have to improve my other types of surfing like barrels.”
Reigning WSL Champion Adriano de Souza (BRA) also won through Round 1 to secure his place in Round 3. De Souza defeated Otton and Josh Kerr (AUS) in Heat 4.
“Before the event started, I saw the forecast and I’ve surfed this wave so much over the past ten days,” De Souza said. “I’ve been learning a lot here and know I need to apply what I’ve been doing in the last few weeks. I am happy to move on. It was a tricky heat against Kai and Josh, as they both have an amazing history here at J-Bay.”
Surfline, official forecaster for the World Surf League, are calling for:
Medium size SW swell mix prevails Wednesday along with very strong offshore flow, before trending down Thursday and into Friday morning as wind eases significantly. A potentially larger SW swell could move in for the weekend of the 9th-10th, although wind conditions do look more problematic with at least some periods of onshore flow. At this point the early to middle part of next week looks pretty slow, with some fun to possibly mid size SW swell around the last three days of the waiting period.
J-Bay Open Round 1 Results: Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.67, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 10.80, Conner Coffin (USA) 9.97 Heat 2: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.33, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 12.06, Ryan Callinan (AUS) 8.43 Heat 3: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 15.64, John John Florence (HAW) 13.24, Keanu Asing (HAW) 12.60 Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.76, Kai Otton (AUS) 10.80, Josh Kerr (AUS) 7.00 Heat 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.27, Dusty Payne (HAW) 12.77, Alex Ribeiro (BRA) 12.27 Heat 6: Davey Cathels (AUS) 11.33, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 10.33, Steven Sawyer (ZAF) 7.43 Heat 7: Kelly Slater (USA) 12.26, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 12.00, Matt Banting (AUS) 9.43 Heat 8: Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.16, Jadson Andre (BRA) 12.66, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 12.50 Heat 9: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.43, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 15.10, Adam Melling (AUS) 9.40 Heat 10: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 15.26, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.60, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.90 Heat 11: Julian Wilson (AUS) 18.77, Jack Freestone (AUS) 10.17, Nat Young (USA) 7.50 Heat 12: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 17.90, Michel Bourez (PYF) 9.90, Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 9.74
J-Bay Open Round 2 Results: Heat 1: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 8.47 def. Steven Sawyer (ZAF) 7.93 Heat 2: John John Florence (HAW) 17.27 def. Alex Ribeiro (BRA) 11.77 Heat 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 16.54 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 14.34
Heat 4: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 10.50 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 3.87
J-Bay Open Round 2 Upcoming Match-Ups: Heat 5: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Ryan Callinan (AUS) Heat 6: Nat Young (USA) vs. Alejo Muniz (BRA) Heat 7: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Matt Banting (AUS) Heat 8: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA) Heat 9: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Adam Melling (AUS) Heat 10: Miguel Pupo (BRA) vs. Jeremy Flores (FRA) Heat 11: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS) Heat 12: Dusty Payne (HAW) vs. Stuart Kennedy (AUS)
Grant “Twiggy” Baker (ZAF) claimed victory today at the Puerto Escondido Challenge, besting a field of 24 of the world’s best big wave surfers in towering 20-to-35 foot surf off the coast of Mainland Mexico’s Puerto Escondido.
The first event of the 2016/17 World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour (BWT), the Puerto Escondido Challenge, tested the top big wave chargers with enormous and difficult beachbreak conditions. A solid swell from the South Pacific delivered massive surf over two days for the inaugural BWT event at the exceptionally powerful beachbreak known as “The Mexican Pipeline.”
Baker, 2013/14 BWT Champion, put on a stunning performance in Mexico, storming to victory in the Semifinals before his impressive showing in the Final.
“Yesterday was pretty difficult out there so I didn’t have a great heat but I made it through,” said Baker. “This morning when I woke up and saw it was my favorite size for Puerto and I was so happy.”
The South African showcased technical and precise surfing throughout the Final. Baker captured early control over the field and continued to solidify his lead with incredible rides. Baker locked in multiple excellent-range scores, but it was the perfect 10.00 awarded for escaping a massive tube that cemented his victory. Baker’s final combined score was an impressive 27.50 out of a possible 30.
“I’ve been coming here for 20 years and I love it,” continued Baker. “The waves are amazing and I want to thank all the locals for being so hospitable and making us feel so welcome. To my wife and baby at home, this one’s for you.”
Baker came into the event as an injury wildcard and his winning performance will kick off his 2016/17 BWT Title campaign with 12,500 points and first place on the BWT rankings.
Baker’s fellow finalists represented elite competitors of the big wave community, including Greg Long (USA), Pedro Calado (BRA), Carlos Burle (BRA), Will Skudin (USA) andMakuakai Rothman (HAW).
Greg Long (USA), two-time BWT Champion, captured second place at the event. Long’s chances were in doubt during the Semifinals when he had yet to catch a wave with five minutes left in the hour-long heat, but his experience at Puerto Escondido let him catch a single excellent-range wave at the last minute which was enough to put him through to the Final over other competitors with two lesser rides. Long’s runner up finish in the Final puts him in 2nd on the leaderboard and in position to defend his existing WSL Big Wave Title.
“I am happy with my result here in Puerto Escondido,” Long said. “I had a couple of really fun waves. I had to work hard for them, but it was worth it. I have a special place in my heart for Puerto Escondido. I came down here for the first time when I was 17-years-old and I am 33 now and I have literally not missed a big swell. This event was pretty spectacular by all accounts and one of the top days I’ve ever surfed.”
Pedro Calado (BRA) charged throughout the contest to capture the third place position. The young Brazilian cemented his reputation as the best teenage big wave surfer in the world, demonstrating commitment and fearlessness as he charged through heavy barrels and dispatched top-seeded competitors.
2009/10 BWT Champion Carlos Burle (BRA) rode three waves in the Final for a 16.87 heat total and fourth place.
Will Skudin (USA) finished in fifth place with a 12.97 heat total in the Final. Skudin, a native of Long Beach, New York, carries the torch for America’s East Coast onto the top ranks of the Big Wave Tour in 5th place on the leaderboard.
Last year’s BWT runner-up and 2014/15 BWT Champion, Makuakai Rothman (HAW), suffered an injury twenty minutes into the Final and was not able to come back to the competition. Rothman charged through a deep, heavy barrel, but was wiped out by a powerful wall of water. Rothman was in fine form in Mexico for this event, winning both his Round 1 and Semifinal heats. Rothman will walk away with a 6th place finish and takes 6th on the BWT rankings.
“I just want to apologize for not being able to put on a show for all the folks at home,” Rothman said. “I did my best and I was trying to represent Hawaii. I just went up and over the falls, and my ten-foot-board hit me in the ribs. Thank you to the WSL, this was a great call. Thank you to all the fans out there who make this possible for us and make it possible for us to live our dreams.”
Local wildcards Jimel Corzo and Rogercin Ramirez (MEX) suffered Semifinal eliminations today after a strong performances yesterday. Corzo put up a hard fight until the dying minutes of the heat, but could not close the 2.44 point gap required to advance. Ramirez caught two massive rides in the opening Semifinal heat, but his effort was not enough to make it through to the Final.
Jamie Mitchell (AUS), who gained entry into the 2016/17 BWT as a WSL Big Wave Awards Performer of the Year nominee, suffered a Semifinal elimination today after a stunning Round 1 performance. Mitchell, who posted the best heat score of the event in Round 1 Heat 4, a near-perfect 29.03, but was eliminated in his Semifinal against Rothman, Calado and Burle.
Two events, the Quiksilver Punta de Lobos Challenge in Chile and the Billabong Pico Alto Challenge Peru remain in the Southern Hemisphere window with potential to run, conditions permitting, before the August 31st close of the window.
Puerto Escondido Challenge Final Results:
1 – Grant Baker (ZAF) 27.50 2 – Greg Long (USA) 25.03 3 – Pedro Calado (BRA) 24.77 4 – Carlos Burle (BRA) 16.87 5 – Will Skudin (USA) 12.97 6 – Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 7.66
Puerto Escondido Challenge Semifinal Results:
Semifinal 1: Grant Baker (ZAF) 26.34, Will Skudin (USA) 16.07, Greg Long (USA) 16.00, Kai Lenny (HAW) 14.74, Albee Layer (HAW) 13.41, Rogercin Ramirez (MEX) 10.83
Semifinal 2: Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 22.33, Pedro Calado (BRA) 21.01, Carlos Burle (BRA) 13.63, Jimel Corzo (MEX) 14.83, Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 13.74, Rusty Long (USA) 11.46
The 2016/17 BWT season is divided into Southern Hemisphere and Northern Hemisphere components hosting three possible events within each. The Southern Hemisphere window runs from April 27 to August 31, 2016 with event options in Mexico, Chile and Peru. The Northern Hemisphere window runs from October 15, 2016 to February 27, 2017 with event options in Portugal, Hawaii and Mexico.
2016/2017 WSL Big Wave Tour Schedule:
Southern Hemisphere: April 27 – August 31, 2016
Puerto Escondido Challenge: Puerto Escondido, Mexico
Quiksilver Punta de Lobos Challenge: Punta de Lobos, Chile
Billabong Pico Alto Challenge: Pico Alto, Peru
Northern Hemisphere: October 15, 2016 – February 28, 2017
Pe’ahi Challenge: Haiku, Hawaii
Todos Santos Challenge: Todos Santos, Mexico
Nazaré Challenge: Nazaré, Portugal
Gabriel Medina (BRA), 2014 WSL Champion, claimed an emphatic victory today at the Fiji Pro, besting current Jeep WSL FrontrunnerMatt Wilkinson (AUS) in solid 10-to-12 foot (3 – 3.5 metre) surf at the world-renowned Cloudbreak.
Stop No. 5 of 11 on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour, the Fiji Pro, culminated in dramatic fashion today with the remaining members of the world’s best surfers battling one another in the largest surf of the year.
Following a slow start, with both Finalists finding themselves out of position in the building swell, Medina struck with two back-to-back scores for impeccably-navigated tube rides, posting a 7.33 and a 8.27 to place Wilkinson into a combination situation. The Australian was unable to find a rhythm in the challenging conditions and Medina posted his first elite tour win since last October.
“It feels amazing and I am so stoked,” Medina said. “I just want to thank God and my family. That was a crazy week. We have been waiting for these waves and they finally came through. They were big and we got so many sets on the head. We got a lot of barrels and it was a sick event. I am just so happy.”
Today’s victory rockets the Brazilian to second on the WSL Jeep Leaderboard heading into the back half of the season.
“I am really tired right now, but I was saving my energy for the Final because I knew it would be tough,” continued Medina. “Wilko (Matt Wilkinson) has been surfing amazing since the first event and I do not know who can stop this guy. This is his third final of the year and I am really happy to make this final against him.”
Today’s second place finish strengthens Wilkinson’s lead on the WSL Jeep Rankings and the Australian will retain the Leaders’ Jersey heading into the J-Bay Open with a commanding 32,500 points. The Fiji Pro marks Wilkinson’s third Finals appearance in 2016, after his back-to-back wins on the Gold Coast and at Bells Beach.
“I am really stoked with second,” Wilkinson said. “If I came here knowing I would get a second, I would have been absolutely frothing. That Final was just so tough. It was disappointing not to get a big barrel when there were some to be had out there, but I just had twenty sets on the head and one barrel that I got caught in. Gabriel (Medina) was unbelievable out there. It is halfway through the year and I could not have dreamed of a better start. Everyone is obviously going to be coming for me, so it is definitely not time to let off on the accelerator. I am going to go into J-Bay as focused and ready as I can.”
Adrian Buchan (AUS) defeated three-time WSL Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) in the Quarterfinals before being eliminated by Wilkinson in the Semifinals. Buchan’s 3rd place finish is his best result in 2016 and his first Semifinal berth since Jeffreys Bay in 2015. Buchan was previously in 15th place on the Jeep Leaderboard and will now move to 7th.
“I’m pretty gutted right now,” Buchan said. “I spent the whole heat duck diving washed through sets. I fought back with that 7.8 midway through the heat and I just couldn’t get deep enough on that 4.1. I spent the last six minutes dodging wash-throughs again. That was frustrating, but you can’t get mad at the ocean. I’ve been pretty in rhythm all event and that heat I was completely out of rhythm. It was amazing to surf a heat against Matt (Wilkinson), but it just hurts when you are in rhythm and you have a heat like that.”
Fanning’s Quarterfinal berth earns him a fifth-place finish and sees him move to 16th place on the Jeep Leaderboard.
“It’s been an incredible event,” Fanning said. “Celebrating Taj’s final CT appearance, having a birthday, ending in pumping surf and just having a great time has made it a really special event. I appreciate all the support I’ve had throughout the window and will see everyone in Jeffreys Bay.”
Today’s Semifinal berth for Kelly Slater (USA) marks a great result for the 11-time WSL Champion, and his first Semifinal since Jeffreys Bay in 2015, after his worst ever start on the Championship Tour. During the match-up, Slater exchanged strong opening rides with Media, but the Brazilian got the edge with an excellent 8.40 over Slater’s 6.50. As sets rolled in, Medina continued to increase his lead with a 6.27. In the dying minutes of the heat, one last opportunity came through for Slater, but Medina utilized his priority to block the four-time event winner. En route to the Semifinal, Slater unleashed incredible performances including a near perfect 19.77, the highest heat total of the event. Slater will leave Fiji with a 3rd place finish and move up to 26th place on the Jeep Leaderboard.
“I am happy because I surfed well in this contest,” Slater said. “I feel like I finally got the computer working in my brain again, but I caught a couple of viruses in that heat. I probably got a little ahead of myself. I might have gotten a little too excited from the last heat and a couple of heats before that. You just have to focus on the job at hand. Gabriel (Medina) picked it right and played the heat the right way. I had my chances and made three or four mistakes. I am looking forward to J-Bay.”
Slater previously dispatched Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) in the Quarterfinals with an excellent 18.70 two-wave heat total.
John John Florence (HAW) battled eventual runner-up Wilkinson in Quarterfinal 4 but wasn’t able to take down the Australian and takes home a 5th place finish. Florence secured a solid 6.50 on his opening ride, but Wilkinson quickly captured the lead with a 7.73 and 6.90. Florence, with a 10.93 heat score, was not able to close the 8.13 point gap against Wilkinson. Florence remains in third place on the Jeep Rankings.
“The waves are really good right now and I just did not pick the best waves,” Florence said. “I had that one at the end but I was a couple feet too deep. This result is not too bad, it is still a keeper and it’s only halfway through the year. I am pretty excited for J-Bay. All in all, I am pretty stoked. I had some really great waves in Fiji.”
Adriano de Souza (BRA) was dispatched by Medina in the opening Quarterfinal. Medina locked in multiple maneuvers to earn a 6.33 to take control. De Souza battled with a 5.83, but could not find a strong enough back-up score to defeat Medina. Medina scored a 4.53 to gain a 2.03 point lead to eliminate the reigning World Champion from the event. De Souza will walk away with a 5th place finish and 5th on the Jeep Rankings.
“It was a tough day out there for me,” De Souza said. “I got so many waves on my head and a broken board. Gabriel (Medina) has so many skills and he is so smart and picked the right waves. Right at the end one wave came through. Needing a 5, I tried to get deeper and then that cost me to not make it through the last wave. I am just happy to be in the Quarters, as it is a good result when looking at the full year. Now I am focusing on J-Bay. Before that I will stay here another week and get more barrels.”
The next stop on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour will be the J-Bay Open in South Africa from July 6 – 17, 2016.
Did you see the Fiji Pro last night? After a full week’s holibobs of lazing in hammocks drinking brightly coloured cocktails with little umbrellas in the WSL mob finally got to earn their paychecks yesterday. And boy did they. Cloudbreak finally came to the party and unleashed video game perfect pits for the crew.
The stage is set for a thrilling finale tomorrow at the Fiji Pro, Stop No. 5 of 11 on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour. Competition today ran through Rounds 4 and 5 with world’s best surfers battling for a place in the Quarterfinals in perfect 6-to-8 foot (2 – 2.5 metre) Cloudbreak conditions.
Kelly Slater (USA), 11-time WSL Champion, delivered the performance of the day and charged through his Round 4 heat against Adriano de Souza (BRA), reigning WSL Champion, and Wiggolly Dantas (BRA). Slater opened up with an excellent 9.77 and further established his dominance with a perfect 10.00 for a 19.77 heat score. The Brazilians tried to fight back, but were forced into a combination situation by the American. Slater’s win earns him a direct advance to the Quarterfinals where he will face Dantas.
“I had to go on that last wave and I just misjudged it,” Slater said. “That was a heartbreaker. I got pitched and broke my leash and board. I am kind of tripping, even though I had a great heat. But I am putting all that behind me. This is all for Robert Rohmann and his family today. I am thinking about you guys and I am sorry for your loss.”
Matt Wilkinson (AUS), current Jeep Rankings’ Leader, squeaked through Round 4 to secure his place in the Quarterfinals against John John Florence (HAW) and Adrian Buchan (AUS). The heat saw multiple lead changes with excellent-range scores, including Florence’s no-grab barrel to earn a near perfect 9.93. Wilkinson chipped away with a 16.56 heat score, edging out Florence by only 0.13 points.
“Coming here is amazing because it is one of the best waves in the world and I really wanted to stop people questioning whether I can go left or not,” Wilkinson said. “To beat John (Florence) and Ace (Adrian Buchan) out there is the hardest heat you could have. I think those are the best waves I’ve ever seen, so to get a heat win like that and get barrels like that is the best feeling in the world. To put a big result on the board when the waves are so pumping feels pretty awesome.”
Florence went on to face Jadson Andre (BRA) in Round 5 Heat 4. Florence fired with two excellent 8.50 rides to take the lead and forced the Brazilian to find two new scores. Andre tried to fight back with a deep tube ride, but was not able to break the combination. Florence will advance to the Quarterfinals where he will surf against Wilkinson.
“I just tried to pick nice, clean waves,” said Florence. “I knew there were a lot of clean waves coming in and I didn’t have to make it harder for myself. I am excited to face Matt (Wilkinson) in the Quarterfinals. He got me in Round 3 and he is in the lead right now, but I am just going to focus on my own surfing. I’d love to get him back, but you never know. Tomorrow we are supposed to have good, big waves so I am excited.”
De Souza narrowly survived elimination Round 5 Heat 1 against injury replacement and former CT charger Dusty Payne (HAW). De Souza and Payne went wave for wave, but the reigning World Champion locked in the win with an 11.34 heat score to defeat Payne by only 0.97 points. Payne will walk away with a 9th place finish while De Souza will go head-to-head against compatriot Gabriel Medina (BRA) in the Quarterfinals.
“We had a tough heat because there was so much expectation that the waves would be crazy good,” De Souza said. “As soon as we were out there, I waited for a while and realized that I was in a heat and not in a freesurf and needed to get some points on the board. I am so happy to be in the Quarters. I am excited for tomorrow because I heard it will be bigger than this.”
Gabriel Medina (BRA) was the first surfer to secure a Quarterfinal berth and opened the day’s action by locking in a perfect 10.00 with a hollow tube ride. Dusty Payne (HAW) fired back with an excellent 8.33, but Medina carved out a huge opportunity for himself with massive aerial maneuvers to regain the lead. Medina, with a 14.60 heat score, defeated Payne and Michel Bourez (PYF).
“Everyone got sick waves in that heat and one of the sets was mine,” Medina said. “I’m stoked to get a 10. The waves are incredible — I think it’s the best Cloudbreak I’ve ever surfed. I tried to do my best on that wave, it was the best 4 of my life!”
Bourez was not able to make it out of his Round 5 heat against Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) and leaves the contest in equal 9th place. An interference call on Bourez disqualified his second wave score, leaving him with just a 3.77 combined score.
“There were not many waves in the heat,” Dantas said. “When I saw that good wave that Bourez was on, I thought that I had to go because I had the priority. I am so happy to make my heat. It is hard when you block your friend like that, but I am stoked to make it. My boards are feeling good and I am feeling good.”
Mick Fanning (AUS), three-time WSL Champion, battled Josh Kerr (AUS) and Jadson Andre (BRA) in Round 4 Heat 3 to earn his place in the Quarterfinals. Andre got the jump on the Australians with a strong 7.93, but Fanning captured the lead with an near perfect 9.80 barrel and an incredible 8.27. Kerr fought hard to climb back and scored a near perfect 9.07 but was not able to turn in a second excellent-range score to combat Fanning.
“That was so beautiful,” said Fanning. “Looking out from that last wave and seeing all you guys with your hands in the air, I was losing it. The 10’s that have gone done today have been for barrels that were so deep so I tried to stall as much as I could.”
Fanning will face Adrian Buchan (AUS) in the Quarterfinals after Buchan dispatched Kerr in Round 5. Buchan gained control of the heat with a strong 7.50 score and secured his lead with an excellent 8.17 tube ride. Kerr fought back with a 10.66 heat score, but was not able to find the 9.34 required to advance.
“At this stage at the event you are in your own headspace when going up against your friends,” Buchan said. “Josh (Kerr) and I are good mates and we have surfed so many heats together, and we always seem to draw each other. Those were the best waves I’ve ever surfed a heat in. It is tough to surf against friends, but I get to this point and know that I am really just competing against myself. I am excited to surf against Mick (Fanning) in the Quarterfinals. It is going to be a big challenge, but I am looking forward to it.”
Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow at 6:30am local time for a possible 7am start.
The Surfline forecast is calling for:
Mid period SW swell will continue on Thursday, easing from Wednesday, but still offering well overhead sets, light wind and good surf. A larger, longer period SW swell will build in for the final day of the waiting period. Wind looks favorable for the morning, potentially trending sideshore S for the afternoon.
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.60, Dusty Payne (HAW) 11.16, Michel Bourez (PYF) 10.23
Heat 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.77, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 13.34, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.60
Heat 3: Mick Fanning (AUS) 18.07, Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.07, Jadson Andre (BRA) 13.43
Heat 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 16.56, John John Florence (HAW) 16.43, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.16
Fiji Pro Round 5 Results:
Heat 1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.34 def. Dusty Payne (HAW) 10.37
Heat 2: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 14.27 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 3.77
Heat 3: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.67 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 10.66
Heat 4: John John Florence (HAW) 17.00 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 10.17
Fiji Pro Quarterfinal Match-Ups:
QF 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Adriano de Souza (BRA)
QF 2: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA)
QF 3: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
QF 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. John John Florence (HAW)
TAVARUA, Fiji (Wednesday, June 15, 2016) – The Fiji Pro, stop No. 5 of 11 on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour, roared back to life today following a week-long hiatus with Cloudbreak delivering building six-to-eight foot (2 – 2.5 metre) waves for Round 3 of competition.
Taj Burrow (AUS), 18-year CT veteran, surfed his final CT heat today against John John Florence (HAW) and the bout proved to be the premiere battle of the season thus far. Florence opened strongly with a deep barrel to lock in an excellent 8.17, but Burrow quickly followed suit with an 8.00 to take the lead. With the swell pulsing during the heat, both competitors charged wave after wave to exchange excellent-range scores. Burrow bettered his score with a near-perfect 9.20, and Florence answered back with a near-perfect 9.43. Burrow continued to battle and earned another excellent score, an 8.60, to regain control. With fifteen minutes left on the clock, Burrow held control with a 17.80 heat score over Florence’s 17.60. On the last exchange, both surfers caught massive barrels. Burrow earned a near-perfect 9.43 for his tube, but Florence took the lead with a 9.33. Burrow finished the heat with an 18.60, just 0.16 points short of Florence’s 18.76 heat score.
“That was one of the best heats of my life and to have it with Taj (Burrow) before he leaves the Tour is one of the coolest things ever,” Florence said. “It is so special to surf against Taj with everything he has contributed to surfing. Since I was a little kid, I’ve been watching him do airs and watching him win events. That was an amazing heat and I am so stoked.”
After announcing his retirement from the elite Championship Tour earlier this year, the Fiji Pro will be Burrow’s last CT event. In his 18-year career, Burrow has been a Top 10 finisher 15 years, posting WSL Runner-Up positions in 1999 and 2007.
“That was one of the best heats of my life,” said Burrow. “Every time I got off the ski and got out the back, a crazy perfect wave would be there and I’d be in the perfect spot. I could not have picked a better way to finish my last event ever. The waves were exactly how I’d want them and exactly who I’d want to surf against in those types of waves, someone who will push me to be my best. This has been the best twelve days of my life and everything fell into place so perfectly. I feel like I won the event and the World Title. I am so happy. I have so many people to thank along the way – everyone who supported me on the road, my friends, fans and family. Thank you to everyone around the world for all those years of supporting me.”
Matt Wilkinson (AUS), current World No. 1 on the Jeep Leaderboard, dispatched Alejo Muniz (BRA) in the final heat of Round 3. Wilkinson trailed behind Muniz for the majority of the heat, but fought back with an excellent 8.50 barrel ride and a solid 5.43, forcing Muniz to chase a 7.27 in the final minute. Wilkinson will face Florence and Adrian Buchan (AUS) in Round 4. Muniz will walk away with a 13th place finish, his third Round 3 elimination of the 2016 season.
“It was tough out there,” said Wilkinson. “When the waves are pumping like this you get so excited and once I was out in the heat, the tide was still coming up and the wind had kind of fluffed onshore. The waves earlier would have been really open. I was taking off behind them but then almost dragging and getting stuck. With six minutes to go I decided to do some turns and get some scores on the board and get it back together. I am stoked I ended up getting that last barrel.”
Kelly Slater (USA), eleven-time WSL Champion and four-time event winner, eliminated Jordy Smith (ZAF) in Round 3 Heat 4. Slater found a clean barrel on his opening ride to earn a solid 7.83 and gain an early lead. The waves continued to fire and both surfers battled for control. Slater hunted for barrels and captured an excellent 8.73 wave score, forcing Smith to turn in two new scores. The South African secured an 11.83, but fell short against Slater’s 16.56 two-wave total. Smith will walk away with an equal 13th place at Fiji and Slater will move on to Round 4.
“There are waves all over,” Slater said. “There are actually waves deeper than the ledge. There’s waves on the ledge and then there are some wide ones, but you have to pick your poison. Everyone is seeing those good ones and those are the ones you want, but you cannot guarantee there are going to be a couple of those during your heats on a day like today. I got psyched out on a few waves that I really wanted, but they didn’t materialize into much. The good ones are out there.”
“Obviously this was going to be an extremely tough heat,” said Smith. “I tried to choose the best waves I could. Kelly (Slater) is the best surfer out there ever. I tried to play to my strengths, but unfortunately he got the good scores and beat me. I think I’ve just got to get back on track. I feel like my surfing is great and heading to J-Bay next should be a good one for me. I will just take everyday as it comes and chip away. I just want to go to J-Bay with an open mind and try to surf my heart out.”
Mick Fanning (AUS), three-time WSL Champion, came out of the gates firing and opened his scoreline with an excellent 8.33. Fanning continued to dominate the heat against compatriot Adam Melling (AUS) and took the win with a clinical performance and a 13.40 heat total.
“It’s been a long wait but the surf is pumping today,” Fanning said. “It’s great to see Cloudbreak turn on again and get a few waves. Adam (Melling) is a super strong surfer wherever we are and I knew he could be dangerous. Fortunately, I found the rhythm in that exchange.”
Gabriel Medina (BRA), 2014 WSL Champion and former event winner, dominated the opening heat of Round 3 against Matt Banting (AUS). With lots of opportunities, Medina made the most of his heat with fifteen rides. The Brazilian charged with massive combination maneuvers to earn two solid 7-point rides, putting the Australian in a combination situation. Banting will walk away with a 13th place finish and Medina will advance to Round 4.
“That was a good wave – the air was good but the barrel wasn’t very deep, which is why I think I got that score,” said Medina. “I got a lot of barrels in that heat so it was really fun. The waves are finally back after all those lay days and I’m stoked to be here.”
Adriano de Souza (BRA), reigning WSL Champion, blazed through Round 3 against Keanu Asing (HAW). Asing got off to a quick start with two waves, but De Souza earned the lead, opening his account with a 6.17. On his second to last ride, De Souza claimed a near-perfect 9.10 with two back-to-back hollow tube rides. Asing, needing a 9.67, was not able to challenge the World Champion and is knocked out of the draw.
“I have been focused on the good waves and trying to improve my techniques,” De Souza said. “After this event I am going to stay another week just to improve more and more. For me it is a big learning curve to catch Kelly (Slater) on those techniques – I’d need to live in Fiji for the next ten years – but I am doing the best that I can. I understand that there is so much I can learn and improve. Keanu (Asing) is a tough man and he surfed so well. I was worried the whole time that he would get a 10, which he can do. I am happy to advance and go to the next round.”
Jadson Andre (BRA) caused one of the upsets of day when he eliminated current No. 2 on the Jeep Leaderboard, Italo Ferriera (BRA). The 2015 Rookie of the Year is eliminated from the competition in equal 13th place, despite holding an excellent 9-point ride in his scoreline. Today’s result is the best of the season for Andre, who is currently ranked in 34th place, and he will move on to Round 4 where he will face Josh Kerr (AUS) and Mick Fanning (AUS).
“It was an amazing heat for me,” Andre said. “I think Italo (Ferreira) was the guy who beat me the most. I started the heat well with two good scores and Italo did not have any really good scores. I pretty much had the heat in my hands until I paddled for a bad wave where I fell. Italo got a bomb and I took a set on the head. At the end of the day, I did well and I went to the right waves. I used my priority to not let him go for seven minutes because I know how dangerous he is. It has been a long time since I’ve made Round 4.”
The last 2016 WSL Rookies left in the draw, Kanoa Igarashi (USA) and Conner Coffin (USA), were not able to advance out of Round 3 as they were eliminated by Michel Bourez (PYF) and Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), respectively.
Coffin, in particular, looked in peak form against Dantas. With seconds left on the clock, Coffin held the lead with an 11.20 two-wave score over Dantas’ 6.97. In the final moments of the heat, Coffin was charged with an interference call on Dantas on his last exchange. With Coffin’s second wave score disqualified, Dantas got the slight 0.11 point advantage over the rookie to take the win.
“The conditions were challenging out there and I was struggling to get a good wave,” said Dantas. “I am stoked to make my heat. I am pretty happy and I am for sure going to surf better in the next round. I have been surfing Cloudbreak the last couple of days and trying to learn as much as I can. I have been learning the different sections and approaching them in different ways. It has been fun and I am excited for the next round.”
For more information, check out WorldSurfLeague.com
Fiji Pro Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.50 def. Matt Banting (AUS) 4.33
Heat 2: Michel Bourez (PYF) 7.67 def. Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 5.46
Heat 3: Dusty Payne (HAW) 7.20 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 6.50
Heat 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 16.56 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.66
Heat 5: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 6.94 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 8.83
Heat 6: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 15.27 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 11.00
Heat 7: Jadson Andre (BRA) 14.50 def. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.73
Heat 8: Josh Kerr (AUS) 14.26 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.20
Heat 9: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.40 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 9.17
Heat 10: John John Florence (HAW) 18.76 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 18.60
Heat 11: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 13.54 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 9.93
Heat 12: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.93 def. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 8.50
Fiji Pro Round 4 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Michel Bourez (PYF), Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 2: Kelly Slater (USA), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Adriano de Souza (BRA)
Heat 3: Jadson Andre (BRA), Josh Kerr (AUS), Mick Fanning (AUS)
Heat 4: John John Florence (HAW), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
The life of a World Surf League pro surfer isn’t too shabby. Touring the world surfing the, ahem, “best” waves that have been cleared of the hoi-polloi for a few days of fun and frolics before swinging back to the airport for the next leg.
Getting awesome surf in the event windows is of course a meteorological lottery. Mama Nature occasionally treats them to a show and sometimes she pulls the plug and goes on holibobs for a week, leaving mirror calm in her wake.
Like at the moment. The pros are marooned, Robinson Crusoe style, on some beautiful islets off the south west corner of Fiji.
Sure they’re not exactly doing it Bear Grylls style … which it must be said IS an idea for future seasons. The Island with Bear Grylls and the Top Surfers in the World … certainly has some legs. More so than Youth Hostelling With Chris Eubank. To watch them bitching and losing their marbles on an island without AC and hot tubs whilst having to hunt for their dinner AND compete would be televisual gold. Lord of the Flies surf style…
Anyhoose. Televisual format brainfarts are not the point of this piece. It’s what to do with the many lay days and an expensive production crew twiddling their thumbs. Because those production bods, commentators and camera folk cost upwards of £250 a day for their tech know-how. And right now they’re sitting by the pool drinking G&Ts. Because all media folk know when someone’s paying you and there’s nowt to do then once the clock strikes 10:30am it’s G&T time.
So. A modern decathlon is in order. It would give the pros something to do and the production team will spare their much abused livers.
A straight all in race across the channel from Namotu to Tavarua. Anyone that does not finish the mile is instantly disqualified from the rest of the decathlon.
After a refreshing pint, or two, of Pimms the return leg to Namotu. Again, an all out thrashathon with the remaining surfers windmilling back across the channel … whilst:
Anyone that snags a fish whilst towing a line on the way back earns bonus points based on fish weight in kilos.
4. Beach Volleyball
After a mid-morning sushi snack from the freshly caught fish a bit of team play. Based around national teams. This is a bit unfair on Jordy, Jeremy and Michel so they can play as Rest of the World against Australia, Brazil and the USA. Seeing as Jordy is the tallest pro then there’s a good chance they might smoke it. But the Brazilians are pretty renowned for their beach volleyball so who knows.
5. Sand Sculpture
After a hectic morning of competition we need a more restful activity that displays the creative, artistic nature of the pros. So. Sand sculpture it is. Sure coral sand isn’t ideal, it’s not as sticky as Weston Super Mare’s legendary sludge. But you work with the materials nature gives you. Something makes me think John John might build a mean sand castle, seeing as he’s so flipping good at everything, and there should be abundant coral/shells for decorative effect.
6. Ping Pong
After lunch it’s the back five. With a few tables in play this event would be a simple man on man from the start. With the winner from Namotu taking on the winner from Tavarua for the most points. Sure it’s sweaty as hell playing wiff-waff in Fiji but that’s part of the fun when the sweat’s running into your eyes and burning them…
With our pro heroes pretty much broken by this point it’s time for a disco nap and then food. With a sunset dinner comes great Instagram potential. Again artistic merit is key here. Straight horizons, utilising the rule of thirds and filtering appropriately will all be rewarded by the judges. The commentary on this leg will be particularly spicy: “Joe, I can’t believe Wilko is going Clarendon at this juncture, that’s some spicy ‘Gramming.” Etc.
On to the main event. Points are awarded on units. Not volume. So it’s cocktails and shots not pints of Fiji Bitter. Anyone that spews, passes out or goes skinny dipping is disqualified.
9. Arm Wrestling
Drinking and testosterone inevitably leads to arm wrestling. Again man on man for the last few vital points. No holding on to the table with the spare hand and no leg bracing against the table legs allowed.
10. Creative Hairstyling
Finally. The crowning glory of the Modern Fiji Decathlon. Clippering the shit out of each other with rusty barber clippers. Points awarded for the most shocking mohican delivered. Speed is of the essence here.
So. There you have it WSL. A lay day filled with thrills, competition, creativity and fun. Keeping boredom at bay and the pros and crew enthralled. It would be phenomenal on the live feed.
Make it happen.
And PS: you’re welcome.
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