It was a gloomy day. A typically winters day in Jbay. Dark clouds hung overhead, releasing occasional downpours that Eastern Cape farmers had been praying for all year long. The women’s commissioner, Jessi Mylie-Dyer had sat in hope that the swell predicted a week ago would have enough south to varnish Supertubes with swell to finish the contest. After the opening day of the women’s contest, J-Bay and the whole east coast went flat. And it stayed flat for a full week. After four days straight of men’s competition and cooking surf, Supertubes decided enough was enough, and she logged in leave. Until today. We awoke to absolutely cranking Jeffreys Bay; a powerful swell that hammered its way down the point, multiple wave sets with no green lights at Keyholes from Supers through to Lower Point. We bet Jessie Mylie-Dyer and CEO of the WSL, Sophie Goldschmidt thanked their lucky stars, because this is exactly what they needed. And this is exactly what we dream of when we think of Jbay. It Fired.
Cover image: WSL / Cestari
The early morning was all about the backhand whip. The backhanders reveled in the conditions. Finding lips to belt where those surfing with their left foot forward struggled. Tatiana Weston-Webb was a standout on the opening day of the event, and she kept that momentum through to finals day. Supers was gloomy and ugly. She was in bad spirits, and if you hadn’t surfed here much before, she certainly wasn’t in the most approachable mood to learn her ways. But Tati couldn’t care less for moods, and if Supers was Goliath than Tati was David. She picked up a couple of pebbles and flung that sling all over the Supers wall. Taking down all the Goliaths in her path. Throughout the morning we witnessed many of the girls tiptoeing around, avoiding the Supers lip like a vegan Michaelis Art Student avoids bacon and eggs. But Tati’s no vegan, and she’s no art student, she’s a mechanic, and she got to work on that Supers lip, earning herself high scores in the process. In her quarterfinal against Sage Erickson, she posted an 18.54 leaving Sage combo’ed and completely lost, like a child in the middle of Tokyo without knowledge of the mother tongue or a pin dropped.
On the other side of the draw and also surfing with her right foot forward was Bianca Buitendag; the tall Vic Bay local and the only South African left in the draw. Growing up on a righthand point break, Bianca knows a thing or two concerning backhand off-the-tops. Bianca used her knowledge of Supertubes and her refined style to cruise to heat wins, never really breaking a sweat. She used her extended bottom turn to lip blast off-the-top to woe the judges. And the judges fell head over heels. As soon as she extended that bottom turn they threw her scores like chocolate hearts on Valentines Day from one lover to another
But the run of the backhanders came to an abrupt halt in the semifinals. Stephanie who’d been looking particularly wobbly throughout the day was served a second chance in Quarterfinal 1 against Bronte Macaulay. Both women ended with the same heat score total, but Steph took the win courtesy of a higher single wave score. Steph grabbed her second chance with both hands. In Semifinal two against Tati, everything fell into place, and Steph produced a performance we’d only dreamed of years before her arrival. The most gorgeous high lines, perfectly timed. Her turns, so stylish, blond hair flowing in the wind. For the first time in the event, Steph looked at home. Like she had found a lost lover. Supers and Steph, a match made in heaven. She danced around Tatiana like a beautiful elf, goddess-like, the flow of the waves rolling through her veins, she fell in rhythm and she fell in love.
The Battle of the Yellow Jersey
Besides for round one, Lakey Peterson has been a standout throughout the contest. She surfs ferociously. She surfs as if she has something to prove. As if her older brother (if she had one) called her a kook and she’s out to prove him wrong. And to be honest, it was beautifully gritty. It wreaked of hard work, of hours put in, of blood sweat and tears and she fought her way all the way to the final. But once the final began, after she had bested all her colleagues except one, it appeared as if she had run out of energy to prove the naysayers wrong.
Steph resumed the romance she’d discovered in her semifinals. Her turns beautifully timed, her wave choice; flawless and her high lines; elegant. It was dubbed the battle of the Yellow Jersey because the winner would take the ratings lead and the yellow jersey, and Stephanie Gilmore did just that. Supers and Steph were always meant to be.
Enjoy a might fine gallery courtesy of Greg Chapman.