The night before the JBU Supertrial, powered by Monster, Jeffrey’s Bay was in the eye of the storm. Residents were unsure of what they would be waking up to after seeing crazy footage of the storm surf in Cape Town and the devastating fires ravaging Knysna and the Gamtoos mountains just across the bay. The storm announced its arrival with galeforce winds in the early hours of the morning – and with the wind… WAVES!
Spectators claimed their spots on the boardwalk while surfers headed out for a few sneaky bombs before the 9am start. When Round 1 kicked off it was like looking through an Instagram filter as the sun shone through a veil of smoke, prolonging the sunrise and adding a beautiful, yet eerie, sepia effect. After assessing the conditions in Round 1, a building swell bordering on rogue, Round 2 was promptly canned as the surf was deemed to big and taxing for the competitors. And so Round 1 became automatic elimination with first and second advancing straight to the semi finals.
The first heat match up saw reigning champ Steven Sawyer go against fellow locals Matthew McGillivray and Joshe Faulkner as well as KZN’s golden boy, Davey Van Zyl. Steven started strong after obliterating the sets with the ease that comes with growing up on Supertubes walls. Davey’s carves were as sweet as ever but he was bumped into third place by the local knowledge of a hooded Matty McG.
“The water wasn’t too bad but the air was freezing,” said Mathew after his heat. “It’s kind of eerie with all the smoke in the air and the sun shining through but it was fun and friendly out there, we were all chatting between waves and not really hustling. At the start of the heat there was a huge set that came through then it kinda calmed down a lot and I ended up waiting quite long so I just tried to be selective and I was happy with the waves that I chose.”
Heat 2 matched up Dylan Lightfoot and Dale Staples against young guns, Jordy Maree and Adin Masencamp. Dylan, a previous event winner, dominated the heat early on in the slow conditions. Towards the end of the heat it was young Adin in second place but after snapping his board with a few minutes to go, he had to watch from the beach as Dale Staples got the score, knocking him into third place with Jordy Maree finishing fourth.
With Matt Bromley chasing swells somewhere in Indo, Greg Emslie was next in line to take his spot. The seasoned veteran gave the young WQS hopefuls, Beyrick De Vries, Shane Sykes and Michael February a bit of a schooling by leading for most of the heat before getting stuck on the inside by a beater set. In the dying minutes MFeb and Beyrick traded bombs to earn their spots in the semis.
The consistent four to six foot sets slowly started to gain momentum with the building swell. The quality of surfing seemed to jump with the swell as the semi finals would no doubt see a bouquet of excellent scores. Semi final number one of the Supertrial was reminiscent of last year’s final with Dale Staples, Dylan Lightfoot and Steven Sawyer. In that heat Dale earned the first and only ten point ride of the event – backing it up with a 9.93 – it was evident that the rhythm was with him and the win, there for the taking! Reigning champ Steezy Sawyer was pipped by a very fit, and focussed looking Dylan Lightfoot.
The next semi final saw Michael February and Matt McGillivray put on a show despite long lulls – the calm before the pulse. Their efforts were enough to knock out the powerful and always dangerous Beyrick De Vries. By the time the finals kicked Supertubes was churning out corduroy lines in the 6 – 8 foot plus range whilst the wind howled on. The sets had snuggling spectators throwing up their arms as the guys put it all on the line.
“The wind was actually beneficial for me in this event,” said Dales Staples after. “It was like it was just holding the main barrel section up the whole day. Some of the barrels looked like they were going to shut down on you and then they just opened up in the wind.”
Mikey February from Cape Town pulled into town having secured the win at the 2017 Vans Surf Pro Classic last weekend, however his wave selection and a few wipeouts saw him finish fourth. The rest of the finals field was made up of Eastern Cape locals. Dylan Lightfoot charged hard on some of the biggest waves of the final and Matt McGillivray had been looking good all event but neither could jump on Ducky’s bandwagon and match his incredible tube riding, settling for second and third respectively. As veteran surf photographer Alan van Gysen opined after, “Dale dominated! His throwaway scores combo’d the rest of the finalists.”
“It was absolutely pumping the whole day and I am so stoked to win the wildcard into the main event!” said an elated Ducky. “I have been in the main event before when I was 17 and I made the quarters when it was a WQS event here but now I’m a lot older and more experienced. I really hope to do well in the event and am grateful for the win and the chance to compete against the best surfers in the world.”
All images by AVG.