Oh, how we adore Jeffreys Bay. Long, unadulterated open walls, the grandstand that overlooks the ocean so perfectly, 500-metre long rides. It’s a surfer’s paradise, a dream come true, a mecca we all must seek out at least once in a lifetime.
Here at Zag, we have the pleasure of covering the event every year and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Even though today’s surf wasn’t anything like Sunday, it was still rippable and the 35-minute heats allowed for more than enough time for every competitor to acquire three or four scoring rides. With that being said, here’s a couple of guys you probably should’ve included in your Fantasy Surfer Team.
All images Ian Thurtell.
Jordy Smith – King of the Jungle
Like a lion in the Savanna, Jordy Smith made his way down the stairs from Cheron Kraak’s house and straight into the channel. King of the Jungle, the master of ceremonies. He gave his two competitors, Caio Ibelli and Jordan Couzinet a growl en route to the keyhole and like dainty gazelles, they pranced from his path and offered the inside position.
In contrast to Jordy’s dominant and heavy atmosphere on land, he looked light as a feather on a surfboard, with house-cat like reflexes in the water. The smaller J-Bay gets, the closer it runs along the rock shelf and your weight transitions become increasingly important. Flow becomes a highly valued commodity. A commodity Jordy has more of than the late James Brown while singing ‘Pappa’s Got a Brand New Bag’.
Jordy schooled his competitors, flowing from turn to turn with ease and even landing a cheeky alley-oop. After the heat, Caio and Jorgann thanked Jordy for the lecture, to which Jordy replied, “I’ll see you boys for the tutorial lesson tomorrow.” (Jokes, that interaction didn’t happen. But it might as well have.)
Filipe Toledo and Mikey February – The ballerina and the chainsaw
First off, how wonderful was it to see Mikey February compete in a CT? Like relief rain after a scorchingly hot day in the desert. Mikey started the heat off with a bit of gangster hustle. Paddling the boys up and down the point like a bus driver driving a bunch of school kids around. His older brother, Josh Salie is in town and he’s a gritty, determined dude – maybe Salie rubbed off on Mikey. Paddling up and down the point, unsettling his competitors, Mikey sold Filipe on a complete dud of a wave. But Filipe, talented and determined in his own right, managed to turn, polish a turd and score a decent number. Michael got the next wave and what a wonderful display of style. His surfing was like his Instagram stories: black & white, twin fins, 1970’s Mercs and cat-eye sunglasses. Delightful. The judges awarded him a straight 7. Behind him in stark contrast, Filipe went ham. Where Mikey is like a ballerina that can’t help but do soul arch floaters in CT competition, Filipe was like a made man with a chainsaw in the Knysna forest. Surfing at a hundred miles an hour and attacking anything that resembled a lip.
It seems like Filipe was made to surf J-Bay. Filipe’s two scoring rides were a 9.10 and 8.50, easily the highest heat score total of the day. If your Fantasy Surfer Team doesn’t contain Filipe, shame on you.
Julian Wilson – The flaring surgeon
On Sunday, Supers was firing. 6-8ft. In the morning it was a bit too big and then later in the day it began to absolutely turn on. New years bonfire. And who was there enjoying the spoils of his professions? Julian Wilson. Julian Wilson was a standout on Sunday, choosing superb waves and surfing them flawlessly, linking huge carves and threading deep pits. Today, on the opening day of competition, nothing changed. Julian displayed surgeon-like precision on his waves; choosing great waves, complimenting them great waves with excellent lines and placing his turns in perfectly. Nothing rushed. On his 8.60, Julian boosted the air of the day, a lofty no grab rotation. He hung up there so long, he could’ve ordered a pizza from Ninas Real Food Restaurant and had it delivered to the beach before he initiated the landing gear and touched down. A great wave and a lovely air. A surgeon with flare.
Ricardo Christie – The underdog
The last time we saw Ricardo Christie perform at J-Bay was in 2015. He came up against Joel Parkinson in round 2 at firing Supers and Ricardo and Joel traded blows like Muhammed Ali and George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle. Unfortunately for Ricardo, Joel got the better of him and knocked him out on the final exchange, but it wasn’t without a fighting effort from Ricardo. Ricardo didn’t make many heats during his 2015 debut on the CT but occasionally the sun would shine from behind the gloomy clouds and we’d witness hints of glory.
Today Ricardo wasn’t one of the highest scoring surfers, in fact, he had the lowest heat score total of the heat winners, but Ricardo displayed some of the hints of the glory we’d seen 4 years ago. He understands the wave, knows which ones to go for and knows where to drop the hammer. It’s a brave call, but keep your eyes on Ricardo, he’s due a good result and if it came at J-Bay, we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.
Stephanie Gilmore – The Electric Acid Surfboard Test
Stephanie Gilmore picked up right where she left off last year. Maybe she even looked a touch better than last year. From the first wave in her opening heat, she looked in rhythm and on form. And being in rhythm at Supers is a big thing. Supers breaks differently to other waves. Supertubes is a jealous wave, to understand her, you need to show her love, to show her love, you need to spend time with her. And it seems Steph has spent some time out with Supers. She revelled in the tricky conditions, having no troubles gathering oodles of speed and chose perfectly the positions to place her carves. And her carves were zippy, without bog and quick in the transition back out onto the open face. In that psychedelic purple wetsuit, it looked like Gilmore was doing the Electric Acid Surfboard Test all over again, except on a thruster. And we thoroughly enjoyed the performance.
Last year Stephanie had some dodgy heats to victory, she looked particularly shaky against Bronte Macaulay and many stated that Steph shouldn’t have won the heat, this year, however, she looks more unstoppable than last.
Enjoy this wonderful gallery of the day’s action by Ian Thurtell.