5 July, 2012 5 July, 2012

Winter Heat – previewing the Billabong Pro J-Bay

The last time I had to preview a contest called the Billabong Pro, there were two distinct differences. 1: The last time was for a WCT event. 2: The beach break was going to be a slightly above average at best, and gutless slop at worst. Kind of like that lukewarm cup of Ricoffee you forgot to drink if you bothered to stay awake for it. Only tasty with heaps of sugar.

This time, despite the absence of all but 11 of the top 44, the waves will be good at worst, and absolutely cranking at best. And if you look at the forecast, it’s leaning towards the ‘cranking’ end of the spectrum. Local entrant Steve Sawyer reckons the forecast at time of writing will mean perfect six foot sets rolling in. Bigger than that, it loses shape a bit, so this will allow for the full range of moves – bullet train barrels and physics bending turns. Should there be a NW on it, there are opportunities for some orbital airs if you’re brave. A big swell also cleans up the swell for the following few days, so even though it drops off a bit, it’s still clean waves for the foreseeable run.

The only problem for the competitors is the 30 min heats. It means about five to six waves a heat with the long paddle back up the point in between. When the final hooter goes, it’s both winners and losers who will be upset to be called in. Fellow J-Bay local Dylan Lightfoot reckons it’s a tough call between free surfing with the pack, or 30 mins with just you and three others. It’s like one of those hypothetical moral ‘would you rather…’ dilemmas. Dylan, who shares the point with the crowd all the time though, is looking forward to the relative solitude. Dylan also faces another dilemma. The Padang Cup is set to start its waiting period on the last day of the Pro here. Should our guy go all the way through, and Padang collects on the swell charging across the ocean, he may have to sacrifice something. Despite having done well to qualify there, ‘That’s a no brainer, I’ll take winning at Supers any day.’

It’s as if our weather system is saying: “Well, if you’re going to downgrade this, fine. I’ll just have to upgrade it myself then. Take that, Rio!” Its great having the swell push through at the start, because then everyone gets to have a crack at it. Oh, look – that’s my glass over there. It appears to be half-full. [takes sip]  mmm… delicious…. Anyway, a cranking final would be sweet too and would bring back memories of the Andy/Kelly showdown of 2005. I’m sure Andy is looking down with that sly grin and wishing he could be here for it. Kelly is somewhere else wishing just the same. Watch him tweet about it when the pics and vids start filtering out.

Event wildcard Dale Staples is hard to beat at Supers.

Yes, Kelly, it’s not just us who were hurt when you dissed the contest last year. Even the wave itself was hurt. Cheating on her with that hussy, Cloudbreak. Supers sulked for a few days, was consoled by her friends, and then got over it. And now look at her! Fine and looking prime. Jealous much, Kelly? (Although, to be fair, Cloudy has been looking pretty damn gorgeous herself, lately.)

One has to show some thanks to the J-Bay surf community, who have sacrificed a full six days during prime winter season for this contest to happen. Yes, they get to surf there all year round. But, to sit with your hands thrust deep into your jacket and watching those epic lines roll down your local takes some considerable foregoing. Thanks guys. Each competitor owes you a beer… for each heat they progress. So, that’s like, a lot of beer.

Locals who’ll be competing themselves may have to ease off the lager. Steve, Dylan, both Staples and both Paynes as well as Warren Dean are representing. JBU Surf Club has selected Dan Thornton and Kelvin Zehmke who will fly the flag for Jeffreys Bay Boardriders. Supers is one of those waves, where if you get a good one, anyone can surf well. But to really tear it apart, you have to have that stuff that doesn’t come in a can – first-hand experience. Previously, we would watch mostly visitors (very talented visitors) give it a crack. But, we were robbed of seeing guys who really know Supers’ curves and how to work their magic through the sections. It’s going to be interesting to see local knowledge up against international rankings.

Local standout Dan Thornton could be a dark-horse for the title.

Of the 144 to watch, I’m most curious in the faring of the following:
–    Jordy – 2x reigning champion, goes without saying.
–    Conner Coffin – failed in Ballito, but still so smooth.
–    Makua Rothman and Mason Ho – sons of legends, aloha ambassadors.
–    Mitch Coleborn – I dunno, his name just keeps appearing and I want to see him in real life.
–    Holmesy – giant slayer, and always a pleasure at J-Bay.
–    John Florence – a phenomenon, also goes without saying.
–    Nathan Florence – there’s another Florence?! He may also need to lie about his birthday to to make good on the beers-for-locals promise.
–    Occy – c’mon, it’s like stepping back in time, he is also one of the very few backhanders to really come to terms with Supers’ incredible walls. There’s also the outside chance of him requalifying for tour – that’s worth cheering.
–    Mike February – on form and firing. It would be great to see him shoot up the ‘QS rankings with an eye to bigger things in the future.

That’s just who I want to watch. Who goes through is another story. I’m not going to call it save to say I think we’re in for a surprise somewhere along the line. Catch the live webcast at http://www.billabongpro.com/ Or make the trip. I’m going. – Anton Louw

A teaser of what you can look forward to next week, and then some…


  1. Anton L
    5 July, 2012 at 3:17 pm · Reply

    And the ‘me’ looking to fill the car is Anton Louw. You could do worse. You could also do a lot better.

    • Anton L
      5 July, 2012 at 3:20 pm · Reply

      oh – they’ve got my name at the bottom there already. never mind then.

      • Anton L
        6 July, 2012 at 8:05 am · Reply

        and now that there’s absolutely no context for these comments, they look even worse.

        • Dr Dre
          6 July, 2012 at 9:38 am · Reply

          Get that man a Bells… It helps with the “talking to yourself online” psychosis.

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