It was a case of frustration for some, and delight for others as the first day of the J-Bay Open of Surfing kicked-off in perfect, but inconsistent 4-foot peelers at Supertubes.
Absent were the legendary corduroy lines stacked to the horizon – which proved difficult for some of the pre-event favourites like Sean Holmes, Twiggy Baker and Jason Ribbink, who are all standouts when Supers is pumping, but were unable to match the froth and momentum generated by competitors like local Dylan Lightfoot, or last year’s Billabong Pro standout Dale Staples in the slow conditions.
Still, the heats were exciting and there were barrels to be had – evidenced by North Coast local Allan Johns’ 9-point ride for a long barrel across the car park section. The individual match-ups were also a treat, both for spectators and competitors. In qualifying for the quarter finals Mossel Bay surf coach Lu Whittaker surfed a heat against childhood hero and backhand master Mark Occhilupo. Lu just calls him ‘Occy’, and now can also boast of beating the legendary screwfoot at one of the waves the Australian became renowned for shredding.
Competition resumes today, and if they run throughout the day there should be a winner of this hotly contested local (plus Occy) showdown by sunset.
Official Press Release Below.
Big Names Drop On Opening Day Of Jeffreys Bay Open Of Surfing
Jeffreys Bay – Perfect three to four-foot Supertubes conditions greeted contestants this morning for the opening day of the Jeffreys Bay Open Of Surfing presented by Billabong, and the contest director sent the first heat into the water with no hesitation. The perfect waves translated into some high performance surfing throughout the day, including some massive air moves and a few incredible barrels.
Smaller surf combined with the low tide, saw some shifty conditons at times, with a few prominent surfers finding themselves short of waves and out of the competition after the first three rounds. Twiggy Baker was the first upset of the day, getting eliminated from the first heat in good, pulsing conditions, and Gavin Rudolph, the oldest surfer in the event at 60-years-old, was eliminated in heat 3.
Regular Jeffreys Bay surfer Dylan Stone from Port Elizabeth was another surprise elimination from the event, despite showing some excellent form on a few waves. Steven Sawyer, Jason Ribbink and Craig Els all followed suit and were knocked out of the event. Number one seed Sean Holmes was another one who struggled to find high scoring waves and was eliminated from the contest in his round of 32 heat.
One surfer who really impressed the judges during a long day of competition was St Francis Bay local and WQS campaigner Dale Staples, who performed some critical moves on the fast Supertubes wall to win his heat and advance to the quarters. Current SA Champ Casey Grant along with Brandon Jackson were two other surfers who excelled, along with Slade Prestwich, and will also be surfing in the quarter finals when next the contest resumes. Another surfer who advanced through to the quarters was local surfer Dylan Lightfoot, who advanced in second place along with Greg Emslie. “The waves were fast and down-the-line out there, and you really need to find the ones with the tapering walls,” said Lightfoot. “I’m stoked to get through to the quarters and there are some big names in the event, but they are going to be under pressure and I’m not feeling any pressure at this stage and am just having some fun out there.”
Former winner at Jeffreys Bay and 1999 world champion Mark Occhilupo from Australia hit the water in the second last heat of the day, and whipped a few big turns on his backhand as the tide started coming in. He advanced through to the quarters along with Lewellyn Whittaker from Mossel Bay.
The leading contender for the Nixon WTA Best Tube Ride Award of a R9000 Nixon Magnacon Watch is Allan Johns for a long barrel across the Car Park section that saw Allan score a 9-point ride.
Surfers remaining in the event need to assemble for a possible 07h30 start tomorrow, with a chance that the surfing might begin with the first round of the Girls division.
The Jeffreys Bay Open Of Surfing can be found on Facebook Jeffreys Bay Open Of Surfing
Score updates can be found throughout the day on the Jeffreys Bay Open Of Surfing Twitter account @JBayOpen
The tournament is sanctioned by Surfing South Africa. Surfing South Africa is recognised by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) as the governing body of the sport in South Africa.