After today’s anti-climatic first quarter-final heat between Jordy and John John, the official call was made that the contest was off for the day due to increasingly poor conditions. Frustrated surfers, officials and spectators finished their rants together with their coffee’s, resigning themselves to the second lay day of the J-Bay Open. What now?
For many of the pro’s, J-Bay is like a second home. But when you’re not surfing one of the best right hand breaks in the world, what else is there to do?
Nina’s Real Food restaurant, is a go-to J-Bay favourite for locals, camera-cladded touristas and all the pro surfers. In addition to shredding, the pro’s, too must eat and Nina’s is usually where they go.
Somewhere between the sea of bleach-blonde heads, mounted longboards and the smell of steaming butternut soup, were the likes of Matt Wilkinson, Davey Cathels, Gabriel Medina, Wiggolly Dantas and Keanu Asing.
We took an extended lunch to ask the pro’s how they kick back on a lay day and find out about their most memorable J-Bay moments (not experienced in the barrel)…
A general theme among the foreigners has been the incredible wildlife South Africa has to offer. Let’s be honest, everyone loves a lion and something with a ridiculously long neck.
“Two years ago, I went to Pumba Game Reserve with my girlfriend. We stayed the night and went on safari there. That was probably my most favourite lay day from anywhere in the world! It was so sick,” said Wilko before counting the animals he had seen on his fingers. “We saw lions, rhinos, giraffes and all sorts of good stuff.”
Aside from the waves, Wilko has two things he loves most about Jeffrey’s. “My favourite thing is the food around here. I guess I just love food at the best of times but it’s just so amazing! And it’s pretty cheap for us with the dollar at the moment,” he said. “I also love the crisp, cold mornings and awesome sunrises.”
Davey Cathels (feat. Wilko)
Sitting alongside Wilko was Australian rookie, Davey Cathels, who jumped into the convo before things got wierder. “Besides the wave my favourite thing about J-Bay is probably the smell. You wake up in the morning and it smells like aloe the whole time. I love that. it’s so sick.”
Between the burgers and clanking of cutlery, Davey and Wilko took a detour to reminisce about endless lay days in Fiji… “My last time in J-Bay was when it was a WQS event and it was good the whole time so we didn’t have any lay days,” Cathels said. “But my favourite must have been in Fiji this year, we had a week or more of lay days. It was really fun being on a tropical island with all the boys. We went fishing, kayaking and were just lounging around.”
“Yeah Fiji is pretty strange,” Wilko added, passing Davey the salt. “Everyone stays on the same island and there’s not really any other people so everyone can be as weird as they want. It’s small as well so it kind of forces you to hang out with everyone. But you kind of want to anyways because pretty much everyone is a legend,” Davey concluded.
The top 36 have always seemed to be firm friends. Whether they’re catching a surf, sinking a beer or bouncing between surf tour memories – usually, you don’t see one pro without another.
Honolulu’s Keanu Asing was chilling with some mates one of whom was fellow Fox rider and J-Bay local, Dylan Lightfoot. Before Nina’s was clouded by oversized K-Way jackets and soaked in surf slang, Keanu aka Anu told us about living it up on lay days.
“My favourite lay day has been going to see the animals, like the lion park.” Anu roared (jokes, he didn’t). “I went bungy jumping last year and tomorrow I may go shark cage diving. But my favourite is definitely going to see the lions. Lions are so cool.”
Medina and Wiggolly
Two tables down, the powerful Brazilian backhanders, Medina and Wiggolly, were parking together with family and coaches.
As if surfing isn’t enough to get the blood vessels a-pumping, Wiggolly recalled spending one of his lay days dropping down a bridge, rather than a wave.
“My best lay day was last year when I went to go bungee jump after a free surf. It was my first time and it’s the highest one in the world that is off of a bridge so it was pretty crazy,” he said.
A very mellow Medina was pretty solid on his favourite lay day pastime. “Eating” he told us, with a smile and mouthful of what could have been rice.
Like the surfer’s bellies and J-Bay memory boxes, we hope the swell fills up for the remaining quarter-final heats of the J-Bay Open.
*Lead Image: Wilko messes around with a soccer ball at the first J-Bay Open lay day on Friday, 8 July 2016 © Ian Thurtell