A look back at the J-Bay Open…

One thing that was very clear after watching the Jeffreys Bay Open was just how much this event has been missed on the world tour, and for the local Jeffreys Bay community. Going into the event there was a lot of uncertainty as to how this event was going to shuffle the ratings. The no.1 seed, Gabriel Medina, had never even seen the wave before, along with a handful of other competitors. It’s return to tour was also only announced a few months before the event, so those who hadn’t surfed it weren’t going to be able to come and learn the wave. As it turned out the finals saw two of Jeffreys Bay’s finest come out on top, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

IMG_9950Mick Fanning races through a Supertubes barrel en route to the final.

With Kelly and Jordy uncharacteristically bowing out of competition in round 3, we knew we were going to see some of the less experienced surfers making it into further rounds. Everyone I spoke to was disappointed not to be able to watch them surf, especially with all this talk of a huge, perfect, swell at the end of the week. The forecast for the swell stared to increase on Friday, yielding no result and the pros were surfing 2 foot Supers in the evening keeping themselves loose, but unsure what the morning would bring.

dolphinsThe local wildlife showed up for a quick freesurf on the final day of competition.

It was life as usual at Jeffreys Bay on Friday evening as the pros who were still in the event went down to Nina’s for supper which is where I had seen them regularly having a feed, and those who were out of the event went out to watch the local bands and get a taste of the night life. Seeing your heroes out of the water just eating some sushi or having a beer actually feels quite strange as you you say to yourself ‘he’s just a normal dude’. And then you watch them do a massive full rotation air or a huge carve sending buckets to the sky and you remember why they are you hero.

IMG_9710Owen Wright looks back on form, with a strong display of backhand surfing seeing him through into the semi-finals. 

Saturday morning was all one would expect, grey, windy and cold but what we did have was swell. Looking up the point it was windy, but there was no way they could not run the contest with solid 6 to 8 ft lines stacking up on the famous pointbreak. With the high tide I do think they could have started the contest a little later, but with Adriano’s huge barrel in the first heat you couldn’t really say it wasn’t firing! The first few heats we saw the surfers struggle a bit with the wind and the waves and we were certainly hoping the swell wasn’t going to get any bigger. And then Mick Fanning paddled out and unleashed on the Supertubes walls. Experience at Jeffreys Bay was going to be a huge factor on the final day of competition.

IMG_9136Adriano De-Souza find a crisp supertubes barrel in the first heat of the day.

I hadn’t had my morning coffee or breakfast yet but there was no chance I was going to risk missing a huge carve or a long perfect Supertubes barrel. Watching the replays on the big screen on the beach had been perfect on the small days, but when Supertubes is that size you would need a pair of binoculars to even see the big screen. The beach was packed with excited surfers and spectators a like and this what it was all about, watching guys getting lipped on thick 6 foot barrels or Adriano bailing his board instead of duckdiving as the waves down at the bottom were so heavy.

IMG_9537Taj Burrow stalls as the curtain falls..

The tables had turned though, and the early rounds goofy-foot domination was not going be the case today, well except for one guy. We all know that Matt Wilkinson is hot and cold, has a lot of character but often can’t really put it together. This contest was different. Matt looked focus and determined, and he let his surfing do the talking. While the other goofy footers struggled to find perfect sync with the waves, Wilko’s timing was perfect and he wasn’t scared to hit the lip, which in 6-8 ft grinding Supers is not mean feat. Medina continues to impress, and while he realised he wasn’t going to get out of combo land in his heat he still smashed his last wave and did his trademark double hands claim asking for an applause, he’s a character alright. It was brilliant also great to see Owen aka Avatar back on form, his semi-final birth shows that he’s definitely back and means business.

IMG_9551Matt Wilko really showed up on his backhand, achieving on of his best ever result on the CT

Owen Wright makes his way down the beach, hair blowing in the stiff offshore breeze.


Gabriel Medina, who despite falling to Owen in the quarters, has retained his lead in the world ranking.

Despite the surf contest being on in cooking waves, the most spoken about thing on the beach was how amazing it was to watch Tom Curren surf. No, I’m not just talking about the heat with him and Occy which was great to see and left everyone saying that Tom would have given Mick a better run than Joel did, I’m talking about watching him hit the dawnie every morning and the sunset surf every evening. The way he surfs a wave is still so perfect, unique and pleasing to the eye that everyone was just stoked to see him out there. For those watching the webcast I’m glad they put that heat on just so you could see what we had been watching every day.

Tom Curren’s 10 in the Heritage Heat against occy.

There was one man who was different to the rest, I had frequently seen him around but it was just before the finals that I experienced something different. Finally shooting off to go and get some food I tried to get around the back of the packed food tent and chose a shortcut. It was quite a tight gap and there was a medium-sized man with a hoodie on coming from the other side. We both set foot into the small gap at the same time and when he looked up and saw that I had a camera on my shoulder, he apologised for not squeezing through with a big smile on his face. Walking quickly to go and get his wetsuit on, just minutes before the final and having already surfed 3 gruelling heats that day Mick wasn’t Mr ice man, he was there, present in the moment and even friendly.

Mick destroyed the final, it was as simple as that. Despite having surfed one more heat than Parko that day Mick’s energy levels were still good and it was clear who was the fittest of the bunch. His carves were huge, his variety of manoeuvres met the judges requirements and he rode the barrel with precision. If only it had been Kelly or Jordy in the final with him to mix things up and do something unexpected as well as fight to the bitter end. Was it an exciting final to watch on the beach? Perhaps not, but everyone was still stoked enough on having seen Tom Curren claim a barrel that it didn’t matter.

IMG_0620Parko hits the lip, keeping his eyes firmly down the line, on his way to a runner up placing.

IMG_0732Mick throwing buckets in the final, which he dominated virtually from start to finish.

IMG_0798Mick throwing the double fist claim after his victory.

The surfers were all stoked with the waves, and it became apparent who was up for taking it to the next level in those type of waves. Supertubes definitely separates those who rely on airs and snaps to those who can draw long clean lines, get the rail buried in and know how to ride the barrel. It forces good surfing, but is still a really difficult wave to surf well. It has mixed things up on the tour and people will be talking about it for a while, I, for one, am definitely going to be back next year sitting on the beach watching the best surfers in the world surf one of the best waves in the world.

Words and Photos by Chris Bond in association with Ticket To Ride