SURF: 4 feet and good.
EVENTS HELD: Round Two, heats 6-14.
NATURES CALL: Wild out to sea. Big plodding elephants visible on the horizon. The first pulses of a long range ground swell seeping into the bay.
PREDICTED: Another dolphin parade. They’re a daily occurrence here.
Cheron Kraak, unofficial mayor of Jeffreys Bay and CEO of Billabong South Africa, was rubbing her hands together. I mean literally rubbing her hands together.
“Here come the boats,” she says, pointing the local chokka trawlers making their way into the bay. They’re usually anchored about 20km out to sea straight off J-Bay, fishing for squid, but as soon as the swell on the horizon gets out of control, they move in for shelter.
The swell hadn’t wrapped in yet, but it was just a matter of time. At 7am this morning, when Andy Irons was the lone surfer to paddle out for a free session. Supertubes was more like Superslop, sideshore ankle-snappers lapping up against the rocks. But by 12:15pm when the first two contestants jumped into the gully, the wind had gone offshore and the surf was 4ft and ruler edged.
Occy opened the day’s proceedings with yet another inspiring J-Bay performance. His gouging backhand gaffs were too much for wiry American Timmy Curran. Occhilupo has been a standout, if not THE standout, at Supertubes for two decades now. It was his performance here in 1984 as a fresh faced 17-year-old grom that redefined backhand surfing forever, launched the career of the then-unpronounceable Occhilupo, and put J-Bay back on the map. He’s still a revelation 20 years down the line.
Fittingly, Occhilupo named his recently born son in honor of this place: Jay Luciano Occhilupo. On Thursday young Jay was Christened on the rocks in front of Cheron’s house. Photographer and friend Paul Sargeant anointed Jay, using a local perlemoen shell to scoop water up from the gully.
“I knew if I caught the right waves I’d win that heat,” he drawled after the convincing victory.
Occy doesn’t strike you as an over-confident bragger. He’s more the humble, mumbling type. He was right though. When the heat was over, Occ rode one more wave past his posse of whistling Australian supporters, presumably copping a hefty ASP fine in the process. A tribute to his son? “Nah, just havin’ a bit of fun, mate!”