History: Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay

posted by / News / July 14, 2006

Its been more than forty years that Jeffreys Bay has been luring surfers from all over the world to ride the legendary waves of Supertubes, universally acknowledged as one of the top ten surf spots on the planet.

Cheron Kraak, the owner of Country Feeling, started the Surf Classic in the early 1980’s to encourage and assist South Africa’s top surfers to become world class competitors.

The event has gone on to become the most prestigious and longest running event on the South African coastline, with 2006 seeing the 22nd edition as a rated ASP contest and the winner’s names representing a Who’s Who of South African and international surfing.

HISTORY OF A SURF CLASSIC

First run as the Beach Hotel Classic in 1981 with sponsorship totaling R850 (now US $130), the inaugural event saw SA and international surfing legend Shaun Tomson beat a field of 27 in flawless 5 foot surf at Supertubes.

This became the Lightening Bolt / Country Feeling J-Bay Surf Classic in June 1982 when Cheron stepped in to sponsor the event and Greg Day (Aus) took first place.

The following year saw the amateur division won by Durban’s Marc Wright, with Californian David Barr taking the pro title in what had become the Country Feeling Surf Classic.

Upgraded to ASP World Tour status in July 1984, the surfing world suddenly sat up and took notice when Supertubes delivered four solid days of incredible 8 – 10 foot surf, leading ASP General Manager Al Hunt to rate it as one of the best 20 surf contests of all time.

After numerous epic confrontations between the likes of then world champ Tom Carroll, Shaun Tomson and Michael Ho, 18 year-old Mark Occhilupo (Aus) beat Hans Hedeman (Haw) in the final.

The event was not run in 1985 and 1986, but by 1987 it was back on track as the Billabong / Country Feeling J-Bay Surf Classic, an A rated contest on the inaugural SA Surfing Series (SASS) with amateur Grant Myrdal (EL) beating Durban pro Noel Rahme in the final.

May 1988 saw Durbanite Michael Burness, then rated in the world’s top 16, beat Justin Strong (CT) in a close final held in small but “classic” conditions.

In 1989 the contest moved from May to the last week of June and become an AA rated SASS event with {{{R10}}} 000 in prize-money up for grabs. Justin Strong went one better than the previous year and beat Gavin Spowart (Dbn) for the coveted title.

The 1990 edition was again AA rated and featured the best international field since 1984 after the ASP granted a special waiver to allow the world’s top 30 rated surfers to compete. South Africa’s stranglehold on the title was broken for only the second time when Australian rookie pro Marcus Brabant, in his first visit to Supertubes, defeated Wayne Monk (EL) in outstanding overhead surf.

Pierre Tostee (Dbn) clinched the 1991 title with a consummate display of tube riding. That year the Surf Classic was followed by the one off Country Feeling Dream Sequence featuring a select international and local field, with Luke Egan (Aus) earning himself a prime Jeffrey’s Bay plot of land for his victory.

Shortly after clinching the World Junior Championships in Australia, Durban’s Seth Hulley confirmed his potential by scoring a narrow win in tricky small conditions in the 1992 event.

In 1993 the contest was upgraded to an ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) rated event with prize-money totaling R60 000. In a hotly contested final featuring a number of perfect 10 point rides, on waves that did justice to Supertubes’ reputation, Munga Barry (Aus) rode the best wave of the event in the dying moments to pip Kelly Slater (USA) at the post, with Vetea David (Tahiti), who had held the lead before an interference, in 3rd and Justin Strong 4th.

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