On The Road With Corey Wilson: J-Bay Open Lay Days

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Not only is this the first time I’ve ever visited South Africa, it’s also the first time I’ve attended a CT event outside of the United States. Prior to the J-Bay Open I’d only been to CT’s at Lower Trestles and Pipeline. At Lowers, the surfers confine themselves to the safety of the athlete area. They surf their heats. Use their locker rooms. Shuttle back to their designated parking spaces. At Pipe they’re scattered between a dozen team houses and are never in the same place at the same time.

J-Bay is different. Take yesterday, for example, when the majority of the CT spent the first layday of the event gathered together in the common area overlooking Supertubes to watch the State of the Origin. I know nothing about Rugby, except that The State of the Origin is akin to a yearly Super Bowl between Queensland and New South Wales and the Coronas were only one dollar. This year, Queensland dominated 52-6.

I sat at a table with Owen Wright, Dane Reynolds, Mick Fanning and Corey Wilson. After the game, conversation shifted from shit talk between the two states to loose conversations on all sorts of topics. Owen’s new contracts (“I don’t care too much about money, I only want to get paid what I think I’m worth”), Dane’s heat against Adriano in Fiji (“I know I shouldn’t, but I felt bad winning that heat because he’s going for a world title”), and Owen’s latest SURFING cover, which hits newsstands this week. It’s a mental shot from Australia — one of Corey Wilson’s best photos. If you know Corey’s work, you know that’s saying a lot.

The J-Bay Open is also Corey’s first time to South Africa. He’s posted up a couple houses down from Jimmy and I where he’s staying with the Rip Curl team. He just came from a Search trip in Indonesia and he’ll go on another Search trip in Africa as soon as this event ends. He’s been home, like, four days in 2015 and he’ll avoid going home for another couple months.

Below is behind-the-scenes look at Corey’s first few days at Jeffrey’s bay.— Zander Morton
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[Above]This was right when Gabby showed up with his new girlfriend. All the boys in the house were ripping into him, just heckling the shit out of him. They were like, “You’re the Justin Bieber of Brazil, and you have a f–king girlfriend? What are you doing?” [laughing] It’s all in good fun, though. Gabe just laughed it off…

[Below]…and then he went surfing, and he went pretty mad. He’s had a bad start to this year but I think he’s gonna turn it around here at J-Bay. Plus he’s got a new girlfriend to impress. [laughs].
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The waves have been shitty by J-Bay standards, but it hasn’t been terrible. If you saw this wave in California you would freak out. This was this morning, while you guys were out looking at lions [Jimmy and I went to a Safari park with CJ Hobgood today]. It’s funny, the first day Mick got here, he didn’t know what time it got light so he woke up at 620 a.m., suited up in the pitch black, and paddled out. He assumed it was gonna get light any minute, but after 10 minutes it’s not getting light. Turns out the sun doesn’t rise till after 7. He said some fish popped up and he screamed like a little girl, paddled to the rocks and waited for someone else to come down to the beach. Finally Kai Otton showed up and then he paddled back out.
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When Mick started doing airs his friends started calling him Air Mick. He gets so excited, especially after a few coffees. Today was perfect for airs and he went out and stuck this slob this evening. I guess Julian [Wilson] has been texting him encouragement because he’s been doing so many lately. It gets Mick psyched.
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Wilko. Glenn Hall is his new trainer, and they have a heat together tomorrow against Slater. They were talking tactics just now. About how to f–k him up. It was so funny, they are gonna try to get into his head. Wilko and Glenn are gonna stay at all the events on the CT together this year. They are pretty much best friends and Wilko gets super motivated around Glenn. It’s really good for him, having a best friend as a trainer. They ran a mock heat today, and Glenn was like: “If you score two 7s in 30 minutes you can have desert.” He did it. [laughs]. But later, Wilko was out there with his favorite board and this water photographer got in his way and Wilko ran him directly over. He lost it. It’s so hard for Wilko to get mad, but his fin box broke out on the guys housing.
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This is during The State Of The Origin. Queensland was destroying New South Wales and Parko was heckling the shit out of Fanning. Mick is from New South Wales so he still roots for them. Mick was so bummed. I think Parko and Bede were the only guys going for Queensland, and pretty much everyone else left drunk or mad or both. [laughs] It was the worst beatdown in the history of the matchup. Or something like that.
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This is yesterday evening after the game. Owen cares so much about The State of Origin. When he won in Fiji he actually left that night so he could go home and watch the first game of the series with his friends at home. I started having beers with him around 11 yesterday morning before the game and it just escalated from there. He was pretty bummed about the loss but he took it in stride. Right at dark he saw a couple sets and paddled out, but he didn’t have the best surf. [laughing]. I took this right when he came in, someone handed him another beer. He probably didn’t need it.
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Mick helps out a family over here. They came to this little BBQ we had today, and the three girls in the family were so happy to see him. They ran up to him and gave him the biggest hug. They were so psyched. This is the youngest girl and today was her birthday. Mick is the best. He’s so good with them.