16 Heats At The J-Bay Open

I woke up like…this?
First light has been prettier than this. The sun came crawling over the mountains across the bay, revealing 2- to- 3 foot, lully and frigid chunks of Indian Ocean. However, it was perfectly clean and there was a bit of swell out there, so commissioner KP called it on. The first heat of Round 2 hit the water at 7:30 sharp.

Zaffa surf fans had high hopes for big upsets this morning. In fact, the first thing I saw when I got down to the comp was a sign draped over the grandstands that said: “The Brazilian Storm, up against a South African Hurricane,” in reference to the fact that world numbers 1 and 2, Adriano De Souza and Filipe Toledo — respectively — were matched up against local wildcards Slade Prestwich and Michael February. However, those high hopes would be quickly dashed — the Brazilians both prevailed in the first two heats of the day. By 9 a.m., the sign had disappeared. Not quite the hurricane the local fans had predicted.

A round for losers?
Not according to Owen Wright, who sent Tomas Hermes packing in the third heat of the morning. “Look, I think I’ve surfed in Round 2 and Round 5 in every event this year. I don’t mind it. I kinda like surfing in it, actually. A 25th is a shit result but so is a 13th. Everyone on tour rips and at some point you gotta start beating ‘em head to head.” Owen pointed out that his results have paralleled the conditions so far this year. When it’s perfect, so is he. (Literally. See: Fiji).

Oh, and speaking of perfect
Mid-morning and the tide switched. And the swell went from west to southwest. And suddenly J-Bay turned up. Like way, way up. Not big. Not classic. But a 4-foot right doesn’t get any better. Kolohe Andino took a midday nap and when he came back down to the comp site, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “When did this happen?” he asked, as Jadson Andre and Kai Otton traded tubes and 9-point rides (Kai won). “I’m so jealous of those guys right now. Not of being in Round 2. But I wish I was surfing. This is a surprise. I didn’t think it would get like this today.”

Goofys are wild
It was the theme of the afternoon, with backsiders matching up and going tick for tack. Medina vs Glenn. Jadson vs Kai. Wiggoly vs Miguel. Owen vs Ace. In fact, only one goofy lost to a non-goofy all day. Freddy Pattachia, at the hands (and rail) of Julian Wilson.

Aces are wild, too
Ace Buchan took down Owen in the first heat of the third round in a super tight, back and forth battle. Ace needed a 7.4 and on his last wave, and whipped his way to a 7.5. A 13th won’t help Owen’s title chances, but sitting at third in the world, and with Tahiti and Pipe still on the schedule, Owen’s gonna be in the race till the end.

Joel Parkinson put up the highest heat total of the day. Who saw that coming? Oh yeah, everybody. He’s a two time J-Bay champion for a reason.

Jordy Smith lost to Adam Melling. Who saw that coming? Not many, and especially not the South African surf fans. Jordy’s also a two time J-Bay champion for a reason. Today, you wouldn’t have known it. I’m not sure what’s happened to Jordy. He’s number 18 in the world and he just lost at wave more suited to his surfing than any on tour. One thing is for certain: Not many around here expected Jordy to falter before Round 3.

Oh, and speaking of Round 3
The first four heats are in the books. And along with Ace over Owen, Kai Otton (over Italo Ferreira), Julian Wilson (over Freddy P.), and Nat Young (over Adam Melling) cruised into the three man, no-loser fourth round. Where they will await surfers like…

Adriano De Souza. He’s once again matched up against Dane Reynolds, for the second time in as many events. Dane said he still feels bad for beating him in Fiji. Can he do it again? Of course. Will he do it again? We’ll see. Wouldn’t that be something: If Dane Reynolds, of all people, singlehandedly derail’s Adriano’s title aspirations.

Filipe Toledo. Filipe has been borrowing a board from Alejo Muniz, and they’ll surf against each other tomorrow. Rumor has it that Filipe loves the board. So, will Alejo let him borrow it against him? I can’t imagine Alejo is too excited at the prospect of Filipe beating him on his own equipment.

Kelly Slater. Kelly is ranked outside the Top 10 at the turn of the season for the first time in a long time. He surfs against Kolohe Andino tomorrow, and Kolohe has been ripping around the freesurfs so far. Kolohe doesn’t seem intimated. If anything, he seems excited.

So, tomorrow?
We’re on! I can almost guarantee it. And if we aren’t, well, get ready for some more laydays. Next swell isn’t due to show until Saturday. — Zander Morton