Gabriel Medina got mauled by sharks, except they were dolphins and they didn’t maul him. Photo: Sherm
Giants be damned. CJ Hobgood took down Jordy Smith in Round 3 and fell .07 points shy of beating world number 1 Gabriel Medina in Round 5. Photo: DJ Struntz
A super tube that lead to a super claim that lead to a super average result. Taj Burrow, 5th place. Photo: DJ Struntz
The offshore wind can be a bit flattering when it comes to the size of a spray, but Gabriel Medina isn’t big on compliments. Pure girth courtesy of Gabe. Photo: DJ Struntz
Tom Curren is half a century old. Let that sink in while he sinks his rail into this J-Bay wall. Photo: DJ Struntz
Before the final, Mick Fanning wore a wizard’s cloak before and he kissed mothers and children on the face. Whatever works. Photo: Sherm
Joel Parkinson surfed an 18.83 Semifinal heat and has apparently never heard of saving his best for last. Photo: DJ Struntz
Here comes the sun…
And the waves. The superlative swell was forecasted to hit yesterday afternoon. But as the sun sunk last night, a moderately crowded J-Bay lineup sat and scratched their heads. Is it even going to be good? Did we get hoaxed? Do I have lice? Two of those questions were answered this morning as squalls rolled through the sky and lines of swell roared through Jeffery’s Bay. The prophecy held true. It was going to be a very good day.
But first, a few clouds…
Intermittent rain showers gave the morning some character. But as the day matured, the sea of people in wool grew larger and less clothed while the already-astounding waves only got better. Heats started at 8am sharp because, after all, there was business to be conducted. Here are some folks that found themselves on the wrong side of the perfect deal…
Josh Kerr: Kerrzy was first at bat against Adriano de Souza. It was the most confusing heat of the day. Nobody — not the surfers, not the crowd, not the judges — knew what to expect. ADS got the best of Josh in a game of turns. Don’t feel too bad for him though. Kerrzy went on to freesurf down the point and hunt tubes that would make John John Florence blush.
Kolohe Andino: Brother gave himself a chance to win an anybody’s heat against Taj, but he couldn’t close. Still, a 2,3,9 string of results should feel pretty good for the 20-year-old San Clementian.
CJ Hobgood: The David who pegged the Goliath of Jordy Smith had another chance at burying a giant today in the form of Gabriel Medina. Both surfers did the right turns on the wrong waves and Gabriel ended up sneaking past CJ by .07 points.
Freddy Patacchia: Fred couldn’t find his feet against Mick, lost the heat, then proceeded to give a random kid his surfboard and ignite the biggest smile in South Africa. Talk about losing like a champ.
Then the Quarterfinals happened. And more people lost. Like…
Adriano de Souza: Adriano got cooked by a heating-up Joel Parkinson and then freesurfed like a madman because all he wants to do is win things and eat sheet metal.
Taj Burrow: Taj was focused on winning this event — he even wrote “2014 J-Bay Open Champion” on a piece of paper and hung it on the wall of his temporary South African home. Unfortunately, his hand is not as clairvoyant as that of Nostradamus and TB got stubbed by goofyfoot du jour, Matt Wilkinson.
Gabriel Medina: Much to the delight of other title contenders, Owen Wright defeated Gabe. The still-in-first Brazilian surfed well, but couldn’t quite pelt the lip with the ferocity and repetition as his lanky, Australian foe.
Alejo Muniz: Alejo got dusted by Mick Fanning, but it still must have felt good for the Argentizillian. This was one of the first WCT events that Alejo brought his father along with him and pops was pleased. If Dad is happy, why even bother with the Semis?
Let it shine, let shine…
The sky cleared. The waves evolved. The crowd traded their warm jackets for cold beer. The day couldn’t have gotten any better, but then it did — in the form of a heritage heat. Mark Occhilupo VS Tom Curren at classic J-Bay. It was enough to bring a tear to anyone over 30’s eye and served as a lesson to the youth. Good surfing doesn’t always happen above the lip. A wave like J-Bay leaves no room for frills. At Jeff’s, it’s about going fast and playing to the tune of the wave. It’s about true surfing. Curren and Occ reminded us of that — Tommy’s perfect 10 didn’t hurt.
The Semis taught us that change is subjective. Joel Parkinson VS Matt Wilkinson‘s heat was eerily similar to its predecessor — a stylish regularfooter against a bull of a goof. And just like Curren got the best of Occ, Parko eliminated Wilko. (Parko’s perfect 10 didn’t hurt.) Mick Fanning kept the regularfoot regime in power by beating Owen Wright with a stern 17.00 point total. And the final was set.
Parko and Mick. Two close friends, two world champions, two surfers who are built to surf J-Bay. The beach was all boned up in anticipation. Mick came in sizzling with a 9.00, a 7.33 and an 8.00 to which Parko had no legitimate response (see: peaking too early). The 2014 J-Bay Open trophy was Mick’s; the perfect day was over. As the final horn blew, it didn’t matter that nobody even attempted an air on the final day. It didn’t matter that both finalists were over 30. It didn’t even matter that a 50-year-old Tom Curren made some current WCT surfers look bad. Good surfing speaks for itself and this was the best day of competitive surfing in 2014.
They say that tomorrow…
J-Bay will be slightly smaller, but still amazing. A liver can only hope that perfect waves are a good hangover cure.—Africa Corespondent Brendan Buckley