Jeffreys Bay is a dream. The fast, powerful, hollow right-hander offers cavernous tubes and long, workable walls that are begging to be ridden by the committed. There's no room for the timid at the J-Bay Open, and the list of past champions is the best evidence.
Yet it's also one of the most difficult waves in the world to surf, which is why picking fantasy teams can be tricky here. To help guide you through your vetting process we chatted with Ross Williams about his. Whether you agree with his picks or not, his insights will help shed some light on your choices.
WSL: The list of J-Bay winners is stuffed filled with A-Listers. Why is it such a filter for talent?
Ross Williams: It's a long wave -- a fast wave -- so any issues get completely magnified: a funky style, a bad board, any problem linking your turns. The guys who flow -- Mick, Parko, Jordy -- completely stand out above the rest here, more than any other wave on Tour. And another thing that really sets it apart is the wave dictates everything: where you can turn, get barreled, race, relax. Surfers have to read the wave properly at J-Bay or they're toast. You don't really get a choice in the matter. You do what the wave calls for, and you better do it quick, or your opportunity is lost.
WSL: What's a common denominator with the surfers who perform well there?
RW: I'd say it's surfing with confidence. It's not a place where you can be indecisive. Bruce Irons didn't really care for J-Bay when he was on tour for that very reason. It's a tricky wave to get wired because you have to be super attuned to what it's calling for. Andy, though, was a madman out there. Rougher around the edges than a Parko or a Fanning, but always super committed in his approach. Kelly is the same way. There's no hesitation out there with those guys. They're not as flow-centered, but they're super exciting because of where they go on the wave and how they get there.
WSL: What about when conditions aren't dream-like. Who wins there?
RW: That's when you have to look at the smart guys who surf with commitment. J-Bay is always going to have one or two rounds that are in spotty surf. Mother Nature will have her say. Those are rough days too, because one heat will pump, and the next will be flat, and becomes a wave-catching contest. Guys like Adriano surf smart heats, and surf committed. What he lacks in flow there he can easily make up for with smarts and aggression. Jake Paterson was the same way back in my day. They've both won events on some level there.
WSL: So as of right now, you're going with Wilko and John John in Tier A. Yet neither of those guys have the best records out there. Explain. RW: These guys are my momentum picks. The smart fantasy players will tell you not to get confused between the guys who surf well at a particular location, versus the guys who will score well. It's important to note there's a difference. I think both of these guys, with a World Title in mind, have really been focusing more on what's scoring better. It's working too. Plus they surf insane. It's a bit redundant taking about Wilko's backhand at this point, but I think it'll work well there. John John's surfing out there is incredible, but his battle will be with Mother Nature. It was tough passing on Medina in this one though. I'm sure a lot of guys will go that direction.
WSL: Your Tier B is ridiculous looking: Mick, Parko, Julian and Jordy. Not exactly risky here, though.
RW: I know. Each of these guys have either won or been to the Final, so I'm basically playing the house role here. I'm not going to be the guy to try to be sly in this round, which probably isn't the smartest way to play the game, but that's how I'm approaching it this time. These guys are all too good to pass on.
WSL: And in Tier C you've got Slater and rookie Ryan Callinan, who's your bold call at this point?
RW: He is. I think Ryan's backhand is going to be a great match for this wave. He's super fast. He's got great style. And I think he'll do well whether it's bigger or smaller. He's gaining some confidence right now too. There are a lot of other guys in this tier that I liked: Alejo Muniz and Jeremy Flores were probably next on my list. I'm sure plenty of guys will pass on Kelly to be clever, but again, I'm not going to. Not at J-Bay. He knows the lineup way too well.