Fanning, Wilson Press Fast Forward at Jeffreys Bay

Craig Jarvis

Fanning's Unfinished Business
The final four Round 2 heats of the Rip Curl Pro Portugal were completed this afternoon in challenging two-to-three foot (1 metre) waves at Supertubos. More ...

This may sound strange, but the ankle injury Mick Fanning suffered the day after he arrived at Jeffreys Bay might just be a blessing. After all, his highly anticipated return to the scene of last year's shark encounter had global media in a frenzy.

Highlights: Opening Day at J-Bay
Day 1 of the J-Bay Open was filled with incredible performances as the full spectrum of Championship Tour stars returned to Supertubes.

In fact, the story of his return appeared on the front page of the New York Times website Wednesday. And while Mick's camp has been flooded with media inquiries, the whole shark thing has already taken a back seat to his damaged wheel -- which is good thing.

But by Wednesday it was time to put his ankle fears to rest, just as he did last week with the sharks. Turns out, Fanning's semi-retirement seed placed him in the very first heat of the event, and he wasted no time making every Fantasy Surfing player who ran away from him wish there was some kind of "undo" button.

Slater's Buzzer Beater
Heat 7 went down to the wire with all three surfers scoring last-minute rides, but Kelly Slater got the best of it.

The ankle looked fine. Not even J-Bay's frigid cold was affecting it. And it was damn cold.

But low temperatures are a welcome sign in these parts. If the wind is strong southwest, as it was this morning, there's always a good chance of waves, but when it gets really cold, the chances are even better. Coldness keeps the optimism up.

Back Where We Belong
Day 1 of the J-Bay Open began with Mick Fanning returning to form at Supertubes, and picked up from there.

Mick Fanning had his hands full with Conner Coffin and Alejo Muniz joining him in his Round One match. But as soon as he stood up his smooth and flowing style was on full display. There was no nursing of the ankle. Mick flowed, taking his usual high lines across J-Bay's long walls and soaking up the speed.

Fanning handled the ensuing media attention with aplomb, confidently greeting the locals and smiling all the way through the long line of journalists waiting for him.

Cathels Upsets Wilko
Australian rookie Davey Cathels maximized his tube time to grab a big win against World No. 1 Matt Wilkinson.

After that, all eyes turned to John John. The Hawaiian opened strong but left the door open, and rookie Kanoa Igarashi came sprinting through. Remarkably, the 18-year-old has won five of six Round One heats this year, including this one. He waited patiently for waves he could work with, surfed them confidently, and got the job done. It was impressive because it was cold, calculated and lethal. Plus, he'd only surfed J-Bay for the first time last week.

Adriano Powers Through
Adriano de Souza's committed surfing netted him a commanding Round One win.

"I got here last first time in J-Bay," said Kanoa. "On Saturday it was some of the best waves I have ever seen in my life. I just surfed as much as I could, and spent a lot of time watching surfers who have experience here. I probably learned the most about the waves from the locals. They really know how to find those speed lines, and understand exactly how the wave needs to be surfed."

That's a smart kid.

Igarashi Edges Florence
Rookie Kanoa Igarashi surfed a smart heat against Hawaiians John John Florence and Keanu Asing at J-Bay.

Meanwhile, there's been some talk about the second coming of Kolohe Andino, who showed maturity in his heat against Ace Buchan and Jadson Andre. Andino brought a tempered approach to the blustery conditions. With the offshore wind ripping through the line-up he rode up, along, and over the lip on numerous occasions, never getting blown off and never disappearing over the back, a mistake of which many were guilty.

"I've been here for a while, and I actually got so surfed out before the event that I had to take a few days off," said a smiling Andino after his heat victory.

J-Bay Delivers
Jordy Smith, Caio Ibelli and Julian WIlson had plenty to work with in their Round One heats as Supertubes turned on.

What is it about a first round heat win? For some, it's not that serious as it's non-elimination, but for others it's a do-or-die heat from the get-go. In Heat 9 Jordy Smith was trailing an on-point Wiggolly Dantas, who opened up with an absolute bomb for 9.27. Smith chipped away, however, and managed to edge ahead of the Brazilian goofyfooter.

Andino Opens Strong
The Californian looked fierce during his Round One match at the J-Bay Open.

"I found this wave at the end of the heat that was a bit slow," said Smith after his heat. "But I knew it was going to hit the reef at some stage, so I just set up the inside section and did a bunch of turns right in front of the judges on the Carpark Section. I will never underestimate the value of a first round win. It can set you up for the entire event."

Julian Wilson Rules Round One
Julian Wilson caught fire during his Round One heat, and went on to rack up the highest heat total of the day.

While so much of the media attention is pointed firmly at Mick Fanning, Julian Wilson's story has been somewhat overlooked. He must have been pretty nervous to paddle out as well, but he showed no nerves in the water, posting a reinvigorated performance and the highest score of the day. Julian has been training under Andy King, and it is clearly reflected in his approach, with big turns and no slowing down for his in-sync performance. "It feels nice to be back here," said Wilson without irony, after an 18.77 heat total.

Early Round Breakdown
Mick Fanning, Italo Ferreira and Kanoa Igarashi earned crucial Round One victories in the clean early-morning conditions.

The wind continued to howl, the rain poured down, and the crowds obstinately filled up the grandstands. Everyone wanted to watch Heat 1 of Round Two, featuring local boy Steve Sawyer against yellow jersey-adorned Matt Wilkinson. They both crumbled. The tour leader dodged a bullet, and Sawyer, who wasn't feeling well, bowed out of the event in the ugliest heat of the day.

Toledo Takes Flight
The dynamic Brazilian got better with every ride in Round Two, wrapping his win up with an impressive aerial reverse.

On the flip side, we finally got to witness a single, ridiculous air, when Filipe Toledo took on Kai Otton in the late afternoon. Filipe has also never really shone at Supers, and his aerial approach seems to not quite suit the classic, corduroy lines of the best right-hand point break on the tour. He changed this. Some rasping rail turns before a big forehand punt, holding on tightly to his outside rail in the offshore wind, to a full forehand rotation into the trough in the golden light, and one the best waves that Filipe has ever surfed at Supers.

Tomorrow looks to be really good as well. Stay tuned in.