JEFFREYS BAY, South Africa (Wednesday, July 5, 2017) - The world's best surfers are one week away from competing at the acclaimed righthander of Supertubes in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, for Stop No. 6 on the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the Corona Open J-Bay. The event marks the halfway point on the CT and will resume this season's thrilling title race, with the top five athletes on the Jeep Leaderboard separated by just 600 points.
Universally regarded as one of the best waves on the planet, Jeffreys Bay boasts a quality righthand pointbreak that delivers unparalleled high-speed consistency, making it the perfect platform to test the world's best. The event holds a competitive window of July 12 - 23, 2017 and is the only CT stop on the African continent.
Matt Wilkinson (AUS) heads into the event wearing the coveted Jeep Leader Jersey after an impressive win at the OK Fiji Pro. Wilkinson's best result in South Africa is a Semifinal finish in 2014 and this year the Australian will need to place higher in the event than the other surfers in the top 5 in order to retain his position at No. 1 on the Jeep Leaderboard.
Just 250 points behind the Australian is reigning WSL Champion John John Florence (HAW), who made it to the Final of the J-Bay Open in 2016. With 13th place finishes at the previous two events this season, Florence is in need of a strong result in South Africa to get back on track to defend his World Title. Florence is set to meet Ian Gouveia (BRA) and one of the wildcards in Round 1.
Jordy Smith (ZAF), Adriano de Souza (BRA) and Owen Wright (AUS) are all tied for third place with 26,150 points on the Jeep Leaderboard, sitting close behind Florence and Wilkinson.
Smith, a two-time event winner (2010 and 2011) and the lone South African on the CT, is a perennial threat at Jeffreys Bay. The hometown hero is injury free this season and in excellent form to hunt down his third event win and maiden World Title. In the opening round of competition Smith will take on Conner Coffin (USA) and an event wildcard.
2015 WSL Champion, De Souza, has had consistently good results in J-Bay, including six Quarterfinal finishes. Despite never having made it to the Semifinals on the CT level, De Souza did claim a win at Jeffreys Bay in 2012 when the event was part of the Qualifying Series. The Brazilian will match-up against 2017 CT Rookie Frederico Morais (PRT) and compatriot Jadson Andre (BRA) in Round 1.
Mick Fanning (AUS), currently ranked in 13th place on the Jeep Leaderboard, is the defending event winner and one of the most dominant surfers at Jeffreys Bay. Fanning claimed his fourth event win last season with an emotional comeback one year after a dramatic incident during the 2015 J-Bay Open Final where Fanning was attacked on live television by what is believed to be a Great White Shark. Fanning will take on Sebastian Zietz (HAW) and Joan Duru (FRA) in Round 1 of competition.
Dale Staples (ZAF) from St Francis Bay will join the WSL Top 34 as a wildcard after winning the 2017 edition of the JBU Supertrials. The remaining wildcard will be decided following the conclusion of the WSL Qualifying Series 10,000 event, the Ballito Pro.
The event will be broadcast LIVE via WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL app and on Facebook LIVE via the WSL's Facebook page. Also check the local listings for coverage on CBS Sports Network in the U.S., Fox Sports in Australia, ESPN in Brazil, Sky NZ in New Zealand, SFR Sports in France and Portugal and as part of the EDGEsport Network.
Corona Open J-Bay Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS), Bede Durbidge (AUS), Josh Kerr (AUS)
Heat 3: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Frederico Morais (PRT), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Jeremy Flores (FRA), Ethan Ewing (AUS)
Heat 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Conner Coffin (USA), TBD
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW), Ian Gouveia (BRA), TBD
Heat 7: Kolohe Andino (USA), Italo Ferreira (BRA), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 8: Julian Wilson (AUS), Kelly Slater (USA), Kanoa Igarashi (USA)
Heat 9: Connor O'Leary (AUS), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Jack Freestone (AUS)
Heat 10: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Caio Ibelli (BRA), Stuart Kennedy (AUS)
Heat 11: Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Mick Fanning (AUS), Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 12: Michel Bourez (PYF), Filipe Toledo (BRA), Ezekiel Lau (HAW)