The Corona Open J-Bay comes at just the right time for Mick Fanning. Struggling to find any semblance of competitive rhythm, let alone championship form, the 3x World Champ has a special affinity with the African jewel. It's a massive opportunity to kick start a sluggish season that sees him sitting in unfamiliar territory, sitting behind the World Title chase at No. 13 in the rankings on the Jeep Leaderboard. A record-shattering fifth victory at Jeffreys Bay would put a charge back into his Title campaign and add an interesting element into an already tightly-contested championship race.
Fanning's love affair with the speedy walls of Supertubes began early on in his pro career when he won at J-Bay as a rookie in 2002 (he won again in 2006), but didn't really flourish until 2011. Since then he's become the dominant force over the past decade. He's appeared in every Final since 2011, winning twice in the last three years. He could quite possibly be rolling on a three-peat -- looking for a four-peat -- if not for that pesky shark that showed up and ruined the 2015 Final against Julian Wilson. Only Kelly Slater can approach his records at J-Bay, yet the last time the GOAT appeared in a Final here was when he won the event in 2008. Fanning's career numbers are staggering:
Event wins: 4
Highest average heat score (AHS): 15.51 points
Highest heat win percentage: 81%
Final appearances: 7
Semifinal appearances: 8
Heat wins: 47 (2nd to Slater)
Excellent heats: 23 (2nd to Slater)
Looking forward into the 2017 event, Fanning pulled an interesting draw in Round One, where he'll surf against Sebastian Zietz and Joan Duru. Zietz, who's off of the best start of his career, has struggled at this event in the past, never bettering 13th place since joining the Tour back in 2013. Rookie Joan Duru is looking like a dangerman, however. His backhand attack is considered his strongest asset and after his Quarterfinal appearance in Fiji -- the first excellent result of his fledgling CT career -- he'll be carrying a significant level of momentum into the J-Bay lineup. With a forecast calling for good to excellent conditions at Jeffreys in the next few days, Fanning will be licking his chops at a chance to tear into a few textured walls at Supers and rinse away the remnants of a disappointing start to the season.