The rain cleared late last night and the wind switched back to the offshore as the Corona Open J-Bay resumed in flawless surf. Waves pumped all day long and surfers put on an incredible performance to fight their way out of the elimination Round Two.
Waves started to really turn on in the second heat of the morning, just in time for Jadson Andre to pull into a couple of good barrels and eliminate Kolohe Andino in Round Two. Jadson's head injury sustained during his freesurf yesterday didn't seem to hold him back at all, as he navigated a deep tube for his best score of 7.97.
In the very next heat, an all-Australian battle between Julian Wilson and Josh Kerr did not disappoint, as they went head-to-head with carves and barrel sections at Supertubes. It all came down to a final effort from Josh, who locked into a dreamy J-Bay barrel, and spent countless seconds inside, but got clipped before the exit and did not get the required score to overtake Julian.
"It's so enjoyable out here and it's only going to get better," said Wilson. "It's a beautiful day to be out there with just one other guy. If it has a big long wall with some size on it and barrels on the inside -- that's what everyone wants. It was really nice to have some exchanges out there and get some nice waves."
From a regularfooter battle we went to a goofyfooter battle with Connor O'Leary and Miguel Pupo in Heat 6. O'Leary, who just finished runner-up in Fiji and comes to J-Bay ranked 7th in the World, started well with a great ride and controlled the battle from start to finish. Miguel, on the other hand, missed a couple of opportunities to fight back, including a great wave in the last 30 seconds of the heat, but came up just short with a 7.03 -- when he needed a 7.33.
"I'm stoked to get the win," Connor said. "It's a massive confidence-booster getting a Final in Fiji for this event and the rest of the year. It's not over yet, so we'll see what happens. There's something about South Africa that feels close to home, it's such a beautiful place and I feel so comfortable here."
In Heat 7, things escalated quickly when Italian rookie Leonardo Fioravanti opened his heat with an excellent 8.50 right from the start, on a lengthy ride with multiple big carves. Sebastian Zietz answered with a near-perfect 9.83, but was unable to find another good wave while Leo put a second excellent ride on the board, an 8.13. Seabass continued to surf multiple waves but kept missing out on the average score he wanted to advance.
"I am frothing right now," Leo said. "We're in J-Bay and the waves are absolutely pumping. It's a dream to be here and I think it's the best wave I've ever surfed in my life in a heat. My goal was to try and get a big score at the start and then back it up. I was in a tough spot because Seabass is an incredible surfer, so I'm stoked to make that heat. Win or lose, we surfed pumping J-Bay."
By now waves were actually firing, just in time for a frothing Filipe Toledo to tear apart the lineup. He unleashed some insane carves and found long, deep barrels to score the heat of the event so far, with a perfect 10-point ride and an incredible 9.83 as a backup. Kanoa Igarashi could only watch in despair while the Brazilian lit up every wave he paddled for.
"It feels good to be back, especially surfing perfect waves at J-Bay," said Toledo. "You just have to enjoy it out there. Our heat was definitely amazing with pumping surf non-stop. My froth level is over the moon and I get super excited to get out there and have my heat and put on a good show."
Caio Ibelli toned it down a little bit in the heat that followed, but applied a similar strategy to Filipe's and posted two excellent scores early to push Stu Kennedy against the ropes. The Australian reacted on the 10-minute mark with an excellent score of his own, but failed to find a second solid one as Caio moved into Round Three.
Another rookie, Frenchman Joan Duru, caught an important break in Round Two. As a rookie on Tour, Joan still knows the wave at Jeffreys Bay quite well, as he placed runner-up to Adriano de Souza back in 2012 when the event was a Qualifying Series event. Joan picked up one the biggest waves of the day and destroyed the poor thing on his backhand, en route to a massive score over Adrian Buchan. Despite falling on the very last maneuver, the score turned in as a 9-pointer and won him a ticket into Round Three.
"I'm so happy to be here because the waves are perfect," he said. "It's hard to wait for the good ones but you have to choose the right waves, surf them well and not fall. I love South Africa and I've had good results here in the past so hopefully that plays in my favor."
Two powerful surfers continued to give spectators a world-class show in the second-to-last heat, with Wiggolly Dantas and Ezekiel Lau trading excellent wave for excellent wave in the pulsing lineup. In an opposition of styles and stance, Ezekiel got the slimmest of margins to edge out Wiggolly and advance past Round Two for just the third time so far in his rookie season.
The biggest upset of the day, unfortunately, came from 11x WSL Champion Kelly Slater who officially withdrew from the event after breaking his foot while freesurfing up the point in J-Bay. He and Filipe Toledo would have met in Round Three; Toledo will now get a walk-through.
Tune in for the next call and a possible start to Round Three Tuesday at 7:15 a.m. local time.
Get Full Corona Open J-Bay results here.
Round Three Matchups:
Heat 1: Adriano de Souza vs. Joan Duru
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina vs. Bede Durbidge
Heat 3: Owen Wright vs. Ezekiel Lau
Heat 4: Connor O'Leary vs. Frederico Morais
Heat 5: Mick Fanning vs. Caio Ibelli
Heat 6: John John Florence vs. Jadson Andre
Heat 7: Jordy Smith vs. Leonardo Fioravanti
Heat 8: Filipe Toledo vs. Kelly Slater (INJ)
Heat 9: Julian Wilson vs. Jeremy Flores
Heat 10: Joel Parkinson vs. Conner Coffin
Heat 11: Michel Bourez vs. Italo Ferreira
Heat 12: Matt Wilkinson vs. Jack Freestone