NewsCorona Open J-Bay - Women'sLakey Peterson

J-Bay: Two Frontrunners, One Advantage

Lakey Peterson and Stephanie Gilmore. World No. 1 and No. 2. Just 55 points apart on the Jeep Leaderboard. Both born and bred at pumping, righthand pointbreaks -- Rincon and Snapper, respectively -- and both pushing to win a World Title in 2018.

6X World Champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) advances directly to Round 3 of the Women's 2018 Corona Open J-Bay after winning Heat 4 of Round 1 at Supertubes, Jeffreys Bay, South Africa. Gilmore in Round 1 at J-Bay, right at home. WSL / Kelly Cestari

Now, as they wait for the Corona Open J-Bay to resume, the success of these two leaders may come down, as much as anything, to their respective upbringings on similar waves.

Peterson cut her teeth at Rincon, a reeling, right-handed Californian point that sits between Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, just north of Los Angeles.

Gilmore, meanwhile, grew up a short ride away from Snapper, an equally-respected right on the other side of the world in Coolangatta, Australia.

Both places are arguably proxies for South Africa's Jeffreys Bay (J-Bay), making both women even more suited to surf the life out of Supertubes.

This is the first time a women's CT event has run at J-Bay for 18 years, making every surfer a part of history when they paddle out. It also makes prediction about performance more of a guessing-game, and a look to formative years isn't a bad start.

Lakey Peterson Drops Massive Turn for Big Score
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In contrast to Gilmore, Peterson didn't win her first heat at J-Bay, and had to surf in Round 2. But she made up for it there, scoring a 9.00 and sailing to Round 3.

When Supers roars to life again, Round 3 will back in the water at the Corona Open J-Bay and, if conditions are as predicted, the contest will run straight through.

If Peterson and Gilmore both continue to advance, they would meet in the Final for what would be one of the second-most evenly matched battles, in terms of experience, skill and stakes, of the season.

The first was their May Final at the women's Oi Rio Pro, in which Gilmore won out, and Peterson was runner-up. While Saquarema's beachbreak was anyone's game, J-Bay may be a different story. It's a wave that demands a profound awareness of timing, and an ability to connect turns seamlessly: the very definition of flow.

According to Mathias Maallem, global team manager for Roxy, Gilmore's longtime sponsor, it's flow that sets Gilmore apart from other surfers. And that, he said, stems from her innate ability and countless hours at Cooly's righthander.

Roxy Pro Gold Coast Stephanie Gilmore vs. Keely Andrew
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At Snapper earlier this year, Gilmore ultimately lost in the Quarters. But since then, she's been in a new gear.

"In J-Bay, the linking of turns is super important," he said. "The wave keeps rolling. You have to be a top surfer to follow that line. A normal surfer will race all the way, but top surfers will go far on the bottom, make big lines. Doing big turns with perfect, linking flow makes the difference."

Part of the trick to achieving this, said Maallem, is understanding the pace of the wave and using its power to move across it. Surfers who push their turns too hard -- "oversurfing" a wave, as it's commonly referred to on the WSL broadcast -- is a key difference between performances at waves like J-Bay.

Peterson, though, is no slouch either when it comes to her flow. After all, she opened the 2018 season with a searing performance at Snapper, winning the contest and snagging the Jeep Leader jersey. In years past, she's also earned runner-up and third-place finishes there, all of which would suggest cool comfort in a wave akin to Supers.

Maallem also knows that the Title race is no small part of the battle that will unfold next at J-Bay: While Peterson is burning to earn what would be a first-ever Championship trophy, Gilmore is working to earn her seventh, in what would be a tie with Layne Beachley for the most Titles ever. Gilmore's motivation, however, may go even deeper.

"Steph is the perfect description of a competitor, whether it's surfing or ping-pong -- she wants to be the best," said Maallem. "The level of surfing is at the highest it's ever been. For her, she wants to prove she's still the best. It's for herself, to prove that she's still the best."

The next call is July 13 at 7:10 a.m. SAST, for a possible 7:30 a.m. start.

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