When J-Bay turned on, after a long week of lay days at the Corona Open, the small town located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa lived up to it's hype. After an 18-year hiatus, the women were finally able to showcase what they are capable of in what is known as one of the most perfect waves in the world. And while Stephanie Gilmore took home the win over Lakey Peterson, none of the other competitors made the climb easy. Although most of the women had never surfed J-Bay before, high scores dropped regularly. The return of the Corona Open J-Bay - Women's was not shy of incredible performances.
Staff photographer Kelly Cestari, who grew up in South Africa, breaks down his favorite moments (and there was a lot of them) from earlier this month:
Wildcard Shines for Hometown Crowd
It was great having the women back in J-Bay after 18 years and to have Bianca Buitendag in the mix as a wildcard was a highlight for the home team. Despite surfing with a back injury, Bianca was completing huge backhand turns.
Johanne Defay Staying Warm
The mornings are always very fresh and I feel for anyone who has the first heat of the day because I have a great dislike for cold water. A few of the girls wore their boots right to the keyhole before paddling out. Defay was one of them - keeping her feet cosy before the icy chill of the lineup kicks in.
Golden Hour in J-Bay
The mornings are cold but the golden hour opportunities are plenty. Before this moment there was an image request for something with this type of feel. When the moment presented itself and I had a fresh image to deliver, I got to start my day on the right foot.
Sage Erickson Flies Through
It had been a week of lay days between Round 2 and Round 3. The weather conditions were not the best but the waves were rather good and Sage had no problem getting through Round 3.
Smiles for Round 3
For the majority of her Round 3 heat, Sage couldn't hear any of the scores being called because the wind was so loud. She asked me where she placed when she got out of the water and I informed her she got second. Out came that big ol smile.
Sally Fitzgibbons, Supertubes Natural
I'm not sure how much practice time Sally had in the lineup before Heat 1 of Round 1 but she looked at home. She was going for turns and sections some locals even shy away from.
Right when it was announced that the women would be coming to J-Bay the name Stephanie Gilmore jumped to the minds of the entire surfing world. You can see why. Watching her throw cheeky highlines between tight turns was what everyone had anticipated.
Stephanie Gilmore Delivers
Last year during the celebration, I went down trying to get the shot. I was tripped by a bystander and I proceeded to take down three other people. It was all very well documented and brought about many laughs. I won't mention names but someone went down around this moment too so Steph is either having a chuckle or most likely enjoying her moment of victory. It was a very long chair to the stairs so well done to Belly and Snake for those strong legs.
This is my 12th year on Tour so I've been working around Steph for that amount of time. It's always great when you can get some interaction and that cheeky winners grin is the chicken dinner.
This was the run around Silvana did after the awkward fall in her Round 1 heat. I remember thinking to myself 'hmm that's gotta hurt' after seeing her knees buckle in directions they shouldn't. But then she did the run around to get back out quicker and I thought nothing more. Only later did we find out she injured both knees and had to withdraw from the event. Doing the run around with what must have been some intense pain, Silvana didn't flinch which is testament to her fighting spirit. I saw her a few days later and gave her a hug. Her response was simply, 'these things happen'.
Bronte Macaulay Breaks Through
There were some dreamy conditions during Round 1. Bronte on an oil canvas.
Lakey Peterson's Technical Game
Surfing Supers with ribs up the wave takes skill and that's why Lakey is in the Title race. I'm a part time fan of the morning glare. It highlights parts of the wave and water where the perfect shooting light otherwise wouldn't. Look at the wake behind her tail and the spray forming!
View from the Top
If you're not a fan of heights I understand but how could not enjoy this view?
Van Dijk and the Invisible Man
Working with the crowd again. I love it when a surfer has a bright board. The brighter the better but it is the opposite for anyone forming the foreground of a frame so this guy's camo clothing was perfect as he became one with the rocks.
When shooting straight on, it is impressive when a goofyfooter gets their board at the 1-o'clock position. Shooting the back angle, it's impressive to see Tatiana's board ninety degrees to the wave face and also how sunken in to the wave she is with her power going in to the turn.