The Corona Open J-Bay finally launched today and conditions were all time to complete the opening round of competition. Six-to-eight foot offshore rights peeled down the Supertubes section all day and allowed the world's best surfers to really showcase their talent.
Florence Annihilates Jeffreys Bay Walls
Remember John's unreal performance in West Aus? Well, the reigning World Champ brought the same caliber of surfing today and the result was simply spectacular. Taking you through his three waves over 9 points would be pointless, so instead we'll just put the heat recap below, and let you be the judge of John's form.
"The waves are firing right now, this is the best J-Bay I've surfed during the contest," he said. "Being out there by yourself you can position yourself exactly where you want to be, taking off and then you have this big open canvas in front of you, it's crazy. My board is called the ghost, I rode a 6'2 at Margaret River, and a 6'0 here and since we've started working on this board I haven't found a wave where it doesn't work. It just gives you so much confidence throughout the practice surfs, you're not trading of boards, you already have that confidence on a good board."
Coffin Upsets Host Country's Homegrown Star
It's been six years since Jordy Smith's last success at Jeffreys Bay and his first wave in Heat 5 looked like the big South African was going to give a clinic on point-break surfing. But while Jordy was struggling to find a backup, Californian Conner Coffin got busy and tore apart one of the biggest and cleanest waves of the morning.
Conner unleashed a series of crazy-powerful turns, found a little cover and finished his ride with "an absolute Jeffreys Bay special," in the words of WSL commentator Joe Turpel. Conner claimed a 9.37 and sent Jordy and wildcard Michael February to Round Two.
"That was just so fun," he said. "Perfect conditions and just three people out -- that's the stuff I dream of. I think I've surfed that wave in my head so many times before. I've been here for a while and there's been waves every day so it's been a good opportunity to surf out here. Jordy is just my favorite surfer and I really look up to him so I knew it would be a tough battle out here, and I would have to surf my best."
The former World Champion Gabriel Medina has had a bit of a shocker so far in 2017, if you put aside his Gold Coast performance. Today we saw a different Medina, a re-energized and lethal-as-ever Medina, who pretty much replicated John John's heat, but on his backhand.
There are debates going on as to whether we'll see another goofyfoot win J-Bay for the first time since Occy, in 1984. If the waves keep pulsing, Gabriel looks like a strong contender.
"I've been watching a lot of heats this morning so I really wanted to get the first big wave," he said. "I had so much surfing here today and I'm stoked to win that heat. It's really fun to surf out here today. It's really hard on your backhand when it's fast, so you have to choose the right waves. But you never know what J-Bay is going to do."
Flores Pushes World No. 1 Against the Ropes
The Frenchman, who hasn't had the best of starts this season either, found an absolute beauty of a wave to lock in three barrel sections and a powerful layback snap for a 9.17. He dispatched Wilko and Ethan Ewing on his way to Round Three.
"That one couldn't go wrong, it was such a beautiful wave," he said. "It's been so crowded in the freesurf it's hard to get a wave like that, so paddling into it I was feeling a bit of pressure. It's a long wave, so you have to keep your energy but I'm a little bit over-frothing all the time. The good guys out here know how to pace their flow and their speed, even after all these years I'm still trying to figure it out."
Experience Pays Off
There was no dull moment early this morning as Heat 1 opened with one of the event's favorites, two-time winner Joel Parkinson . The master of style that Parko is and the perfect blank canvas of J-Bay just match and offer an incredible visual experience.
Parko unleashed his signature, long-drawn carves and timed every move perfectly to navigate the tube and turn sections. He wasn't on the very best waves but his surfing was solid.
Wiggolly Dantas had a shot at eliminating the Australian when he found a deep tube. He threaded the long section nicely, but an early claim and a fall came in the way of finishing the wave off, which limited the Brazilian's score. Ultimately Parko took the win and moved on to Round Three while Wiggolly and Miguel Pupo will surf in Round Two.
"I saw his barrel on the big screen when I finished my wave on the inside and I thought he was going to get a 9," Joel said. "But you know accidents happen, I think sometimes you get a little too excited. He's such an amazing surfer out here, he'll bounce back for sure."
In the experience section, it'd be hard not to mention Kelly Slater who had a really close clash with Julian Wilson but eventually got the nod, courtesy of a 9.10. Julian gave everything on a last-second exchange but came up just short and Kelly skipped the treacherous second round.
"This place is so beautiful -- brisk weather, great waves, long walls and a lot of speed on the waves," he said. "It's such a fantastic place. This is surprising, I didn't think we'd be surfing today but now we've got four or five really good days ahead and we'll have a great contest. Before the heat I said that if I got a good wave I would claim it, so I did."
Josh Kerr fell quickly on his first wave, only able to lock in one good turn before he lost his foot and bailed. That seemed almost irrelevant as the heat just started, except when the ocean went quiet for a long time, Josh started to feel the pressure.
In the dying moments of the heat, the Australian locked into a good barrel on a set wave, exited cleanly and laid into a nice carve, found a second tube section and punctuated the ride with a forehand snap for a 9-point ride. Unfortunately, by the time he finished the wave, Josh only had about a minute and a half to get back to the lineup, and in third priority position couldn't get another wave.
On Fire All Day
While the first three days of the event's waiting period have offered a few hours of good surf daily, Jeffreys turned it up today and pumped perfect lines all day long, from the very first heat to the last. Huge scores dropped consistently all the way into the final matchup of Round One, an epic battle between Michel Bourez, Filipe Toledo and Ezekiel Lau that came down to last second efforts from the Tahitian and the Brazilian.
One of the most successful surfers at J-Bay, Mick Fanning also locked in a big opening round performance to skip Round Two.