Monday, July 2, will kick off Stop No. 6 of the WSL Championship Tour (CT): The Corona Open J-Bay. With favorable conditions expected for the beginning of the waiting period, current Jeep Leader Julian Wilson, local star Jordy Smith, 2017 event champ Filipe Toledo, Cape Town native Michael February and Brazilian Italo Ferreira arrived on site today as eager as ever.
Supertubes turned on the charm last year with Toledo taking the win in firing, eight-foot rights. A high amount of drama, upsets and unbelievable performances made the 2017 Corona Open J-Bay an instant classic.
This year's event is already off to a similar start. Kelly Slater is returning to the CT for the first time in a year, after sustaining a serious foot injury at last year's event. The women's Championship Tour is also returning to J-Bay July 6-16 for the first time since 2000. None of the women currently on Tour have ever surfed at J-Bay during a CT event.
Among the men, spirits were high. "It feels good to be back," said Toledo. "It feels like home here and last year was so amazing. It was some of the best heats I've ever had. "I'm sitting at No. 2 in the rankings right now, which is the closest I've ever come to the Title but it's still early in the year and there's still a lot of heats to be won. When you're No. 1 you have a giant target on your back. But I'm No. 2, so it's awesome. I'm only chasing one guy."
Since joining the Tour back in 2011 Wilson, the current Jeep Leader, has had an impressive track record when it comes to this event. Last year he surfed to the Semifinals for the third year in a row. "Going to sleep and waking up with those perfect lines is consuming my mind at the moment," he said during Sunday's press session.
Local Michael February was also in attendance. The rookie grew up in Cape Town, about an eight- hour drive from Jeffreys Bay, and is looking to put a solid result on the board.
"This is my first year competing in this event as a Championship Tour surfer," said February. "I love going up against the local guys that have a ton of experience. It's nice being in a familiar place surrounded by my friends and family. When I was told I was surfing this event as a wildcard, I would find out a few days before and it would always be pretty hectic. This year I've known about it so I've been able to prepare a little more and focus more of my energy on it. I'm excited for things to kick off."
Smith, who is from Durban, South Africa, is motivated to get another good result on his record as well. He's currently ranked No. 8 on the Jeep Leaderboard.
"There's a lot of swell on the way so I think we're all in a great position," said Smith. "Everyone just seems really excited. This is one of the few events that I'm able to surf in front of my friends and family, so I'm doing it for them. They don't get to travel and see what my life looks like on a day-to -day basis. I just want to show them my love and what this is all about."
Check back Monday for the call at 7:10 a.m. local time (SAST). The women's press session will kick off July 3, ahead of the Corona Open J Bay - Women's July 6-16.