The men's Corona Open J-Bay kicked off Monday local time in tricky but solid conditions for Round 1 and two heats of Round 2. Although heavy winds ripped through Jeffreys Bay throughout the night, when the sun broke through at 7:00 a.m., clean lines were taking shape. And before the heats even began there was an air of change unfolding: As the call was being made, Joel Parkinson announced his retirement after 18 years on the WSL Championship Tour (CT), bringing a bittersweet tone to the day.
But before the news had even sunk in, the action moved to the water.
Kanoa Igarashi Defeats Kelly Slater, Jumps to Round 3
Igarashi, who is now representing Japan, took down both Kelly Slater and Italo Ferreira during their early morning heat. While he's been struggling on Tour recently, Igarashi has kicked into a new gear this event. The Huntington Beach local looked comfortable in the lineup, despite the windy conditions, putting up a 7.17 on his closing wave. Meanwhile, both Slater -- who's back for his first CT event in a year -- and Ferreira, who's No. 3 on the rankings, struggled to find their footing.
"I've been getting really frustrated lately and I want to show that in my surfing," said Igarashi. "I keep telling myself to get angry at it. I'm 20 years old and I'm on Tour and it's been so fun but it's my third year now and it's time I do something about it. This was a pretty big heat for me because last year I was in the same situation and Kelly smoked me, so I wanted to try and take him this time. To win over Kelly is always a huge honor."
Wildcard Wiggolly Dantas Eliminates World No. 3 Italo Ferreira
Today, Brasilian wildcard Wiggolly Dantas eliminated fellow Brasilian and World No. 3 Italo Ferriera during the last heat of the day. Ferreira struggled to put up a solid score, making his early -round exit one of the worst he's had all year. It will be important for Ferriera to re-set heading into the next event, next month in Tahiti, in order to stay in World Title contention.
"It feels good to put a rashie on and surf J-Bay," said Dantas. "It's amazing that I made it through. I'm riding an old board, it's a little bit bigger. It's the same one I rode at Haleiwa last year and I got third, so I trust it."
Defending Champ Surfing on Rail, Not in Air
It's no secret that Filipe Toledo made waves at last year's event, becoming the first person ever to bring a serious air game to competition at Supertubes. His performance here will go down as one of the best of all time -- so much so that he got a tattoo of a lion to commemorate it. But whether or not he can do it again is a different story. Today, in Round 1, he proved that he can. The Brasilian earned a 9.17, the highest scoring wave of the day to overtake both Matt Wilkinson and Wiggolly Dantas.
"I love this wave," said Toledo. "Who doesn't? The waves aren't as big as they were last year right now but there's a few barrels on the inside. It's still good."
Conner Coffin Earns Day's Highest Heat Total with 16.14
The Californian charged through his Round 1 heat today, earning a 16.14 heat total to edge out both Joan Duru and Owen Wright. "It's just so beautiful here," said Coffin. "I got here early and this whole week I've been hanging out. There's been some fun days."
While Coffin has yet to put up a solid result this year, there are still a lot of events left in the season and a few of last year's rookies are starting to gain some momentum as we hit the midway point. "I know how good Joan and Owen surf, they're actually two of my favorite goofyfooters on Tour," Coffin said. "Owen's been a really good friend to me and it's been fun getting to know him. He's one of the nicest guys ever. So I'm really glad I got that win. It was a fun heat. Every time I went to go paddle back out there would be another wave."
Check back Tuesday morning for the call and Round 2 action at 7:30 a.m. local time (SAST).