Just a week after negotiating Chile’s chilly waters, the Foster’s ASP World Tour’s Top 45 are again readying themselves for battle – this time at the majestic venue of ‘Supertubes’ for the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay in South Africa.
Stop No.5 of 10 on the 2007 Foster’s ASP World Tour, the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay boasts a July 11-22 waiting period and requires four full days of competition to crown a champion. World No. 1 Mick Fanning (AUS) along with past world champions Andy Irons (HAW) and Kelly Slater (USA) have dominated proceedings at the barreling right-hand pointbreak for the last half-decade. Each is in the hunt to do so again in 2007.
Last year’s champion Fanning is warmed up and ready to defend his title after finishing equal 3rd in Chile. Like his elite tour counterparts, Fanning will be better acclimated to the cold-water conditions heading into South Africa – in recent years the tour stop immediately preceding the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay was Fiji.
“JBay will feel like a bath,” Fanning said. “It won’t be so bloody cold. Usually we go there and it’s the coldest stop on tour, but after Chile, it will probably be a little bit different.” The natural-footed (left-foot forward) surfer kicked off the most consistent 12-months of his career with his second victory in JBay last year –his first win came as a rookie in 2002. Fanning hasn’t finished worse than equal 5th in a Foster’s ASP World Tour event since.
“JBay is always really fun and I heard the banks are really good so it could be an insane year,” Fanning said. “I’m stoked to go and surf some more rights instead of all these lefts.”
Andy Irons jumped to World No. 3 with his win in Chile last week. When asked where he’d been in terms of the Foster’s ASP World Title race in recent months, Irons was quick to quip: “No where, I’ve been here the whole time. Game on!” Reigning Foster’s ASP World Champion Slater, who won the Billabong Pro JBay in 2005, 2003 and 1996, has acknowledged that he’ll need to get down to business after his Round 4 elimination in Chile.
“I think at this point, it’s not feeling like a World Title year for me so far – short of winning J-Bay and Trestles…” Slater said. “They’ve both been two of my best events and I would expect that if I could get something going, it will be in those next two events.”
Joel Parkinson (AUS) is also in need of a big result to stay in title contention. Parkinson currently sits 5th on the Foster’s ASP World Tour ratings, and after finishing runner-up to the world title in 2002 and 2004, knows that time is of the essence if he hopes to mount a full-fledge assault.
“It is time for me to really get a solid final finish if I want the title,” Parkinson said, “I will be really going for it at Jbay.” Parkinson won the event as a 19-year-old wildcard in 1999. “It has been my favorite spot on tour ever since I was a kid – I love going there,” Parkinson said. “Win or lose you always have a great time there.”
PAST WORLD TOUR RATED JEFFREY’S BAY CHAMPIONS
2006: Mick Fanning (AUS)
2005: Kelly Slater (USA)
2004: Andy Irons (HAW)
2003: Kelly Slater (USA)
2002: Mick Fanning (AUS)
2001: Jake Paterson (AUS)
2000: Jake Paterson (AUS)
1999: Joel Parkinson (AUS)
1998: Munga Barry (AUS)
1996: Kelly Slater (USA)
1984: Mark Occhilupo (AUS)