Diminishing swell tests Billabong Pro J-Bay organizers

The swell cycle that delivered excellence to the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay is ancient history and we now enter a phase of variable conditions, light winds and intermittent windows of opportunity creating a new set of challenges for event director Mike Parsons.

Mike did a great job of maximizing the potential on offer over the first three days of the waiting period, deploying 35 minute heats to accommodate a slowly rising swell on Day 1, switching to 30 minute heats for the man-on-man action on a wild and wooly Day 2, then going into overdrive to nail 19 heats on the best day, where we saw a slowly abating 6-foot swell hold out from dawn to dusk.

The surfing has been tremendous. The world’s best cutting loose in, at times, pristine JBay. Standouts on the first day included Danny Wills, Joel Parkinson, Bobby Martinez, Mick Fanning, Kelly Slater, Travis Logie and Adrian Buchan. You may be surprised to see a name there that didn’t even win a heat, but Ace Buchan’s surfing deserved a mention, his battle with one of South Africa’s finest, Travis Logie, a memorable one.

The cold front that roared through on Thursday was epic monumental, it was J/Bay at its rawest, howling gusts making it hard going in the line-up, the guys having to call upon their full range of watermanship to harness skills, surfboard and conditions and still come up with a winning performance. The day began with benign conditions, Snips having no choice but to hold off until 10am.

Kelly opened proceedings with a flawless expose of point surfing in mild conditions. In the space of two heats the sea was a tempest, Dean Morrison, Ricky Basnett and Dayan Neve battling a near white-out as 45-50 knot winds whipped up millions of whitecaps and made it extremely difficult to make headway while paddling back to the line-up.

Things kind of went to script, the top seeds winning through to Round 3, and where they didn’t, it was mostly at the hands of lower seeded locals like Roydon Bryson and Greg Emslie. But things went a bit awry in Round 2, Damien Hobgood and Tom Whittaker going down to local wildcards Shaun Payne and Warwick Wright, the latter negotiating the best backside barrel of the event thus far.

There were no such problems for Taj Burrow. With the main thrust of the front having passed through JBay, conditions cleaned up nicely, Taj capitalizing on the vastly improved surface conditions to pluck a perfect 10.00, backing up nicely with an 8.33 to combo young South African pro Damien Fahrenfort. Other highlights of the day were Neco Padaratz’ triple barrel and the evergreen performance of Taylor Knox.

The next morning saw those corduroy lines marching into Super’s, epic 6 to 8 foot groundswell, the product of all that beautiful wind. Snips went for it, Jeremy Flores opening the day with a solid flurry to eliminate Troy Brooks. The weird thing was that those guys who won their Rd 1 heats and were seeded in the bottom half of the Rd 3 draw did not even get to put their tootsies in the water on the two epic days.

Those who did enjoy some man on man treats at Super’s made the most of it, solid performances by Chris Ward, Pancho Sullivan, Adrian Buchan and Bernardo Miranda securing passage into Round 3. Joel Parkinson went ballistic against Trent Munro. Well, not exactly Trent but the set waves he meticulously picked off, the former Billabong Pro JBay champion stamping his footprint on contention stakes.

Taj continued to impress as did quiet achiever Danny Wills, who surfs the place with distinction. In a classic local derby Travis Logie put perennial JBay favorite Greg Emslie to the sword, while Taylor Knox and Pancho Sullivan continued to impress. The final encounters of the day featured top seeds Mick Fanning and Andy Irons.

In a contrast of styles and approaches Fanning took the wind out of Shaun Payne’s campaign with a solid early flurry, while Irons was way less intense in his dismissal of wildcard Warwick Wright. Mick is so focused; his early round approach seems to be based on posting early scores then consolidating his lead as the heat progresses. Andy meanwhile was solid but certainly not intense, allowing the dangerous South African goofy-footer a sniff in the closing minutes.

With a lackluster map on his hands, Snips Parsons has to eke out the contestable windows over the coming days. Today he waited until low tide to try and run off the remaining seven heats of Round 3. Wardo and Fred were not too stoked to hit the water in the day’s first heat, but with visions of an epic JBay finish evaporating, the collective mindset has to shift to survival mode, jagging a couple hours here on the low tide, coming back to nibble off a bit more over the coming days, getting the event down to a manageable number and hoping for a pulse.

At least we got a fantastic taste of the real thing. All the best to all involved in the rest of the event.


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