15 July 2014
Two-time defending champion, Jordy Smith of South Africa, 11-time world champion Kelly Slater, and world number two Michel Bourez were all eliminated from the J-Bay Open in tricky conditions at SuperTubes in Jeffreys Bay on Monday.
The J-Bay Open is the sixth stop on the 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour and features the world’s leading surfers in competition on one of the world’s most iconic waves.
Variable winds and big tidal changes affected the three-to-five foot (1 to 1.5 metre) waves, leading to a host of upsets.
A shaky start
Smith, whose round one heroics still stand as the highest heat total of the competition so far, had a shaky start to his encounter with former ASP World Champion C.J. Hobgood, posting a couple of throwaway scores after the American had opened with mid-range rides.
A 5.13 and an 8.0 midway through the heat briefly gave Smith the lead but a pair of 7.0s by Hobgood left the South African needing a 6.17 going into the final minutes.
A crucial final exchange followed and it was the American who came out on top, with Smith with left a mid-range score short of the win and bowing out of the event in equal 13th place.
“I realize that I’m so blessed to surf against the best surfers in the world at their home spots,” Hobgood said after his win.
“I get excited and I know the best surfing is going to come out of me. I was in disbelief out there. Jordy takes off on a wave and the whole beach erupts, and I was just trying to keep myself motivated. I’m stoked.”
Australian goofy-footer Matt Wilkinson, fresh from a second-place finish at the ASP Qualification Series Prime event, the Mr Price Pro Ballito, caused the first big upset of the day when he defeated Kelly Slater in their round three clash.
A pair of nine-point rides from the Australian were sufficient to put the four-time J- Bay event winner in a combination situation and after uncharacteristically slipping off his board in the closing minutes, Slater left the competition in equal 13th place. Wilkinson went on to win his round four heat against Brazil’s Adriano de Souza and Kolohe Andino of the USA to earn a place in the quarterfinals.
“No-one really looks forward to a heat against Kelly, but my backhand and my boards are feeling really solid,” Wilkinson said afterwards. “It’s so hard to beat anyone out here at J-Bay. I knew I needed to catch good waves against Kelly and I’m stoked to make it through.”
“I was rattled from the first exchange,” Slater admitted. “From Matt’s first wave, it seemed like he was totally in sync. Every set he seemed to have the better waves. I should have just been a bit more relaxed, maybe waited out a set. I really just blew it. My results thus far have been consistent but not very good, so we’ll have to see how the rest of the year shapes up after this.”
Two-time J-Bay Open winner Joel Parkinson battled 2010 J-Bay Open runner-up and fellow Australian, Adam Melling, in the first heat of the day and chalked up his sixth victory out of 10 duels with his compatriot. Parkinson went on to claim victory once again in round four against his compatriots, Josh Kerr and Taj Burrow, with his 18th WCT heat win of the 2014 season securing a pass directly to the quarterfinals.
“J-Bay has a special place in my heart. I love it,” Parkinson said. “I felt like it was all starting to come together in that heat. My goal is always just to make the last day and hopefully Mother Nature brings us some great waves.”
Reigning world champ beaten
Brazilian Alejo Muniz grabbed his first quarterfinal berth of the 2014 season by overcoming Bourez in round three and then outpointing three-time and reigning ASP World Champion, Australia’s Mick Fanning and C.J. Hobgood round four.
“It’s always hard to surf against Michel because he is a really good friend of mine,” Muniz revealed. “I think him and Gabriel (Medina) are the best two surfers of the year.
“I knew it was going to be tough, especially in these conditions. I’m really glad I made it and I’m so happy I can surf one more heat at J-Bay.”
“I wasn’t really feeling it today,” said Bourez. “I was just out there trying to get waves, but perhaps I should have been more patient. I’m really despondent about the results, but life goes on and the next competition is coming soon. I’ll just go home and try to refocus for the next event.”
Wright into quarters
The fourth quarterfinal slot went to Australian Owen Wright, who upset Hawaiian John John Florence in his first clash of the day and then claimed victory in an all- goofy-foot matchup with current ASP world number one, Gabriel Medina of Brazil, and Hawaiian standout Fredrick Patacchia.