The J-Bay Open, stop No. 6 of 11 on the 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour, ran through Rounds 3 and 4 today and surfers were faced with challenging conditions at Supertubes. The world’s best took to the water in three-to-five foot (1 – 1.5 metre) surf and there were upsets as several top seeds were knocked out of the competition.
Two-time J-Bay Open winner Joel Parkinson (AUS) battled 2010 J-Bay Open runner-up and fellow Australian, Adam Melling, in the first heat of the day. Parkinson took a more selective approach through the heat, surfing only four waves to Melling’s eight. The current ASP world no. 5 looked dominant from the start, posting a 7.00 on his first ride. A flurry of action at the 25-minute mark saw Parkinson solidify his lead, posting a 7.83 that left Melling in need of an excellent score for the win. The pair have previously faced each other nine times in WCT history and today’s match-up sees Parkinson take six wins to Melling’s four. Parkinson went on to claim victory once again in Round 4 against compatriots Josh Kerr and Taj Burrow. His 18th WCT heat win of the 2014 season earns him a pass directly to the Quarterfinals of the J-Bay Open.
“J-Bay has a special place in my heart, I love it,” said Joel Parkinson. “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.”
Goofy-footer Matt Wilkinson (AUS), 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. The Australian took an early lead against 11-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) and held his position through the first half of the heat. The current ASP world no. 3 managed to tighten the points gap but at the halfway point he still needed a 6.34 to surpass Wilkinson. A set came through and both surfers worked to take advantage but it was the Australian that came out on top, securing a score of 9.33 to put Slater in a combination situation. With the clock ticking down, Slater went for a crowd-pleasing alley-oop but Wilkinson took the next set wave for another series of clean snaps. The final waves before the buzzer saw Slater slipping off his board while Wilkinson’s rhythm continued, earning him another nine-point ride and the win. Slater leaves the competition in equal 13th place while Wilkinson went on to win his Round 4 heat against Adriano de Souza (BRA) and Kolohe Andino (USA) and earn a place in the Quarterfinals.
“No-one really looks forward to a heat against Kelly (Slater), but my backhand and my boards are feeling really solid,” said Matt Wilkinson. “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,” said Kelly Slater. “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.”
Jeffreys Bay claimed its second huge upset in Round 3 Heat 11 after C.J. Hobgood (USA) went head-to-head against local favorite and defending event winner Jordy Smith (ZAF). The American went on the attack immediately, notching a mid-range score just after the horn and an early two-wave total of a 9.50. Smith, whose Round 1 heroics still stand as the highest two-wave heat total of the competition so far, had a surprisingly shaky start. After a kick-out throwaway, he looked to be regaining his rhythm but an over-extended layback left the ride incomplete. Hobgood improved his bottom score to a 7.00 but Smith continued to fight his way back. He overtook Hobgood with an excellent 8-point ride but was unable to find the backup score to keep the lead. A final crucial exchange followed and it was the American who came out on top. The two-time J-Bay Open winner was left a mid-range score short of the win and was eliminated from the competition in equal 13th place. Hobgood faced Mick Fanning (AUS) and Alejo Muniz (BRA) in Round 4 but will have to surf again in Round 5 against Gabriel Medina (BRA) to fight for a place in the Quarterfinals.
“I realize that I’m so blessed to surf against the best surfers in the world at their home spots,” C.J. Hobgood said. “I get excited and I know the best surfing is going to come out of me. I was in disbelief out there. Jordy (Smith) takes off on a wave and the whole beach erupts, and I was just trying to keep myself motivated. I’m stoked.”
The final heat of Round 3 saw Alejo Muniz (BRA) start with aggressive style, looking to get a jump on his higher ranked opponent. Current ASP world no. 2 Michel Bourez (PYF) uncharacteristically fell on his first two rides, but made amends on his third, posting a 5.33 to move into the lead. The pair traded scores in the three-to-five point range but both surfers failing to capitalize on their opportunities. With four minutes on the clock Muniz dropped the biggest score, throwing fins and wafts on one of the better waves of the heat. With 20 seconds on the clock and no waves on the horizon Bourez splashed the water in frustration as he bowed out of the J-Bay Open with a 13th place finish. Muniz went on to face reigning three-time ASP World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) and C.J. Hobgood (USA) in Round 4 and his win earned him his first Quarterfinal berth of the season.
“It’s always hard to surf against Michel (Bourez) because he is a really good friend of mine,” said Alejo Muniz. “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 Michel 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.”
J-Bay Open Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 14.83 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 8.50
Heat 2: Josh Kerr (AUS) 11.73 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 10.77
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS) 12.74 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 12.33
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 15.04 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 14.37
Heat 5: Kolohe Andino (USA) 13.30 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 11.10
Heat 6: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 18.36 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 15.37
Heat 7: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.46 def. Aritz Aranburu (ESP) 15.17
Heat 8: Owen Wright (AUS) 13.40 def. John John Florence (HAW) 8.00
Heat 9: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 11.60 def. Nat Young (USA) 5.44
Heat 10: Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.33 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 10.27
Heat 11: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 14.00 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.87
Heat 12: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 11.50 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 10.60
J-Bay Open Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 16.44, Josh Kerr (AUS) 8.47, Taj Burrow (AUS) 8.40
Heat 2: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.34, Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.17, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.37
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) 15.60, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.76, Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 13.70
Heat 4: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 12.57, Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.40, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 10.50
J-Bay Open Round 5 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Adriano de Souza (BRA)
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Taj Burrow (AUS)
Heat 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. C.J. Hobgood (USA)
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)