(World Surf League) - The Men's Corona Open J-Bay, Stop No. 6 on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), continued Tuesday with the completion of Round 2 and the first four heats of Round 3. Tuesday’s eliminations knocked out fourteen competitors in the four-to-six foot (1.3 - 2 metre) waves at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa.
2012 WSL Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS) put on a clinic at Supertubes with a near-perfect 9.37 (out of a possible 10) and solid 7.50. The Australian looked relaxed as ever competing at the location where he won his first CT victory as a wildcard in 1999 and where he won again in 2009. Earlier in the week, the 37-year-old announced his plan to retire from the CT this December. Unfortunately for World No. 6 Michel Bourez (PYF), Parkinson's rhythm stopped his chances of a fourth Quarterfinal berth this season.
“It’s felt like a weight off of my shoulders after making that announcement yesterday,” said Parkinson. “Hopefully for the rest of the year I get heats like that where waves are pumping. This is one of my all-time favorite locations. J-Bay means a lot to me. It is where my career kickstarted. I came here with a wildcard and I got to win and it really catapulted me into the surfing world. I’ve always had such a great relationship with this wave, so to be back here and finishing off my last year here is special. It would mean the world to me if I won this event. I would probably shut the gate right there and retire right then if I won this event.”
Jordy Smith (ZAF), two-time event winner, had the crowd roaring with his win over rookie Tomas Hermes (BRA) in Round 3 Heat 3. The local favorite made his intentions clear with his powerful carves against the Brazilian. Hermes will be sent home with an Equal 13th place result, while Smith marches on to Round 4.
“There’s nothing more I want to do this year than win this event,” said Smith. “This is probably the best feeling I’ve had in a long time - being home. I just feel relaxed and I am okay with anything. I am not a frontrunner this year so it is kind of nice to have all that pressure off of my shoulders. I just really enjoy being home.”
Smith also eliminated 11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater (USA) in Round 2 Heat 4. The South African found an early rhythm and the best waves for an excellent 8.00 (out of a possible 10) and 6.33. Missing a few key opportunities, including an exit from a deep tube, Slater was unable to meet the 7.27-point requirement to continue in his first event back from injury after his year-long absence. Slater, who leaves South Africa in 25th place, now sets his sights on recovering and training for the Tahiti Pro, which starts August 10.
“I feel like I surfed alright considering how rusty I feel,” said Slater. “I do not know where I can push my foot. Yesterday was really the first session. I caught four waves at Lowers the other day just to see if I should bring boards to Africa, and it didn’t feel great, but I thought that maybe in a few days it would feel alright. I feel like my decision-making in heats is a little bit rusty, too. But, it all came down to that one wave. I was a little bit around the kink on that one wave and I would have had to get around it. Jordy (Smith) got it and you never quite know out there which will be the one. I will be in Tahiti. I can go straight fine, still. I should be alright for Tahiti. We will see.”
CT veteran Adrian Buchan (AUS) ended Michael February’s (ZAF) run at the Corona Open J-Bay in Round 2. In his third time competing in the Corona Open J-Bay, February hoped for a better result now that he is a full-time competitor on the elite CT but just 0.83 points separated him from advancing to the next stage.
“I have been coming here for years since I was really young,” said February. “Seeing all the guys come here for the CT event, you have it in the back of your mind trying to make it one day. It has been a special year for me just being able to be here. Especially halfway through the year, being here with friends and family and getting all the support from everyone is awesome.”
Despite Buchan’s success in Round 2, he was stopped by California’s Conner Coffin (USA) in the following elimination round. Coffin continues to standout at this event with his aggressive turns and will surf again in Round 4.
Mikey Wright (AUS) has made the most of his wildcard event entries and continues to climb the Jeep Leaderboard to World No. 7. Despite being relegated to Round 2, Wright battled back and eliminated rookie Jesse Mendes (BRA) in Round 2 Heat 10 to continue his run at Jeffreys Bay. The wildcard will match up with 2018 CT Rookie Griffin Colapinto (USA) in Round 3 Heat 11 when competition resumes.
“We both just really wanted to win and we both went out there with a game plan to catch really good waves, and we both did,” said Wright. “I am happy to come out on top. This year my main goal is to take the best out of the opportunities you’re given. I’ve been trying to do that this year and just working really hard. It has been paying off.”
In a heated matchup to close out the day, 2017 event runner-up Frederico Morais (PRT) went up against Kolohe Andino (USA). Andino threw up an impressive air-reverse but still fell short to Morais’ 15.67 combined score. Andino will exit in Equal 13th place, while Morais continues his hunt for a back-to-back Finals berth.
2015 WSL Champion Adriano de Souza (BRA) has struggled to advance past 9th place this season and currently sits at World No. 19. The Brazilian found a groove today in his Round 2 heat over Patrick Gudauskas (USA). De Souza’s focus is now on re-qualification for the elite CT as opposed to a second World Title, and he will need to take down rookie Michael Rodrigues (BRA) in Round 3 Heat 8.
“For me this year has been really weird,” said De Souza. “I haven’t really connected myself. Those events where I usually do well, I didn’t. Those events where I usually do bad, I was doing bad, too. It has been a tricky year. I put in my mind during the third event of the year that I will try my best to re-qualify this year and then reconnect everything for the next year. I need to make heats to make it for next year so I am trying my best right now.”
Connor O’Leary (AUS) scored the day’s highest two-wave total, an authoritative 17.16, against Ezekiel Lau (HAW) in Heat 11 of Round 2. O’Leary will be back in the last heat of Round 3 against 2014 WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA).
The WSL Commissioner’s Office will reconvene Wednesday morning at 7:45 a.m. local time (SAST) to reassess conditions and make the next call.