The world’s best surfers have converged in South Africa ahead of the start of the J-Bay Open tomorrow. Stop No. 6 on the 2015 Samsung Galaxy World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), the only CT stop on the African continent, holds a competitive window of July 8 – 19, 2015 and he acclaimed righthander of Supertubes at Jeffreys Bay will play host to the WSL Top 34, recommencing the 2015 WSL title race.
Jeep Leaderboard frontrunner Adriano de Souza (BRA) will lead the field after an impressive start to 2015, including a win in Margaret River. De Souza heads into the event wearing the Jeep leader jersey and matches up against Kolohe Andino (USA) and wildcard Slade Prestwich (ZAF) in the first round.
“For me J-Bay is such a special place,” said De Souza. “I started coming here when I was 14 and I’ve been back every year since. 2015 started out well and I’m looking forward to getting my rhythm back after the last two events. I really need to focus and pay attention to myself so that I can get a good result here.”
Defending event winner and three-time world champion Mick Fanning (AUS) currently sits in fourth place on the rankings and victory at Jeffreys Bay this year will see him equal 11-time world champion Kelly Slater’s (USA) record of four wins in South Africa. Fanning matches up against compatriot Matt Banting (AUS) and injury replacement Tomas Hermes (BRA) in the opening round.
“This wave is so incredible,” said Fanning. “The people and the surroundings here make it feel some homely and it’s always a highlight to come back to J-Bay. Last year here was really special for me and this year I’m going to go out there and do my best. Hopefully that gets me another good result.”
Fresh from Fiji Pro glory, Owen Wright’s (AUS) historic performance saw him move up to third in the world after posting two perfect heats to win the event. Wright will face Kai Otton (AUS) and C.J. Hobgood (USA) in Round 1.
“I’m not sure how it happened but Fiji was great for me,” said Wright. “I found some form and had good rhythm with the ocean. This year has just felt better and better for me. I’m feeling really good and so happy at the moment. I’ve caught some waves over the last few days and I’m really looking forward to this event.”
The lone South African on the CT, Jordy Smith (ZAF), is currently ranked 18th in the world and returns to competition in Jeffreys Bay after missing the Fiji Pro due to a knee injury. Round 1 will see Smith take on Bede Durbidge (AUS) and rookie Ricardo Christie (NZL).
“My knee is definitely feeling better,” said Smith. “Watching everyone in Fiji was really hard and made me jealous so I’m happy to be back. Two wins at Jeffreys Bay is something I never dreamed of when I was growing up but as you get older you set new goal for yourself. I need to get back on track, get my head down and get some good results. I hope the swell shows up and we have a great event.”
Slade Prestwich (ZAF) earned a coveted wildcard entry into the event with a win at the JBU Supertrials on June 14, 2015. The Durban-based Qualifying Series (QS) surfer will battle Adriano de Souza (BRA) and Kolohe Andino (USA) in Round 1.
“I’ve watched these guys for years so I’m so stoked to be in the event,” said Prestwich. “I’ve got nothing to lose out here – they’re going for a title and I’m just trying to qualify. I’d love to be on the CT and do what these guys do and I’m so excited for the event.”
Jeremy Flores (FRA) will not be competing in South Africa this year due to a head injury he suffered while on a surf trip to Indonesia. Replacement surfer Alejo Muniz (BRA), current no. 1 on the Qualifying Series (QS) and fresh from a win at the Ballito Pro, will compete in his place. Muniz will match-up against Julian Wilson (AUS) and Miguel Pupo (BRA) in Round 1.
John John Florence (HAW) has also withdrawn from the event, missing his second consecutive CT event of 2015 following an ankle injury sustained on a surf trip. Florence has been replaced by QS surfer Tomas Hermes (BRA).
Event organizers will convene tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. to assess conditions for a possible start.
Surfline, official forecaster for the World Surf League, are calling for:
A mix of swells from a variety of directions and swell periods will prevail during the first few days of the waiting period. Wind will be favorable on Wednesday before turning onshore Thur/Fri. We’ll be watching for new, mid-size SW groundswell later in the coming weekend and early into the following week with a period of more favorable wind possible.
The J-Bay Open will be webcast LIVE on WorldSurfLeague.com.
The world’s best surfing will also be broadcast LIVE on Fox Sports in Australia, MCS Extreme in France, EDGE Sports in China, South Korea, Malaysia and other territories and on Globo TV in Brazil.
The J-Bay Open is the showcase event at the J-Bay Winterfest, a multi-sport and music festival in Jeffreys Bay from July 8 – 19. More details at www.jbaywinterfest.com.
J-Bay Open Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS), Michel Bourez (PYF), Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 2: Julian Wilson (AUS), Miguel Pupo (BRA), Alejo Muniz (BRA)
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS), Kai Otton (AUS), C.J. Hobgood (USA)
Heat 4: Filipe Toledo (BRA), Adam Melling (AUS), Dane Reynolds (USA)
Heat 5: Mick Fanning (AUS), Matt Banting (AUS), Tomas Hermes (BRA)
Heat 6: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Kolohe Andino (USA), Slade Prestwich (ZAF)
Heat 7: Josh Kerr (AUS), Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 8: Kelly Slater (USA), Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Glenn Hall (IRL)
Heat 9: Nat Young (USA), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Adrian Buchan (AUS)
Heat 10: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Jadson Andre (BRA), Fredrick Patacchia (USA)
Heat 11: Bede Durbidge (AUS), Jordy Smith (ZAF), Ricardo Christie (NZL)
Heat 12: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Joel Parkinson (AUS), Keanu Asing (HAW)