In a field of excellent surfers, local knowledge could just be the factor that makes the difference.
Any great South African surfer - from 1977 World Champion Shaun Tomson to star-in-the-making Mikey February – has one thing in common. He or she would have spent serious time at Supertubes, JBay. It’s the sort of wave, and place, that can steal time from you as well, when a quick paddle-out becomes a five-hour session that you just don't want to end.
Supers is a lot more tricky to surf than what many people think. It looks dreamy and mechanical in pictures, and on video clips when Jordy and Kelly and Mick and Joel surf it, but when it’s got a slight deviation in the swell, when the wind is howling offshore and the spray is blinding you in the face and people are shouting at you, it can be fair from terrific.
The three South African surfers in the event this year all have extensive history at JBay, and are going to be worthy opponents throughout the event.
Jordy Smith needs very little introduction, having won the event twice, and have had numerous excellent clips, ten-point rides and hundreds of photos taken of him ripping the place apart. He is one of the best at reading the waves at Supers and his wave selection is right up there with the best in the world. Jordy comes into this event with world title intent that he loudly declared at the recent Ballito Pro. (Beach commentator Jarryd: Is this the year we see a South African world champion? Jordy Smith: Absolutely!, or words to that effect..) When Jordy finds his rhythm and stays loose at Supers he is untouchable.
Dale Staples was the winner of the recent JBU Supertrial powered by Monster, and hails from St Francis Bay. Living just down the road, literally, Dale spent much of his formative surfing years at JBay, progressing from the beachbreaks, to Point to Supertubes, and he too knows the wave inside and out. He has performed out there before, making the quarterfinals in 2012 when it was a six star WQS event. His performance at the JBU Supertrial was inspiring, and proved without a doubt that ‘Ducky’ as he is affectionately known, is a purist and not a QS groveler, and he wants to put on a massive performance here to show the world what he is actually capable of.
Mikey February is the up-and-comer that is set to make name this season, and with getting awarded the WSL Commissioner’s Wildcard into this years tournament, he is determined to vindicate their assessment of him being deserving of the wildcard ticket. He has surfed in a Championship Tour event here before, after getting whisked into the main event at the very last minute in 2015 to replace the injured Matt Banting, but this is his real shot at the big time and he doesn’t want to blow it. MFeb, as he is known, has a cool as a cucumber demeanour, and will not get ruffled by competitive zealousness by fellow competitors. This Big Match Temperament could help the young surfer from Kommetjie in Cape Town go far. He is coming up against Jordy and Conner Coffin in heat 5 of round one.
It will come as no surprise if the Saffas make a good go of it at the event this year. Normally it has just been Jordy flying the flag, with Sean ‘The Nemesis’ Holmes coming up on various occasions, but this year the backup is rock solid, and we can expect good things to come from the trio.