It was a scramble of a start this morning at the Corona Open JBay. The air was still, but there was an enormous amount of morning sickness on the ocean. It was chunky, and we all thought that it was going to be a late start, for sure. Everyone was moving lazily, waking up, waiting for the wind.

Next thing, The Call was made at 7:30 for an 8:05 start, with overlapping heats of 46 minutes each. I started pondering over the unusual 46 minutes time allocation, but realized that I had no time! Men and women’s division! Let’s go! There was excitement in the air. The waves suddenly started improving, and the crowds literally swarmed in as one.

Jordy Smith was first up against Soli Bailey as the sun started climbing. A light wind from the southwest started to flutter and Jordy took to the air. He banked two good scores in the beginning of the heat, and Soli Bailey was chasing from the get-go. Just past midway through the heat a great barrel section appeared and Jordy pulled in to a nice and deep tube ride in front of the roaring crowds. “It was a nice looking wave and I remember pulling in, but then the wave clipped my outside rail,” said Jordy on the beach afterwards. “My board flipped and then I think my fin hit me, really hard, on the back of the head.”

On the beach afterwards, Jordy asked me to have a look. I parted his hair and there it was, an angry looking gash, definitely needing to be closed. The WSL doc cleaned the wound and stuck in three stitches, making Jordy good to go again.

Filipe Toledo and Mikey February was an interesting clash on paper, with Toledo on form and firing, but with February having an absolute dream session before the contest started this morning, fitting in some smooth transitions with some big hits. On a points-per-maneuver system Filipe would have no competition, but Mikey adds a lot more to the game with style, flair, speed lines, soul-inspired shoulder slouches and unique body language. As the heat ticked down, Mikey need a 9.54 and picked up an absolute bomb way up the point. He pulled into a picture-perfect blue barrel and rode and rode, with the local crowds cheering on in the background. Just as he exited he got clipped and went down and the heat was over, with Toledo a deserving winner. Mikey’s parents – Marsha and Isaac - were on the beach as the siren sounded but they are good sports and know the rules of the game. “What a pity he fell, said dad Isaac. “He still had a lot of wave to work with, and could have done some more cool turns on that wave.”

Kanoa Igarashi came to life in his heat, for the second such performance at the event. So far the little tyke is looking extremely strong, and has a mental game to match his prowess. “I feel I have a strong mental game at the moment,” said Kanoa in a conversation yesterday. “It is such a massive part of the equation, to have a strong mental game, and in many aspects it is possibly more important than physical fitness or your equipment.” He went to town against Frederico Morais, putting down two excellent scores for a heat total of 17.53, the highest score of the round.

 

The JBay crowd love a bit of Slater as well. His heat against Caio Ibelli was a solid showing of power surfing, as the light east wind started ruffling the waves again. A little bit of wind is actually ok for Supers as it creates a little bit of a lip line for the surfers to hit, and to take to the air. Slater was looking solid, doing some big carves and open face hacks, as well as some courageous close-out moves at the end, while Ibelli was struggling from the get-go to catch up. Kelly’s last wave was down at the Impossible section, solid overhead and chunky, and he managed to absolutely belt it four times before it shut down on him, down past the gully, but his score of 6.8 was enough to see him comfortably through the heat.

In the women’s Steph Gilmore survived a cagey encounter with Silvana Lima who always has the potential to do something other-worldly. Steph carved to a win by roughly a point, but will need to be better to preserve her J-bay title and resume control of the world title race. Meanwhile Caroline Marks again proved why many are suggesting she has the best backhand attack in women’s surfing as she blitzed Paige Hareb.

It was an absolute onslaught of surfing all day, with so many excellent waves and so much to take in. As the spray settled, we lost surfers like Adriano De Souza, Jeremy Flores, Julian Wilson, Wade Carmichael and Jack Freestone, while still in the game are surfers like Owen Wright, Gabriel Medina, Ryan Callinan, Kolohe Andino and a Brazilian contingent consisting of Deivid Silva, Willian Cardosa, Peterson Crisanto and Italo Ferreira along with the afore mentioned Toledo and Medina.