A slow start that built into a glorious crescendo.
Ethan and Owen
It was another slow start as we waited for round 2 to recommence at J-Bay. This time it was a devil wind ripping up the faces rather than a lack of swell that delayed proceedings.
Although, You wouldn’t know that after watching Ethan Ewing and Owen Wright in the first heat of the day. The conditions were as clean as a whistle but painfully slow. By the end of heat you can bet poor Ethan Ewing would’ve done a deal with the dark lord to surf those more consistent, but devil wind affected conditions.
Many had hoped the roping walls of J-Bay would be the place where Ethan would finally find his feet, but it wasn’t to be.
Owen Wright sensed the laziness of the ocean and wasted no time in jumping on two smaller waves in order to put the pressure straight on the rookie. He never recovered.
Ethan then did what he’s spent most of his rookie season doing. Sitting and waiting.
In the commentary booth, Ronnie Blakey noted that as both the youngest competitor on tour, and one of the nicest, Ethan was perhaps playing too polite a game in his heats. It’s true, there’s not a thought of jostling for position, no emotion on display, just seemingly endless patience in waiting for the ocean to end his disastrous run for him.
In the end Ethan waited until there was 15 minutes to go to make a move, but misjudged the speed of the wave, got caught off guard and pulled into a closeout.
I refuse to believe it’s a lack of talent that’s plaguing Ethan. There’s definitely some bad luck at play. But you’ve also got to ask, when exactly is he gonna snap? Show some anger, some emotion, anything, and use it to keep his dream alive? Anything but sitting motionless and letting it happen to him.
A lone ray of sunshine appeared late in the heat when Ethan finally stroked into a good one, and silkily linked a beautiful series of turns together for the highest score of the heat. He just needs to do it twice in a heat … and real soon.
Kolohe and Jadson
Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as Ethan exited the water the tap turned on, lines stacking up for Kolohe Andino and Jadson Andre.
On paper one would have to give the nod to Kolohe Andino here, but it was Jadson who got the better of the first few exchanges. Putting his board vertical, where Kolohe carved in a more horizontal fashion. Judges like vertical.
Surfing with six fresh stitches in his head Jadson was here simply to win a heat. Kolohe on the other hand, seemed to get wrapped up in the sheer beauty of J-bay’s waves, and who could blame him. He searched for tubes, carved and stylishly cruised – in all reality this is the way J-Bay should be surfed, but again this is a contest.
In need of a score, Kolohe stroked into a bomb. Again he found the tube, or rather the tube found him, and wouldn’t let him out. Through three beautiful sections he travelled and raced into a deep fourth, before being faded by a bodyboarder! That was the end of his heat.
Kolohe insisted a re-surf, but the commissioner said no, citing lack of conclusive evidence and the precedent of Medina Vs. Slater tube push-down from the Quiksilver Pro.
Julian and Josh
Julian Wilson has unfinished business at J-Bay. He was on fire back in 2014 before his fateful final with Mick Fanning and a third uninvited party in a grey suit.
So far he has surfed fast, aggressive and with real purpose. He’s also one of the few surfers in the draw that have tapped into the pace of J-Bay perfectly. This is evidenced by the absence of pumps and pre-turn shuffling, an affliction that has seemingly infected 90% of the tour.
A real threat to take this thing out.
Kerrsy on the other hand … The poor bloke hasn’t had the best of years. His departure from long-time sponsor Rusty, and a string of poor results have seen him hit somewhat of a crisis point. After bowing out here, he now only sits one spot above Ethan Ewing.
Leo and Seabass
There are always certain heats at J-Bay that just fire. Sure, the waves were beautiful in previous heats, but when Leo and Seabass paddled out, lines of pure South African corduroy filled the ocean.
Since a close call in Brazil fired him up, Leo has been surfing with confidence and aggression. Making the quarters in Fiji and despite ending up in round two here, has been surfing out of his skin.
The Italian struck first, locking in a healthy 8.50. Then it was seabass’ turn, raising the stakes with an amazingly ridden set wave featuring two deep tubes and three big belts for a 9.83.
Again Leo fired back with an 8.13. Lower than his first, and by all rights, shouldn’t have been enough to win the heat, but in the end it was.
For 25 minutes the score held for Leo as Seabass failed to find his requirement of 6.80 among a sea full of 8’s and 9’s
Leo through to round 3.
Filipe and Kanoa
Filipe may not have the same flow as some of the better J-Bay exponents on tour, but what he does have is speed, more than anyone else in the world, and his newfound ability to bury a rail and maintain every click of it.
The tricky transitions of J-bay are simply not fazing Filipe, and every turn he throws down is connecting millisecond perfect with the lip. This heat was a masterclass by the Brazilian. He even managed to ride one of the best tubes of the event, finishing with a 10 and 9.63 in his scoreline.
If he continues this form, he will be very hard to stop.
Kanoa on the other hand, was completely exposed by J-Bay. Whether it was wave selection or not I’m not sure, but he struggled to hold a rail, and never got his board much past horizontal on any of his rides. In the end he resorted to hunting tubes as his savior, but nothing was stopping Filipe.
An absolute flogging for Kanoa.
Disclaimer, after this heat no other match-up really caught my eye, plus the red wine coma came on strong and I retired to bed. By all reports it continued to pump with Caio, Joan, Zeke and Frederico all earning a spot in round 3.