Indisputably the best contest of the year so far
If they gave out awards for best contest of the year then JBay would be the most frequent winner. Ok, she made us sit it out through a couple of torturous lay days, but there was no doubt that the world’s most celebrated right point delivered on finals day. We’d seen fun-size, rippable J-Bay early in the event, fanned by unseasonably warm winds and weather. However, finals day arrived with classic JBay winter conditions – howling offshores, slate-grey lines and a growing swell that gave the stretched out walls a distinctly meaty quality. If you were going to win you needed to be able to take on a big section that charged at you like an angry elephant.
In one of the most dramatic and exciting finals in a while, Gabriel Medina (BRA) came from behind to wrestle the Corona Open JBay title from on on-form Italo Ferreira (BRA) and become the first goofy-footer to win it since Marc Occhilupo’s audacious victory in 1984.
Needing a 7.04 score in solid, blustery conditions at Supertubes, Medina picked up a set wave, and went about executing some high risk moves underneath and over the falling lip, before setting up for a tube ride on the inside. He emerged from a long double-section tuberide – the best backhand tube of the entire event - to the roars of the crowd and the general expectation that it was a perfect 10 – point ride or very close to it. The judges awarded him a 9.77, and the winner’s trophy.
Italo Ferreira put on a spirited performance, but it was not enough to oust Medina.
In the Corona Open JBay Women’s final, it was a tight battle between Lakey Peterson (USA) and Carissa Moore (HAW). They both fought hard in the excellent offshore conditions, but Moore banked an 8.5 score for one very impressive ride, and took the win from Peterson.
It was a huge day of surfing for the final day of this year’s event. In blustery early morning conditions Medina (BRA) put on a solid performance against Owen Wright (AUS), and although the Australian had an early lead, it was the Brazilian goofy-footer who emerged victorious.
Kolohe Andino (USA) took to the skies for his encounter against Ace Buchan (AUS) and scored a fairly comfortable win against the elder statesman with a 7.93 score for a massive air reverse sealing the deal.
The first women’s semifinal was an exciting affair, with Carissa Moore picking up some bombs and striding into the lead against the powerful goofy footer Caroline Marks. At the end of the heat it was Carissa Moore who took it with a final 8.33 score for a set wave that saw her perform a number of critical turns all the way to the gully.
The second women’s semi saw last year’s runner-up Lakey Peterson (USA) take on Malia Manuel from Hawaii in the vastly improved conditions. The two natural-footers faced-off and at the closing siren it was Peterson through to the final with Manuel, who like Koohe is still chasing her first tour victory, settling for a very respectable third place.
The first men’s semi once again saw Kolohe Andino take to the air, but it his lofted rotation was not enough to eclipse Gabriel Medina’s thunder thigh, backside belts.
In the second semi it looked like it was going to be another goofy-footed Brazilian in the final when Italo Ferreira went to town on one of the set waves and banked a 9.5. Up against two times winner and defending champion Filipe Toledo, also from Brazil, Italo threw caution to the wind and went for some huge moves on his backhand for the win. In the end it was Ferreira who did enough, and Toledo was denied the opportunity to claim a hat trick of wins at the event.
The result allows Kolohe Andino to officially claim the Jeep yellow jersey in the men’s division. Could he win a world title without winning an event? Meanwhile the race for the title between Kolohe, Filipe, Kanoa, Italo and Jordy remains extremely tight. Victory at JBay allows Medina to add his menacing presence to the mix at number seven (six if you don’t count John John) while Kelly drops back to eight. Medina is a notoriously strong finisher on the tour and the surfers in front will no doubt now feel like they are being stalked by a ruthless predator.
In the womens division, Carissa Moore has snatched the Jeep Leaders jersey from Sally Fitzgibbons while the title race remains very much alive between the top six competitors. Steph Gilmore will see JBay as a missed opportunity to make a further claim on her eighth world title, but sitting in third position Steph remains well within striking distance. Sally Fitzgibbons drops back to second, but is doing the best surfing of her career and will be headed straight to the wave pool to practice for the upcoming event. Ominously Moore won three events in the back end of last year’s tour and it will be no easy task to stop her charge for a fourth world title.
For now however let's just take a moment to appreciate how good Jbay is and how much better the spectacle of Pro Surfing becomes when the world's best surfers get the kind of waves that they and the fans deserve. More consistent, world-class waves on tour please. Did somebody say G-land?