The one wave that appreciates flow will get the girls riding high.
Supertubes – I was sitting on the boardwalk on a warm winter’s morning, covering the one event that I get to cover every single year, Jeffreys Bay. It has had many names - Billabong Country Feeling Surf Classic, CSI/Billabong Pro, Billabong/MSF Pro, Billabong Pro, JBay Open, Corona Open JBay – but the the perfect waves of Supertubes are always enthralling, no matter what.
Alongside me was a fairly famous Australian Surf Journalist, who was making notes in his book ... with a pen. I know – crazy! It was an in between day with the north-west devil wind pumping up the point making some decent-sized side-lumps, it was three-foot on the sets, and it was medium tide. While from the perspective of many, it looked like absolute perfection, with sets of four waves and more hitting Boneyards and winding down all he way to where we were sitting at the far side of the car park section, and winding all the way down to Impossibles. To the knowing eye, however, it was far from perfect.
Three-foot medium-tide makes for really, really fast waves, zippering along the bricks. Devil wind blows into the rights, causing the aforementioned bumps. The ASP, in their wisdom back then, chose the morning as the perfect time to send the girls out.
There had already been some controversy that year with the women. Layne Beachley and Kenny Bradshaw were a couple, and a fairly intimidating one at that. They had rigged up a comms system, with Layne in the water with a little ear piece fixed into her ear. Big Ken was on the dunes, and was telling Layne exactly where the sets were going, and which ones were the good ones and which ones were crap. A ruling was made that year that outlawed such comms.
The Australian Journalist and I were watching the girls surfing. it might have been the final, it might have been a semi. It might have been any girls heat that event to be honest. After 17 years of surfing contests, happy hours and good times, the memory banks are all but shot, but I remember one thing. The girls could not make a single wave, and due to the proximity of the shelf, they could also not commit to any turns. It was take off, pump – pump – pump, kick out.
Australian Journo and I sighed. We were both hungover, the African sun was only winter-warm but it was beating down, and the devil wind had long dried up our saliva as we sat dying in the sun.
Megan Abubo – a wonderfully talented surfer from Hawaii and a surfer who posed semi-nude for an interview with Rolling Stone – caught one wave that opened up right at the end of the wave, as it headed for the bottom gully. She utilised the open face, and made a few great carving moves, and a little lip crack, to get the only real score of the heat. She won the heat, or it might have been the final because she did win the event that year, but Australian Journo and I were over it, agreeing to the fact that it was all a bit of a waste of time sending the girls out at Supers at their skill levels at the time. They were never allowed to return.
The last decade and a half of professional surfing can be remembered for one incredible marker, and that is of the phenomenal rise of women’s surfing, in all levels of the game. The fairer sex enjoyed a phenomenal growth in their sport, and their collective skill set skyrocketed for the first 10 years of the 2000’s, that only got even better the last 6 years. Watching Tyler or Sally or Carissa or Stephanie these days is an absolute pleasure for all surfers, as is watching Courtney, Tatiana or Lakey.
The addition of the Women’s Tour for the 2018 Corona Open JBay will be a great thing for women’s surfing, and the South African fans and spectators will embrace the inclusion with both arms.
Women’s Corona Open J-Bay, South Africa - July 10 - 17, 2018