A finals form guide with serious world title ramifications.
The forecast is looking dicey for the final three days of the waiting period at J-Bay. Think devil wind, 3-4 foot and lully. It’s not going to be a barrel fest and will probably be won with a couple of big manoeuvres. The curse of perfect waves before the waiting period opens continues to haunt the WSL who, aside from a couple of bombing days in Fiji, are yet to get in synch with Huey this season.
Two guys left in the draw are gunning for a world title. After stumbling in round three Wilko has left the door wide open for Gabriel Medina and John John Florence to pounce. A win from either of them will put them within 250 and 1600 points of his lead respectively.
Florence has already landed a semi-final berth after disposing of Jordy with his buzzer beater floater. Gifted, lauded, hyped, the Hawaiian appears to be on course to secure his first world title. Eager to capitalise on a John John world title, his major sponsor, Hurley, have been shadowing their prized prodigy for a new series titled ‘Twelve’. Each episode reveals the highs and lows of the Hawaiian’s world title campaign. High on production values and narrated by JJF himself, it’s a biopic he hopes will end with a fairy-tale finish at Pipeline.
The back end of the year looks good for Florence. Chopes is like Pipe but easier for him, he’s a former finalist at Trestles and has won in France. If he hoists some Silverware at J-Bay we will have ourselves a real race on our hands.
Gabriel Medina is the lone goofy-footer left in the draw. The Brazilian will face Julian Wilson in the quarters and is in blistering form. Expect him to go to the air and bag two quick scores to apply pressure on the Aussie. The thing I love about Gabby is his competitiveness. He’s not on tour to make friends. And the rivalry between him in Jules is well documented. We all remember Gab’s tears in France when Jules got the nod over him a few years back. The WSL needs to exploit this dynamic.
If Medina is ruthlessly hungry Wilson made his commitment levels apparent when he smashed his head into the rocks in the earlier rounds. Jules is a smooth operator, however for one of the most exciting surfers on tour, he loses too often by opting to surf in third gear. If he surfs conservatively in the finals he will go down like a steamer full of bowling balls.
Hopefully Jules isn’t distracted by thoughts of the shark that showed up for last year’s final between him and Mick Fanning. The WSL certainly aren’t dropping any reminders. Has anyone noticed there has been no talk about sharks during the entire event?
Last year J-bay made major news around the world after Mick Fanning’s encounter in the final. However, there’s not been a peep out of the WSL all webcast. I get that they want to “move on” but that was the story of 2016. And now the same two surfers are in the finals! C’mon guys. Oh, and has anyone seen the shark mitigating ‘Clever Buoy’?
Kerrzy is in the finals and I can’t believe it. He’s been on the bottom of the rankings all season and on the wrong side of 30. Is J-Bay set to become his first CT event win?
Meanwhile Kelly is looking sharp. I worry that the back-to-back lay days have curbed his enthusiasm, however he’s fired up and surfing a board that works. Did you hear him take a swipe at Ronnie Blakey after round four? The King is back but he still has a way to go.
Over on the other side of the draw is Filipe Toledo. The wiry Brazilian dynamo has probably had the easiest road to the finals. Not counting his non-elimination rounds he only needed to beat Ottz, Pupo and Dantas to make it to the quarters. He will be tested against Mick and it may be a case of conditions dictating whether old or new school tricks will get the nod from the judges.
Then there is Mick Fanning. It’s incredible to think that twelve months ago we almost lost the three-time world champion at this event. The year from hell forced him to take a sabbatical and there are still rumours about whether he will come back to the tour full-time. But he’s here and surfing in career best form. Expect the mainstream press to swallow him whole if he makes the final let alone win the event that almost killed him.
J-Bay Open Upcoming Quarterfinal Match-Ups: QF 2:
QF 2:Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Josh Kerr (AUS)
QF 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)
QF 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Filipe Toledo (BRA)
J-Bay Open Upcoming Semi-Final Match-Ups: SF 1:
SF 1:John John Florence (HAW) vs. TBA