World’s top surfers jet in

Nomahlubi Jordaan  

IT’S all systems go for this week’s Billabong Pro in Jeffreys Bay, with some of the top surfers already in town and testing the waves.

Celebrating its 26th year since becoming an ASP-rated contest, the event will see 32 of the world’s top-ranked professional surfers competing for the men’s championship.

The event, which starts on Thursday and runs until July 24, will again be staged at Supertubes, the 300m stretch of coastline universally acknowledged as one of the world’s top 10 high performance surf breaks.

Three days of major underground music talent, the Billabong Pro Music Festival, which runs from Friday until Sunday, will coincide with the world-class surfing action. The line-up includes 14 top South African bands such as aKing, City Bowl Mizers, PH Fat, Jack Parow, Jeremy Loops, Holiday Murray and Hot Wasabi Band.

Billabong spokesperson Brendan Kegel said this year some of the best waves and swells seen in a long time had been noted. “We’ve had waves of up to 8ft [2.4m] in the last couple of weeks, which is what we need for this event.”

He said four to five days were needed to run the event. “All the surfers will run the surf in those days. That’s why it’s good to know [what] the weather will be like.”

About a dozen surfers have already arrived in Jeffreys Bay, while others are expected this week.

Those already in town include former Billabong Pro J-Bay champion Taj Burrow of Australia, Fred Patacchia of Hawaii, Kai Otton of Portugal, Heitor Alves of Brazil and Granger Larson of Hawaii.

Burrow said he was prepared for this year’s competition.

“I’ve been training and surfing in Australia which has a similar climate to Jeffreys Bay. I [will] use my knowledge to win my heats.”

He advised the “new guys” to practise, to get to know the Jeffreys Bay waves as they were tricky.

Burrow said he loved surfing in the town as it had some of his favourite waves.

Patacchia, who won his first professional event in the 19th annual Xcel Pro at Sunset Beach, said he was hoping to take a “few heats” in the competition. “This is my first event back since my knee injury, which resulted in my missing two of the last three world events. I’m hoping to get the ball rolling and see how my knee is feeling.”

Paracchia did not want to get his hopes too high about winning, as “everyone’s here to win”.

Asked about Jeffreys Bay and its weather, he said: “I love it here. This is a different climate and water temperature for me. I enjoy being here. I always have a lot of fun.”

Accommodation establishments in Jeffreys Bay are filled to capacity.

Supertubes Guest House owner Maresa Meyer said: “This is the second Christmas for J-Bay. We are doing very well. We are fully booked for two weeks. That’s how it is over Christmas.” She said they were hosting ASP officials, Billabong officials and some surfers.

At African Perfection, Sarah Thornton also reported a full house. “We are fully booked every year. We host surfers, media and just random guests.”

Kegel said the event attracted more than 10000 spectators and more than a million viewers globally, who watch online.

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