AS the shock decision to axe the Billabong Pro J-Bay rippled through the surfing world last Friday a surprising number of people have come out and said it is the best thing to happen in surfing in recent times.
Even though everyone is very disappointed, the alternate ASP six-star rated tournament, the highest ranking in the ASP star category that is set to be hosted by Billabong in Jeffreys Bay is viewed by many as an excellent alternative.
Contrary to common belief, general manager of Surfing South Africa, Robin de Kock believes that most of the top surfers apart from perhaps five or six will in any case be here to surf to accumulate points.
“Surfing in a six-star event is the best way to build up as many points as possible,” he said.
Calling the Kouga a breeding ground for young surfers he pointed out how these youngsters now have the opportunity to perform in their own backyard.
He also believes that along with the Mr Price six-star event that is hosted in Durban a couple of days prior to the J-Bay event, most big names will make the effort to come to Africa.
“We are a long way from everywhere, but with back to back events and a lot of points on the table I am confident J-Bay will be swamped.”
Billabong SA general manager, Ernest Bendeman is also very excited about the change.
“The change in event status brings a huge opportunity to South Africa’s up-and-coming surfers that they never had before.”
He is confident that the contest will see the best young surfers in the world competing in J-Bay for the first time in 20 years, in their quest to qualify for the world championship tour.
Bendeman said J-Bay and the local economy will probably be busier than ever.
“So while we may not get to see the likes of the usual top 16 or so WCT surfers we will get to see the very best ‘next generation of surfers’ from all over the world including SA, surf and compete in J-Bay.”
He also reiterated Billabong’s continued support to host another world class event.
He also said a major music festival will also again be on during this period.
Although the founder of Billabong SA, Cheron Kraak is sad about the decision to downgrade the event she also does not believe it is all bad news.
“We have enjoyed 20 years of seeing the world’s best surfers in town.
“This move will now give 120 up-and-coming young surfers and some old pros the opportunity to surf the world’s best right hand break,” said Kraak.
She believes this is a golden opportunity for all the young Turks who are snapping at the heels of the professional surfers.
“There are so many brilliant youngsters surfing in the World Qualifying Series (WQS) who will jump at this opportunity” said Kraak.
Besides she said: “It is also great news for the economy of the town and area as there will be so many more people in town.”