THE J-Bay Open, stop No6 of 11 on the 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour, got off to an action-packed start yesterday in some of the best conditions on Tour so far this year.
The event ran through Round 1 and the first four heats of Round 2 in excellent 1.5m to 2.1m surf at Supertubes.
Defending event winner Jordy Smith (SA) made the most of the outstanding conditions and was the standout performer of the day.
The South African secured the first perfect 10 of the competition as well as the highest two-wave heat total of the 2014 season (19.80 out of a possible 20) to keep the crowds enthralled.
The first heat of the competition saw a regular-foot battle, with Mick Fanning (Aus), Sebastian Zietz (Haw) and Dion Atkinson (Aus) each finding a wave quickly after the horn. The Hawaiian got the best of the opening exchange with a 6. He stayed busy throughout the heat, eventually posting a 7 and 6.43, compliments of his signature forehand attack.
Fanning continued to strengthen his lead over his younger competitors, posting the first excellent ride of competition with an 8. Fanning’s 7 and 8 saw the two- time event winner snag a convincing Round 1 win.
Joel Parkinson (Aus), two-time J-Bay Open winner, kicked off Round 1 heat 3 with his classic precision. Goofy-footers Kai Otton (Aus) and wildcard Glenn Hall (Irl) made the most of the following sets but it was Otton who emerged as the in-form athlete of the heat, committing to each turn with power. In the final moments, the two Australians went wave-for-wave, each pulling into barrels with expert finesse. Otton tucked into a tight tube, while Parkinson rode triumphant from a bigger barrel that broke behind him.
Both surfers scored nine-point-range rides, but Otton’s bottom score carried him to the end as the heat winner.
Parkinson, ASP World No5, went on to surf again in Round 2 where he got the better of Brett Simpson (US) to avoid elimination and move through to Round 3.
Round 1 Heat 6 saw 11-time ASP world champion Kelly Slater (US) take on Tour rookie Mitch Crews (Aus) and local surfer and event wildcard Dylan Lightfoot (SA).
Crews opened with a solid wave, but Slater quickly followed suit, taking on Supertubes with ease.
He tucked into tubes and executed sweeping frontside hacks.
About 20 minutes in, the 19-year-old wildcard dropped into his first wave, unleashing powerful turns armed with local knowledge to take second place.
Crews was left trailing and, with just over five minutes left, saw an end to his Round 1 effort when he broke his board on the lip of a smaller wave.
Slater took the win and advanced straight to Round 3.