Perfecte golven tijdens de Billabong J-Bay Pro
American surfing legend Kelly Slater (Fl, USA) has resumed his quest for an historic 10th world surfing title at the Billabong Pro in South Africa by comfortably winning his opening encounter at the world famous point-break near Jeffreys Bay. In flawless two-to-three metre surf at ‘Supertubes’, Slater, the current ratings favourite and former nine-time ASP World Champion, nearly missed his heat because of aircraft delays, yet overcame a sleepless 24-hour transit to dispose of fellow Floridian Damien Hobgood (Fl, USA) and local wildcard Shaun Joubert (St Francis, ZAF) to advance directly to Round 3. Following a two-month break since the last ASP World Tour event (Billabong Pro Santa Catarina) in Brazil in May, conditions were perfect for competitors and Slater’s return to the competitive arena didn’t disappoint. The 38 year-old showed just why he has won at Jeffreys Bay an unprecedented four times; his class-act edged out his opponents with a two-wave combined heat total of 15.93 points.
Reigning and two-time World Champion Mick Fanning (Gold Coast, AUS) was another undisputed Round 1 standout. Judges awarded the Australian the highest two-wave combined heat score of the day – 16.70 points out of a possible 20 – to see the 29 year-old claim victory ahead of local danger-man Sean Holmes (ZAF) and Hawaiian Roy Powers (HAW).
Fanning has twice won the Billabong Pro at Jeffrey’s Bay (2002 & 2006) yet is hoping to overcome a personal hoodoo this week at J’Bay. Despite his two-world titles, Fanning is yet to record a victory as reigning world champion.
2008 Billabong Pro J-Bay champion Billabong team rider Taj Burrow (WA, AUS), local favourite Jordy Smith (East London, ZAF) and Californian Bobby Martinez (CA, USA) were among the other top seeds who advanced directly into Round 3 with wins today.
France’s Jeremy Flores (REU/FRANCE) was a little less fortunate. The 22 year-old natural-foot boasted the day’s highest individual wave score, the Frenchman earning a near-perfect 9.5 out of a possible 10 points for an incredible ride in his encounter versus Bobby Martinez (USA) and Australian rookie Blake Thornton (AUS).
Despite pulling a Houdini act – finding his way from within an amazing Jeffrey’s Bay tube – Flores was unable to find a second solid score and was eventually overtaken by Martinez.
Flores, a former world top-10 ranked surfer, entered the Billabong Pro J-Bay rated 31st and knows a good result is required in South Africa if he is to survive the ASP’s adjustment to the new One World Rating system at the season’s midpoint.
Following the next world tour event in Tahiti (August 23rd – Sept 3), the elite field for full-time competing surfers will be cut from 45 to just 32.
Flores is among at least a dozen surfers, including former three time World Champion Andy Irons (HAW) who sits dangerously close to the cut-off.
Following an extended training stint on the Gold Coast with defending Billabong Pro, event champion Joel Parkinson (Gold Coast, AUS) who was forced to withdraw due to injury, Irons enjoyed a welcome return to form today, winning his heat versus the winner of the last world tour event in Brazil Jadson Andre (BRZ) and Australian Jay Thompson (Gold Coast, AUS)
Competition is expected to resume in similar conditions tomorrow with man-on-man elimination Round 2.
Organisers will make a call on proceedings at 07:00 (ZAF local time), Friday July 16th.
The forecast for surf looks excellent.
Credit: ASP / CESTARI – Rider: Mick Fanning