Jeffreys Bay - American Kelly Slater will be the top seed for the US $400 000 Billabong Pro J-Bay when the world's best surfers take to the waves of Supertubes on Thursday for Stop No. 4 of 10 on the 2010 ASP World Tour, the global series of events that determines surfing's annual world champion.
The draw for Africa's only ASP World Tour event, revised following the withdrawal of 2009 event winner Joel Parkinson, who suffered an horrendous cut to his right foot while practicing in Australia on Friday, and 2009 semifinalist and fellow Australian Kai Otton (neck injury), was announced with Slater followed in the seeding by previous Billabong Pro J-Bay winners Taj Burrow (2007) and reigning ASP World Champion Mick Fanning (2002 & 2007), both from Australia.
SA surfing super-star Jordy Smith is the No. 4 seed, the highest seeding for a South African since the event became a top-tier ASP World Tour event in 1996.
The 22 year-old Durbanite and current World No. 2, who has spent more time surfing at Jeffreys Bay than any of the other top contenders, has the opportunity to become the first from this country to head the ASP World Title Race Rankings if he finishes ahead of Slater in the event.
Brazil's highest ranked campaigner, Adriano de Souza, is the No. 5 seed and then come Bobby Martinez, the top rated goofy-foot (rides with right-foot in front); progressive wizard and fellow American Dane Reynolds; regular top-5 stalwart Bede Durbidge (AUS); rookie and winner of the last event in Brazil (USA), Jadson Andre, with Taylor Knox (USA), in his 17th season at the highest level of competition surfing, rounding out the top 10.
Excitement is mounting for the event as Surfline, the official surf forecasters for the Billabong Pro J-Bay, predict ideal 2 to 2.5 metre waves with bigger sets and favourable weather conditions at Supertubes for the opening of the 11-day waiting period that runs until Sunday 25 July.
Contest director Mike Parsons (USA) will be keen to get the event underway and then pick the best conditions for the approximately four days of competition required to crown the 2010 champion.
In addition to the prestige and US $50 000 (approx. R375 000) winner’s paycheque, this year’s event has several sub-plots that will raise the interest levels and increase the tension factor for all the competitors.
Slater, the current World No. 1 after winning Stop No. 2 at Bells Beach and finishing runner-up in Brazil, is bidding for an unprecedented 10th ASP World Title. The 38 year-old Floridian, acknowledged as the best competitive surfer of all time, already holds a string of records including the youngest (20 in 1992) and oldest (36 in 2008) ASP World Champion, has won the most events and prize-money and is the only surfer to have his name etched on the Billabong Pro J-Bay perpetual trophy four times (1996, 2003, 2005 & 2008).
Smith, who in his third year amongst surfing’s elite reached his first final at the opening event of 2010, defeating Slater and Reynolds on his way to a runner-up finish at Snapper Rocks, will be focused on winning his first ASP World Tour event, becoming the first South African since 1996 to reach the final at J-Bay and to topping the ASP World Title Race rankngs.
The huge pressure on every competitor brought about by the cut in the ASP World Tour field from the current 45 to just 32 after the next event, the Billabong Pro Tahiti in August, means every heat at J-Bay will be fiercely contested as especially those near or outside the cutoff point scramble for ratings points to ensure the their participation in the last five events before the ASP World Champion is crowned in Hawaii in December.
This scenario includes Travis Logie (Durban), the only other South African amongst the top 45, who leapfrogged into the No. 30 spot following his 9th place in Brazil after a pair of 33rd finishes in the first two events of the season. Logie is right on the cusp of qualification but still has work to do at Jeffreys Bay to retain or improve his position and claim a spot for the second half of the year.
Two more locals, Sean Holmes (Cape Town) and Shaun Joubert (Mossel Bay) have been allocated wildcards directly into the main event and there is every chance that a fifth South African will claim the third and final wildcard. This will go to the winner of the VonZipper Superheat, run immediately before the first heat of the Billabong Pro J-Bay and features Ryan Payne, winner of the locals only Xcel Pro Showdown at Supertubes and red-hot junior Dale Staples, both from St Francis Bay, who are pitted against international stars and Billabong team riders Heath Joske (AUS) and Keanu Asing (HAW).
The Billabong Pro J-Bay is South Africa’s only ‘green’ surfing event and the organisers will again be implementing a comprehensive set of initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of the event and raise awareness of climate change, its effects and how everyone can contribute to mitigate these.
All the action during the event will be webcast LIVE at www.billabongpro.com with commentary in English and Portuguese.
The official event website features plenty of additional content including a series of Webisodes covering the event, its top contenders, the wildcards and the greening initiatives to be implemented, along with news, photos, video-on-demand highlights of every wave ridden and interactive competitions.
The 2010 Billabong Pro J-Bay is proudly supported by Eastern Cape Tourism, Virgin Atlantic, Monster Energy, Vida e Caffe, Corona and Tavcor
Draw for Round One:
Heat 1: Taylor Knox (USA), Luke Munro (AUS), Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 2: Jadson Andre (BRA), Andy Irons (HAW), Jay Thompson (AUS)
Heat 3: Bede Durbidge (AUS), Luke Stedman (AUS), Nate Yeomans (USA)
Heat 4: Dane Reynolds (USA), Daniel Ross (AUS), Marco Polo (BRA)
Heat 5: Bobby Martinez (USA), Jeremy Flores (FRA), Blake Thornton (AUS)
Heat 6: Adriano De Souza (BRA),Tiago Pires (PRT), Tim Reyes (USA)
Heat 7: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Tom Whitaker (AUS), Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 8: Kelly Slater (USA), Damien Hobgood (USA), Wildcard 3
Heat 9: Taj Burrow (AUS), Kieren Perrow (AUS), Wildcard 2
Heat 10: Mick Fanning (AUS), Roy Powers (HAW), Wildcard 1
Heat 11: C.J. Hobgood (USA), Kekoa Bacalso (HAW), Neco Padaratz (BRA)
Heat 12: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW), Patrick Gudauskas (USA), Tanner Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 13: Michel Bourez (PYF), Dean Morrison (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 14: Chris Davidson (AUS), Mick Campbell (AUS), Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 15: Adrian Buchan (AUS), Ben Dunn (AUS), Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 16: Owen Wright (AUS), Travis Logie (ZAF), Drew Courtney (AUS)