Cape Town - A sensational day of action played out at the Corona Open J-Bay, stop No 6 on the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), on Tuesday as the world’s best surfers delivered FOUR perfect 10-point rides in epic double overhead waves at Supertubes in Jeffreys Bay.
WATCH: Jordy Smith rips up J-Bay!
South Africa’s Jordy Smith created history by recording the first perfect 20-point heat total at Jeffreys Bay and competition ran through Round 3 and the opening two heats of Round 4 before being called off when a shark was sighted breaching about 100m outside the competition area.
Smith, the two-time event winner (2010 and 2011) and current No 3 in the standings, posted his perfect 20 heat total in his Round 3 match-up with 2017 WSL rookie Leonardo Fioravanti of Italy. This is only the 10th time the feat has been achieved in 40-plus years of professional surfing, the first time anyone has earned a perfect 20 at J-Bay and the first ever perfect heat for Smith.
Despite a strong opening from Fioravanti, the hometown hero found the best waves of the heat to deliver two perfect rides. First Smith laid down two huge turns and a deep barrel for 10 points followed quickly by a display of his incredible power surfing and two more barrels for another perfect 10 to seal his victory and his place in the history books.
‘It feels absolutely phenomenal,’ said Smith. ‘Just be to here at J-Bay where the waves are firing and to have that opportunity is incredible. To do it, to get 20 points in front of all my friends and family and all these local fans, is also just such an amazing thing. It’s Mandela Day today, and I think Madiba was looking out for me and sent me the bombs today.
‘My first two heats in the event were really slow and to get blessed with that was absolutely amazing. You go out there and give it absolutely everything you’ve got. I don’t want to take anything away from Leo (Fioravanti), he’s an absolutely amazing surfer, especially on the rail, so I just had to do my best surfing. This heat I was just fortunate to get the bombs. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would get a Perfect 20 and to get it here at J-Bay makes it extra special.’
Fioravanti was equally elated about the quality of the on offer at Supertubes.
‘The waves were perfect and it was a great heat,’ said Fioravanti. ‘I knew two 8’s weren’t going to cut it. Every time we had an exchange he always seemed to get the edge even though. Jordy is one of the best out there so I just went out there trying to surf my best but he got two 10’s and made history out there. It’s such an incredible place so we’re so lucky to be here. That was the best heat I’ve ever surfed so I’m stoked to be part of it. I can’t wait to get over to Tahiti now.’
An unbelievable clash played out in Heat 2 of Round 4 between reigning WSL champion John John Florence of Hawaii, Australia’s three-time WSL champion Mick Fanning and Frederico Morais (Puerto Rico). The rookie opened with a near-perfect 9.60 for an early lead but Florence stormed into first place with his first perfect 10 of the year.
Morais came back with another big score, a 9.47, and reclaimed the top spot while Fanning, a four-time event winner, put on a clinic and locked in an excellent 9.73 to get himself back in the heat. The two world champions could not better their scores and the rookie won the heat and claimed his place in the quarter-finals. Fanning and Florence will surf again in Round 5 when competition resumes.
‘It was probably the best heat of my life against Mick (Fanning) and John (Florence),’ Morais said. ‘It can’t get any better than that with John getting a 10, me with two nines and Mick was ripping too. The last two heats I didn’t feel like I was surfing my best so I knew I had to give everything and be perfect in this round and that’s what I did. Finally I feel like I’ve been doing my real surfing.’
The 2014 WSL champion Gabriel Medina (Brazil) battled Aussie Owen Wright and 2017 WSL rookie Joan Duru of France in the Round 4 Heat 1 in an all goofy affair.
Wright was the first surfer to go into the excellent range but Duru, looking to break into the quarter-finals for the second time season, stole the advantage. After a slow start Medina found two barrels and a series of incredible turns for a 9.07 and the lead. Duru continued to hunt down the 8.91 required but a big ride in the final minutes of the heat fell short and the Brazilian took the heat win with an excellent 9.67. Wright and Duru will surf again in Round 5.
‘I’ve been surfing a lot recently to try out my boards,’ said Medina. ‘It’s a bit tricky out there but when you find it, it’s so good. I knew it was going to be a tough heat against Owen (Wright) and Joan (Duru) so I’m really happy. I tried to be patient and was trying to pick the good ones, which is hard. Every wave is really good so it’s hard. It’s the best feeling when you finish your last turn and you know it was a good wave.’
Rookie Duru previously caused a big upset in Round 3 when he put a serious dent in Brazilian Adriano de Souza’s title campaign and eliminated the Brazilian in a rematch of their 2012 Qualifying Series final at Jeffreys Bay. Both of the surfers had plenty of opportunities, but it was Duru who found two solid seven-point scores that the 2015 WSL champion was not able to match and he is sent home in 13th place.
‘I was pretty nervous because I lost to Adriano (de Souza) like this five years ago here,’ said Duru. ‘I got lucky this time and the waves are pumping to it’s going to be a crazy day.’
Earlier in the day Round 3 saw its share of big scores with Julian Wilson (Australia) posting a Perfect 10 of his own in his heat against Frenchman Jeremy Flores. The Australian, currently in eighth in the standings, is yet to make it past the quarter-finals this season and Tuesday’s third round victory is a step in the right direction.
‘What a magic week, that was such a beautiful wave,’ said Wilson. “It was such a nice feeling the way the wave lined up for me. I felt like I had a pretty good read on the conditions out there and there’s room for me to improve so I’m just going to focus on my own game.’
Conner Coffin (USA) also delivered big scores and posted two excellent nine-point rides in the opening 20 minutes of his Round 3 heat to eliminate 2012 WSL champion Joel Parkinson (Australia) from the competition. The two-time event winner and current No 6 in the standings was left in a combination situation and is sent home with his second 13th place finish of the year.
‘It doesn’t get any better than this,’ Coffin said. ‘That was unreal, I was just so excited. I love surfing against those guys. Parko (Joel Parkinson ) is one of the best surfers out there so it awesome to have a heat with him. We both love surfing this wave more than any other on the planet so it was a really fun heat. I’m so happy to be here and having so much fun, it’s a dream come true.’
No 1 in the standings, Matt Wilkinson (Australia), also made it through Round 3 by defeating Jack Freestone (Australia) in Heat 12 with a 16.54 heat total.
‘That’s a pretty scary round because it’s the difference between a result and a throwaway,’ said Wilkinson. ‘It’s really intense being in the last heat of the day because I’ve been watching all day, which was tough. Jack (Freestone) is a great surfer and anyone on their forehand is a danger out there so I knew I would stick to big turns. The waves are just so good and I’m stoked to get to go back out there.’
Heat 3 of Round 4 was called off following a shark sighting and, following protocol, the response team was activated and the heat was called off.
‘Judges and ski drivers saw a shark breach about 100 metres out behind the line-up so the heat was put on hold,’ said WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow. ‘We’ve made the decision that we’re not going to restart the heat again today and we’ll come back tomorrow when there will still be great waves on offer.’