Also, shocking the masses, Kanoa Igarashi gives honest post-heat presser!
Three am or close enough PST, California sleeps, forty-seven-year-old Kelly Slater showboats into a frothy milkshake tube at something like pumping J-Bay on his Final Year on Tour and on his way to a clear win over Caio Ibelli.
An inside source at the former ASP told me J-Bay has one of the smallest online audiences because North America with its millions upon millions of fans sleeps. So J-Bay was cut from the schedule in 2010 as the tour teeter-tottered on the edge of the surf industry apocalypse, then reintroduced by a Paul Speaker in 2014 desperate to throw red meat to the base and stabilise the roster.
Paul went, Sophie came in; we kept J-Bay and lost Cloudbreak thus eviscerating the Grand Slam leg of the Tour which has always been the touchstone of world champions from Kelly Slater to Andy Irons to Gabe Medina.
It seems the Global South + Europe can sustain the event without the patronage of the imperial north and here we are: 16 over-lapping 45 minute heats in pumping surf at one of the world’s best waves.
Lumpy early with a wind that veered around to the devil direction. That seemed no big problem for the big dog Jordy Smith. He hacked and floated – three times- with an undeserved claim for a well over-egged 8.5 that seemed to both fuck with the scale and frustrate natural foot efforts to come to grips with the lineup. Jordy’s anti-aerial rant in the booth looked like a cute game of rope-a-dope in retrospect after he threw down a toy alley-oop into the breeze.
His easy win over Soli Bailey also set the tone of a day of mismatches. There were many. Early heats could blame devil winds and creases to make turns hard to stick and rails fluttery through carves but even when the surface greased out there was a lot of underwhelming surfing.
Gabe Medina, ranked nine, tightened the noose on Griffin Colapinto, ranked 27, outside the cut, with vertical blasts and fin drifts on the close-outs. A very successful formula.
But where was the natural foots advantage in repertoire, the Fanning power torque wrap? By the twenty-minute mark of the heat, as their priority started Medina had already kicked open the trapdoor and left Colapinto dangling in the wind.
He looks half the surfer this year.
With 45 minutes there was no lack of opportunity. Andino and De Souza rode eight waves each. Flores rode twelve. Andino scratched up two sixes. Both Flores and De Souza failed to find chemistry or rhythm – lots of flubbed turns, falling off, bad body language, obscene gesticulating etc etc.
It was great sport if very ordinary surfing.
Could Pip light it up? Pip could not light it up. Well, he kind of did.
Skipped out of the gates like a two-year-old at a barrier trial for a mid-seven and everyone held their breath. Then he fell asleep like a Persian cat sitting in the winter sun.
Mikey Feb was never going to win, I think we can admit that. Even Barton admitted he don’t quite have a CT level skill set.
But it gave Pip fans nervous moments before he slammed the door in Mikey’s face with a seven. Pip at fifty percent? About that.
It took eleven heats before a score was able to broach the high moat set by Jordy Smith. And two consecutive heats where natural footers finally opened up repertoire, turn angle, turn speed and control of the arc.
Seabass nailed a perfect one for a nine and got the Fanning power-whip on full power. Bourez in the next heat took a more vertical approach with massive vertical punches which he finished with a full whip. He floated and spiked a wave that quivered like half set gelatine.
It was incredible judges squashed the spread between him and Ricardo Christie to the extent Christie was still in the heat with five to play. Bourez smashed him.
Who was going to grab the day by the scruff of the neck?
Who was going to set the pace down in deepest, darkest Africa?
Not Kimba the white lion but Kanoa Igarashi the Japanese American. I hate to crib comments off the Grit live comment feed but sometime during the heat Superworm came on and called Iggy the best surfer in the World. And after seeing the Top 32 all surfing perfect J-Bay that call, ridiculous on the face of it, suddenly seemed very, very tight and right.
More Toledo than Toledo.
He had the speed, the flamboyance to loose the fins or carve the arc and a faux-aggro mojo so ostentatious that in spite of its tendency to alienate we are now learning to love. He freely admits this mojo is not his but a product of his coach Jake Patterson and after donning this cape so many times it’s starting to fit. Iggy in the yellow jersey.
Iggy winning Pipeline.
Iggy taking the World Title.
All these things could happen.
Joe Turpel called Kelly’s heat “vintage Kelly” and it was. This will sound even queerer than calling Kanoa the best surfer in the world but I’d suspected J-Bay was becoming a weakness for Kelly, with his penchant for chattery, skittery equipment and tendency to fall apart in heats.
It’s not strictly true that he’s turned a weakness into a strength. More, if you indulge my argument, that he has rediscovered an old strength and renewed it. Like a couple who, after twenty years of bickering, redo their wedding vows and find a new spice to the old ways (not me and my gal).
Kelly took some licks and gave Caio too many chances but by surfing the way he did he had upped the ante and prevented any chance of Ibelli finding a comfort zone. In the pressure thus applied Ibelli cracked.
Two magical things happened concurrently during the Kelly heat.
Kanoa gave a candid presser calling out the disingenuous calls of his fellow surfers who claim not to care or know about the numbers. He said he knows the numbers and it makes it easier. How could this manufactured pro surfer, I mean like from birth, or even before birth, become our lord and redeemer from the bland post-heat presser?
The second thing.
If this was manufactured – stroke of genius – they got De Souza in the booth to commentate Kelly’s heat. It was delicious to see Adriano soaking up the attention talking about his World Title while Kelly battled it out.
That too was delightfully candid. A little bit of cosmic rebalancing.
Italo played it by the Gabe Medina template. Big backside hooks, no bobble, no breaks in the turns. Fin drifts on the close-out section. A very easy win for him over Jack Freestone. Très entertainment.
Even if North America slept through it, the people of the Global South kept it down.
J-Bay Men’s Round of 32 Results:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.67 DEF. Soli Bailey (AUS) 10.74
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) 11.40 DEF. Joan Duru (FRA) 11.27
Heat 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.00 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 10.00
Heat 4: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 13.10 DEF. Yago Dora (BRA) 11.33
Heat 5: Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.33 DEF. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 9.80
Heat 6: Deivid Silva (BRA) 13.43 DEF. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.70
Heat 7: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 11.60 DEF. Julian Wilson (AUS) 10.56
Heat 8: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 14.74 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 10.86
Heat 9: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.77 DEF. Michael February (ZAF) 10.40
Heat 10: Willian Cardoso (BRA) 14.03 DEF. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 12.10
Heat 11: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 14.94 DEF. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 11.50
Heat 12: Michel Bourez (FRA) 13.60 DEF. Ricardo Christie (NZL) 12.83
Heat 13: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 17.53 DEF. Frederico Morais (PRT) 13.50
Heat 14: Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 13.50 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 11.66
Heat 15: Kelly Slater (USA) 13.57 DEF. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 11.90
Heat 16: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.16 DEF. Jack Freestone (AUS) 9.70
J-Bay Men’s Round of 16 Matchups:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Owen Wright (AUS)
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Ryan Callinan (AUS)
Heat 3: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Deivid Silva (BRA)
Heat 4: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
Heat 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 6: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Michel Bourez (FRA)
Heat 7: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Peterson Crisanto (BRA)
Heat 8: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
J-Bay Women’s Round of 16 (H1 – 6) Results:
Heat 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 13.27 DEF. Silvana Lima (BRA) 12.50
Heat 2: Caroline Marks (USA) 16.67 DEF. Paige Hareb (NZL) 7.90
Heat 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.83 DEF. Keely Andrew (AUS) 11.30
Heat 4: Johanne Defay (FRA) 16.00 DEF. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 12.20
Heat 5: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 13.33 DEF. Macy Callaghan (AUS) 11.93
Heat 6: Malia Manuel (HAW) 11.50 DEF. Brisa Hennessy (CRI) 8.97
J-Bay Remaining Women’s Round of 16 (H7 – 8) Matchups:
Heat 7: Courtney Conlogue (USA) vs. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS)
Heat 8: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
J-Bay Women’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
QF 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Caroline Marks (USA)
QF 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Johanne Defay (FRA)
QF 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Malia Manuel (HAW)
QF 4: TBD