And, did Yago Dora do best backside surfing ever at J-Bay?
There’s no-where to hide at J-Bay, especially not when the waves are this consistent.
Some will find their comfort zone here, others might find themselves laid bare, as if under autopsy.
Exposed and helpless, just waiting to be picked apart.
My personal comfort zone was also stretched today with a day out to a safari park, this being a euphemistic term for a zoo, conjuring images of rolling tundra and leafy greens instead of steel bars and poky enclosures.
I’ve seen worse, but I can confirm it was as grim as any other place where wild animals are castrated by perspex and concrete.
I had to go, though. For a family day. It was a suggestion made by my better half last week when I was in the midst of a sailing trip with my old man. Given the time away I was afforded, my back was against the wall. I couldn’t say no.
The contrast was jarring.
Last week I sat on the bow as we cut through turquoise wavelets in the Sound of Iona and a huge pod of dolphins criss-crossed and leapt and twirled around us. They flipped and turned to show the whites of their bellies and followed the boat for no discernable reason other than the simple joy of play.
Today I watched glumly as a handful of sealions dipped and bobbed in a stagnant, grey pool and kids smeared sugary paws on the glass, tapping and squealing.
Not my kids, I might add.
The sealions reminded me of Jordy Smith. They were filled with latent power that has been subdued for so long we might only half-remember it. But remember it we should, because Jordy’s surfing is of a type that can shine here, power with finesse.
It’s a pity all we’ve heard for some time now is a dry bark.
Once again, at the one wave on Tour where Smith should smash through the walls of the enclosure and reclaim the wildness that was, he finished last in his heat, despite having what all pundits would have you believe is a distinct forehand advantage.
Tell that to Yago Dora, Nat Young and Connor O’Leary.
Each of these men took deserved heat victories for scintillating backhand surfing today.
Three of the four highest scoring waves of the day belonged to these surfers. Local boy Matt McGillivray being the only regular footed surfer to crack the top four.
The best score of the day went to Yago, an 8.67 which was about 1.33 points short of what it should’ve been.
Much ado is made of Mark Occhilupo’s backhand performances at J-Bay, and rightly so, but I want you to examine Dora’s score from today and tell me reasonably why that’s not among the best backhand waves ever surfed here?
Next we went to the penguins. All but two stood around hopelessly on their sculpted stones. The two others lay prone, engaged in what looked like furious, fruitless masturbation.
I thought about Kolohe Andino’s presence on Tour. So much promise, even moments when it feels good, albeit briefly. But ultimately just a pointless exercise that leaves us mildly guilty and unfulfilled.
Andino finished third of three again today. He came up against Jack Robinson and teenage wildcard Luke Thompson. The former continues to be impressive and can’t put a foot wrong. There’s not been a wave on Tour this year on which Robinson hasn’t been able to assert his dominance, and beyond Pipe we’ve still not seen the type of conditions in which he might be truly untouchable.
Thompson, a mere eighteen years old, surfed his first ever WCT heat with a power and panache that deserved to win, and would have in all but one other.
He looked every bit worthy of his wildcard slot, I thought, as I watched keen-eyed meerkats darting through sandy tunnels and basking in sunlight. Their enclosure was open. You could’ve reached in and grabbed one.
Yet surrounded by much grander animals they were simply going about their business, entirely unphased by the tigers that paced just beyond.
I hope to see more of Luke Thompson’s surfing. He’ll meet Italo in the elimination round, so might not be long for this world, but already he’s done enough to make an imprint.
As I wandered through Monkey World I thought of Ethan Ewing. Widely admired, enduringly popular. The monkeys were no longer caged. They were free to walk among us. We might look at them and see similarities, think they’re just like us, think we might be like them. We might admire their dexterity, their air of self-containment, their knowing faces. But really they’re very different beasts.
Sometimes they perform, as if for our entertainment, but it’s incidental to our presence. They would do what they do whether we were there to witness it or not.
Ewing surfs the way we do in dreams. At his best, he has an otherworldly flow. He has everything it takes to win J-Bay, and perhaps more.
He advanced comfortably from the opening round today against a feisty looking Barron Mamiya and an uncharacteristically subdued Jackson Baker.
Kanoa also advanced today as winner of his heat, but it was far from convincing. So too the upstart Sammy Pupo, clearly still riding on a Rio high.
Another flatly predictable opening round defeat for Kelly Slater rounded out the day. I thought of him as we drove through the forlorn lion enclosure on our way out of the park.
Most of them lounged on their sides in the dust and sun, at a distance that they might well have been corpses.
One stood, looking us dead in the eyes and swishing its tail indignantly.
Lie down, I thought to myself. Just lie down.
Corona Open J-Bay Women’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
HEAT 1: Johanne Defay (FRA) vs. Tyler Wright (AUS)
HEAT 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Gabriela Bryan (HAW)
HEAT 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Caroline Marks (USA)
HEAT 4: Brisa Hennessy (CRI) vs. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA)
Corona Open J-Bay Men’s Opening Round 1 Results:
HEAT 1: Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 15.33 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 14.84, Jadson Andre (BRA) 9.83
HEAT 2: Yago Dora (BRA) 13.84 DEF. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.10, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 10.50
HEAT 3: Jack Robinson (AUS) 15.17 DEF. Luke Thompson (ZAF) 14.77, Kolohe Andino (USA) 6.64
HEAT 4: Nat Young (USA) 14.50 DEF. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 10.40, Joshe Faulkner (ZAF) 7.13
HEAT 5: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 14.34 DEF. Barron Mamiya (HAW) 12.50, Jackson Baker (AUS) 6.30
HEAT 6: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 11.54 DEF. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 9.93, Seth Moniz (HAW) 9.10
HEAT 7: Samuel Pupo (BRA) 12.57 DEF. Callum Robson (AUS) 9.77, Jake Marshall (USA) 9.43
HEAT 8: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 14.33 DEF. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 13.56, Kelly Slater (USA) 9.07
Corona Open J-Bay Men’s Elimination Round Matchups:
HEAT 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Joshe Faulkner (ZAF)
HEAT 2: Miguel Pupo (BRA) vs. Seth Moniz (HAW)
HEAT 3: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Luke Thompson (ZAF)
HEAT 4: Caio Ibelli (BRA) vs. Jake Marshall (USA)
HEAT 5: Griffin Colapinto (USA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
HEAT 6: Barron Mamiya (HAW) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)
HEAT 7: Callum Robson (AUS) vs. Jackson Baker (AUS)
HEAT 8: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)