Fri, 31 May 2019

Is the heel mightier than the toe at the best right-hand point-break in South Africa? Craig Jarvis leads us down the rabbit hole of the stance that best cuts it at J-Bay.

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KABOOM! Gabby Medina fires a salty salvo at the SAA flight from Durban. Photo WSL / Cestari

It’s a common, logical train of thought that would lead to the conclusion that Supertubes in JBay suits the natural-footed surfer. You would be right with this thinking. It’s a pleasure to surf on your forehand when you have the advantage of looking further down the line and being able to analyse the wave properly, but surfing it on your backhand is a bit more complex.

A wave like Supers is going to make it the unpolished backhander much worseDespite the illusion of perfection, Supers has many quirks and while it brings out the best in you and your surfing, it also exposes all your weaknesses. If you feel a disadvantage for being goofy-footed, then a wave like Supers is going to make it the unpolished backhander much worse. However, if you have that elastic snap that can look so much more radical on your backhand, and a some nous as to how to ride the wave, then you could say you're with the backhand is best programme.

Having said that, in 1984 Mark Occhilupo put himself and Supers on the map with his breakout performance in the first ASP event ever held there. Occy’s performance in big surf at Supers was nothing short of startling, and he defeated Hawaiian Hans Hedeman in the final for his first big win.

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WHICH IS RIGHT: Owen Wright tucks into the pocket as he flies down the line Photo WSL / Cestari

Four years later, Durban surfer Mike Burness beat Cape Town's Justin Strong on his backhand in a small final that only saw one good wave come through. Burness lucked in, and that was that. No goofy-footer has ever won the event since, and they are a rare sighting in the event finals.

From 1996 until 2001, the finals consisted of a natural-footer winning the event, and a natural-footer second. It was total domination of the left-foot forward surfers, and the stranglehold was only broken by young Australian goofy-footer Michael Lowe. Known as ‘The Keg On Legs’, Lowey had a low centre of gravity and a powerful backhand hook. He looked set to win the event, but was beaten by the fastest man alive, Australian Mick Fanning.

Bolstered by Lowey’s performance, Damian Hobgood came on strong the following year, going head-to-head with Kelly Slater. At the end of the evenly matched final, it was Kelly who took top honours.

In 2004, there was yet another goofy in the final, with dynamic Australian Nathan Hedge coming up against the late Andy Irons. The goofy-footer was trounced however, and that was that for the right-foot forward brigade.

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BUCHAN THE TREND: Adrian Buchan is always a standout when JBay delivers. Photo WSL / Cestari

Damian Hobgood was not going to rest on his laurels however, and came streaming back into a final in 2009 against Joel Parkinson. Parko was on his 10-year anniversary of winning the event as a rookie in 1999, and was not going to have some goofy beat him in the final and took the win comfortably from Hobgood, the last time a goofy has made it into a CT final in JBay.

Things look very good for the natural-footer this year as well, with only one goofy in the top eight. Italo Ferreira could easily be the man to change the paradigm however, having won at Keramas last year and at Snapper this year.

It remains to be seen what the rest of the screwfoots will do this year. Medina and Ryan Callinan could easily pull out all the stops in JBay, and the experience of Owen Wright or Ace Buchan could also come through in the form of a win.

If I were a betting man, however, it would be on someone who faced the wave.

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