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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Thu, 5 July 2018

The who's who of surfing came to JBay to watch Jordy Smith fall in the semis, and rocket elf Filipe Toledo win back-to-back Corona JBay Open titles, writes Spike.

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BACK TO BACK: Toledo has now won two consecutive JBay Open events. Photo WSL / Cestari

What a great week of surfing. Not many CT events are done and dusted in the first four days, and consecutively at that. The waves pumped. It wasn't big, but it was super fun, starting with a ripping buster on Monday through to clean west and finishing with a light onshore. Inbetween, there were moments of crazy good surfing, beautifully clean walls and three shark sightings in the lineup.

Media manager Paul Botha tells me that one of the WSL executives told him that only in South Africa do people laugh off shark sightings with flippant nonchalance. It was impressive to see the professional way that the numerous shark sightings were handled by the WSL.

Quietly, the jetskis would pluck athletes from the water and move them inshore. There would be a little mention by commentator Gigs Cilliers about some "marine wildlife" or "men in grey suits."

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ELVEN ROCKETSHIP: Toledo's surfing was nothing short of sensational. Photo WSL / Cestari

The WSL now utilise a spotter plane - a sort of motorised glider owned by wildcard Matt McGillivray's dad Donald, and flown by his older boet Johnno. It buzzed or reported sharks at least three times in the four days of the contest. Unfortunately, Matt couldn't get past Julian Wilson in Round Two, but boy did he give him a fright. His surfing was superb.

The shark delayed the contest for 20 minutesEarly this morning, the spotter plane buzzed us out of the water when we were surfing down at Albatross at the bottom of the point. We got out the water, and the plane moved slowly up, following the shark, which resulted in the first heat of the day - the quarter-final between Aussie Wade Carmichael and American Conner Coffin - end one minute prematurely. The shark delayed the contest for 20 minutes before they ran the final minute of Carmichael and Coffin's heat, and went straight into the Jordy Smith vs Julian Wilson quarter.

Jordy won a nailbiter against Julian to make the semi-finals, where he came unstuck against some brilliant surfing by Carmichael, who ended his stellar run as runner up to Toledo.

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SMITH OUT: Jordy looked great but eventually came undone in his semi. Photo WSL / Cestari

Walking around the Corona Open JBay contest area was like spotting the who's who of surfing. The big wigs of the WSL are in town. CEO Sophie Goldschmidt is here. Dirk Ziff, pretty much the owner of the WSL, is in town, although incognito.

Talking with photographer Grant Scholtz, we chat to Twiggy on the beach. He's just surfed Boneyards. "It was fun," he says. Greg Long sits above, watching. Big wave legend Mike Parsons walks past, recognisable despite low hung beanie. He is Kolohe Andino's coach. He also coaches Lakey Peterson.

Lakey's in town. All the women are in town. They're here to surf in the women's event, which starts tomorrow. The forecast is onshore, but the swell is waning, so it looks like they've drawn the short straw. Stephanie Gilmore walks past. She's tiny. She seems so much bigger on the screen. Sitting at a table in the Corona area, big wave rider and surf coach Duncan Scott sits next to me.

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WOMEN'S PRESSER: Stephanie Gilmour talks about surfing in JBay. Photo WSL / Cestari

Carissa Moore comes past. Duncan introduces me to her. She mentions how she is enjoying JBay, and that she's had a couple of sessions at Supers, but is still finding her feet with the wave. "It's hard to surf really well," she says, repeating the oft-quoted description of Supertubes. She is with Greg Browning, he of the Momentum Generation.

"Best I've ever seen anyone surf."The queen of JBay Cheron Kraak is talking to surfing coach Tasha Mentasti. Peter Mel is standing in line for a coffee. Joanne Defay floats by, looking cold in a big winter jacket. It's been freezing in JBay this week. Like almost literally.

The finals run in slightly onshore Supers, but Toledo has done enough, despite a valiant effort by Carmichael, who comes closer than you think. Toledo looks tired after a ridiculous heat in the semi-final that sees him destroy Kanoa Igarashi 18.90 to 14.17.

The 23-year-old is now 7-0 for Finals wins, defeating every opponent he’s ever faced in a Final. Leading the next generation of progressive surfing, today’s CT victory over 2018 CT Rookie Wade Carmichael (AUS) marks the Brazilian's second in 2018.
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I CAN KANOA: Kanoa Igarashi is a good surfer, but Toledo was just mental. Photo WSL / Cestari

“When it is Finals Day, it is just something that clicks,” continued Toledo. “It is now or never, and I put it all on the line. That is always my strategy, ‘Go big or go home.’ It is easy like that and I went big. Finals is one of those heats where it is first or second, there are no losers, so I just go really big and put all my work on the wave. That is why I train. That is why I’ve been really focused."

Toledo has been the standout. Unbelievable surfing. He accounts for five of the 10 highest heat totals. The win puts Toledo in the Jeep Leader Jersey for the first time in his career heading into Stop #7 on the WSL CT, the Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o.

Talking about the semi aginst Igarashi, Shaun Tomson goes so far as to say it's the "best I've ever seen anyone surf." High praise indeed.

Men's Final Results
1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 16.80
2: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 15.33

Men's Corona Open J-Bay Semifinal Results
SF 1: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 13.77 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.30
SF 2: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 18.90 def. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 14.17

Men's Corona Open J-Bay Quarterfinal Results
QF 1: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 12.87 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 10.40
QF 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.43 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.96
QF 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 17.50 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.03
QF 4: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 15.17 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.44

Women's Corona Open J-Bay Round 1 Matchups
Heat 1: Johanne Defay (FRA), Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Sage Erickson (USA)
Heat 2: Tyler Wright (AUS), Silvana Lima (BRA), Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Heat 3: Lakey Peterson (USA), Malia Manuel (HAW), Bianca Buitendag (ZAF)
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Nikki Van Dijk (AUS), Macy Callaghan (AUS)
Heat 5: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), Keely Andrew (AUS), Courtney Conlogue (USA)
Heat 6: Carissa Moore (HAW), Caroline Marks (USA), Coco Ho (HAW)

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