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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Tue, 12 June 2018

JBay welcomes the world's best female surfers after an 18-year hiatus, and times are a-changing, from sexist mindsets to a major evolution in skills, writes Craig Jarvis.

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ALL OUT ATTACK: Bronte Macauley smacks one off the top with intent. Photo WSL / Cestari

In early July this year, the elite women of the Championship Tour return to Supertubes for the 2018 Corona Open JBay – the anchor event for the JBay Winterfest - for the first time since 2000. It's not quite the Thin Lizzy song, with its strident guitar riffs and old school lyrics, but it is going to rock, there's no escaping it.

For starters, the WSL has dramatically equalised its attitude to the men and women, with the latter getting called into the surf when the waves are pumping, unlike the past. At J-Bay, we've seen the embarrassing scenario of pro women trying to rock-hop buckled devils wind three foot close outs.

With the progression in women's pro surfing shooting ahead in leaps and bounds, literally, over the last two decades, it will be a thrill to see new-school super athletes carve the racetrack rights of Supers to shreds.

There are unfortunately no South Africans in the mix, but we are still waiting for word from the Commissioner’s office, who has the power to choose a wildcard from top female surfers not on the Championship Tour, and there is a good chance it will be a South African.

The women have just come off a blistering performance in the racetrack lines of Uluwatu. Johanne Defay from France out-surfed Tatiana Weston-Webb from Brazil in epic 4-6' conditions at the left-hand reef break off the Bukit peninsula of Bali.

Defay, on her backhand, was a dark-horse against the sprightly goofy-footed Weston-Webb but rose to the occasion on the day to win with some superior surfing, progressive moves and power surfing through to the Racetrack. Her style and performance was excellent enroute to the final.

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POWER STYLE: Tatiana Weston-Webb stylishly dislodges some roof tiles. Photo WSL / Cestari

Weston-Webb obliterated multiple world champion Steph Gilmore from Australia en route to the final, getting totally pitted at the Racetrack section of the reef. Gilmore paddled around the Outside Corner section and couldn't find a single decent ride in the semifinal, leaving her with a heat total of 2.5 up against Tati’s 14.5.

Coming into JBay, it is American surfer Lakey Peterson who is on top of the Jeep Leaderboard, with a strong lead over Gilmore. Both natural-footers, they will both be dangerous surfers at Supertubes, and will be looking to consolidate their leading positions on the leader board.

In third place, goofy-footed Tatiana Weston-Webb could easily be the most exciting surfer on the women’s Championship Tour right now, with her explosive backhand surfing, and just underneath her is the world champion Tyler Wright from Australia.

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FINS FREE: Former world champ Tyler Wright mixes style with commitment. Photo WSL / Cestari

Wright has a family situation going at the moment on the Championship Tour, with brother Owen Wright currently ranked 9th on the Men’s Championship Tour, while younger brother Mikey, competing primarily as a wildcard thus far this year, bizarrely placed 7th on the same tour. She has solid family support, and spent a long time in JBay last year, practicing and training at Supertubes in order to understand the wave and figure out the lineup.

Other surfers who will be competing at the event are surfers of the ilk of Carissa Moore from Hawaii, Caroline Marks from USA, Sally Fitzgibbons from Australia and perennial competitor Silvana Lima from Brazil. After the nine days of excellent surf in 2017, hopes are high for another stellar run.

The Corona Open JBay is the anchor event for the JBay Winterfest – www.jbaywinterfest.com - an annual multi-sports and music festival in the wider town of JBay.

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SPEED LINES: Johanne Defay narrowly beat Weston-Webb at Uluwatu. Photo WSL / Cestari


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