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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa
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Sat, 14 July 2018

This was one of the great heats in surfing, not just because a Supertubes great was bowing out but because of three men who mix speed with critical power and flow, writes Craig Jarvis.


Supertubes is a long and fast wave, to state the very obvious, but it needs a certain type of surfer to totally utilise it, and make it look good. Supertubes does not suffer fakers, and if you paddle out without the skills or talent to ride the wave properly you will soon be exposed for your flaws and blemishes.

While commentating at the Corona Open JBay, Shaun Tomson said that the most important skill a surfer needs out there is the ability to carve. You can work out a surfer’s skillset from how they carve, and carving is all about the rail.

Enter three legendary rail surfers for one classic heat at Supertubes. Joel Parkinson from Australia is a two times event champion and holds a world title. Jordy Smith is also a two times event champion, with a 20-point heat to his name last year. Conner Coffin is a Rincon local, a point-break aficionada, and heir to the rail surfing throne.

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LAST CALL: Parko surfed his last heat at JBay. Thanks for the memories. Photo WSL / Cestari


All three surfers base their surfing on power; all three of them are pleasing to watch with easy styles, and all of them want do turns that feel good as well as look good. Nothing forced. Speed lines, subtle adjustments, finesse and smooth placements.

On paper, it looked like Jordy and Parko would advance. Jordy was hungry after the controversy at Uluwatu, and Joel had announced his retirement and wanted to end on a high. The debate about Jordy at Uluwatu had stumped many fans. In the second quarterfinal against Julian Wilson, Jordy picked up a bomb: a thick double-up that saw him get intensely barreled over a long stretch of the reef for a nine pointer, but he was outpointed by the Australian, who picked up two 8s that seemed overscored.

“You know, Uluwatu was bitter sweet for me, I was on a roll, but then the powers-that-be kind of denied it,” said Smith. “I guess it’s a bit like having a corrupt president. You’ve just got to nod your head, and pay your taxes.”

Joel, on the other hand, was looking to neatly bookend his career where he started his tour career. Coffin went in as an underdog, and his first few waves were testers – he went fast and he went straight and was feeling out the board underfoot and his speed runs. Then it all started kicking in.

Conner picked up the bombs. He looked a little bottom heavy at first, like he was only eyeing out the mid-face carves and the check-turns to stay in the pocket, before he suddenly unleashed a number of searing power carves off the top of set waves at Supers – all power and rail – while still seamlessly flowing with all the speed that Supers was throwing out. It was a blistering wave, and a wave clearly ridden by someone who knows how to ride a point-break and to hold back, for a complete run from top to bottom. Coffin used his allocated 300m, and the judges rewarded his surfing and style.

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IMPRINT: Jordy Smith has a unique way of radicalising the way he flows. Photo WSL / Cestari


Jordy was hot on his tail however, with the added bonus of his uniquely radical approach to flow. Jordy surfs more extreme and in the air than both Joel and Coffin, but such surfing is more risky, and a few of those risks didn't end well. A few of his moves were unsuccessful, but he still had long rides and threw down the hammer in the pocket of a few of the good set waves he caught.

Joel, unbelievably, looked a bit tired at Supers, and it looked like he was more into cruising than winning at all costs. Sometimes Joel does make it look too easy, and as opposed to the Brazilian style of making it look too hard, this might have had something to do with the fact that he was being overlooked on some of the scores he was being awarded, like Jordy gets sometimes.

It was a result for the books, with Conner winning, Jordy advancing through the round in second place, and Joel surfing his last heat ever at Supertubes.

Bitter-sweet on so many levels, but a great heat to watch and one of those that will be referred to for years to come.

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CARVING IT OUT: He's young, but Conner Coffin knows how to surf right points. Photo WSL / Cestari


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