In just a few days, the big show descends on Jeffreys Bay, South Africa. The Corona Open J-Bay has a tough act to follow after in incredible Indonesian leg. However, with a promising forecast, a close three-way race for the yellow jersey for the men and nearly tied two-way race for the women, the Corona Open J-Bay is poised to entertain.
Filipe Toledo, J-Bay’s defending champion, barely trails rankings leader Julian Wilson in the title race. Last year the two met in the semi’s where Toledo had Wilson combo’d at the hooter. Goofyfoot Italo Ferreira could take the title race lead with a J-Bay win, but last time a goofy won a ‘CT event at J-Bay was… it’s been a while, like 30 years. Ferreira is fully capable of breaking this goofy dry-spell though, especially since his two wins this year were at right-handers.
He’s back. Will Kelly Slater be able to keep up with the kids?
Steph Gilmore and Lakey Peterson are practically tied in the title race with less than 100 points between them, Peterson with the edge. Both favor right point breaks so it will be interesting to them duke it out on J-Bay’s long racing walls.
For better or worse, here are SURFER Magazine staff’s Fantasy Surfer keystone contenders and why. Who do you think will win?
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I know M. Feb has been digging his way to the bottom of the ratings the past few events and is approaching bedrock. But I can’t ignore the fact that the guy has probably my favorite style on Tour, and if there was one wave on the schedule for him to have a breakout result, this is it. Feb grew up knock-kneeing his way down the point at J-Bay, and was putting in some marathon sessions there before Ballito. If the judges care about style (debatable), and if Feb can shake off the rookie jitters and put his best surfing on display (also debatable), we’ll see Cape Town’s purveyor of steez lay beautiful lines all the way to the podium. – Todd Prodanovich, Editor
Swell forecast is everything. If the initial start of the comp is pumping, I say that favors a backhand surfer at a big open face like J-bay. Gabriel is incredibly smooth on large rights. He can link turns in ways that no one else can, except maybe Wilko, out there. I think if you had to compare a big drawn out forehand turn against at backside under the lip hack, the backside hack wins. – Peter Taras, Digital Director
I’m a little scared to choose him lest he pull out of yet another contest last minute, but let’s go with Slater. We haven’t seen him in a jersey (well, besides during the Founders’ Cup) since last year’s Pipe Masters, and I’m guessing he’s itching for a dramatic, trophy-hoisting return. Plus, Slater’s had a perfect wave at his fingertips, so if J-Bay is hollow and firing on all cylinders, it’s possible the GOAT could put on a winning performance. – Ashtyn Douglas, Managing Editor
Jordy has long been accused of safety surfing in heats. Yes, he may be guilty as charged at times but I think he’s ready to toss a little more risk at the lip. If he’s going to turn over a reckless new leaf while wearing a jersey, it’s probably going to be at a tour stop he’s comfortable at, enter J-bay. Last year he got a perfect 20 in a heat, I think he can do the same this year regardless of the wave quality–as long as he’s willing to throw caution to the wind to earn the scores he’s capable of. – Ben Waldron, Online Editor
Yes, I’m going with Mikey again. He’s proven himself worthy of his current 7th position on the rankings. Sure, it’d be easy to go with a safer pick, but if Filipe proved anything last year, the conventional type of surfing at J-Bay has been thrown out the window (conditions permitting). We’ve seen what Mikey can do in a multitude of different conditions this year and I think he’ll be a huge threat if it’s open walls, tubing runners or offering air sections. Conditions are looking good for the first few days of the waiting period so we should be in for quite the show. – Adam Jara, Social Media Manager
Remember when Caroline did her best Occy impersonation and backhand hacked her way to a semi at Bells? Or how about when she did about a million 12 o’clock cracks to get quarters in her first event as a rookie at Snapper? Yeah, Caroline has been looking feisty on her backhand all season, and something tells me she’s just getting started. This could be the event where the up-and-comer puts it all together and steals the rug out from under Steph and the like. – Todd Prodanovich, Editor
Everyone loves an underdog and a wildcard, and why not a local one. I like her for the same reasons as my Gabriel pick. Having watched her a couple years ago at double-overhead Lowers, if she can harness that same power and style, she has a fighting chance out there against the likes of Stephanie, Carissa, Courtney, Sage, Lakey and other forehand power surfers. – Peter Taras, Digital Director
I am so, so excited to see the women compete at J-Bay this year. And I know this is an obvious pick, but I’m choosing Steph for the win. She was groomed on righthand points, she’s got a renewed competitive fire after her wins at Bells and Rio, and hello, she’s got one of the best forehand wraps in the business. Honestly I think the only thing better than watching Steph draw clean, beautiful lines out at Snapper Rocks, might be Steph draw clean, beautiful lines down the point at J-Bay. – Ashtyn Douglas
Coco Ho is a sleeping giant. If she can turn off the sweetness for a 25-minute heat, put her skill and decade of tour experience to work, she’ll go on an unstoppable Hulk-like rampage this event. All she has to do is temporarily turn that smile upside down and she’ll be on the podium hoisting the trophy over her head. – Ben Waldron, Online Editor
Need I say more? Open faces, plenty of room for style and flow, not to mention Steph’s got a fire in her belly to win another title. She’s got this one on lock. – Adam Jara, Social Media Manager