All eyes on J-Bay ahead of Mick Fanning’s return to infamous event

All eyes will be on the acclaimed righthander of Supertubes at Jeffreys Bay in South Afric with the J-Bay Open tipped to get underway on Wednesday afternoon (AEST).

The world’s best surfers have gathered for stop number 6 on the World Surf League Championship Tour, which is the only CT stop on the African continent.

It’s a big moment for each of the surfers competing in the event but there’s no doubt it will be hardest for Gold Coast champion Mick Fanning.


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It was at this event at this same break where the world watched on with bated breath as Fanning was briefly pulled from his board by a shark nearly a year ago.

The three-time world champion has already spent time over in the waters of Jeffreys Bay but this will be the first time back in the water in the competitors jersey.

And to make things more interesting he is up in the very first heat of Round 1 against American rookie Conner Coffin and Brazil’s Alejo Muniz.

Fellow Australian Matt Wilkinson  heads into the event wearing the Jeep leader jersey and will take on compatriot Davey Cathels and South African Steven Sawyer.

“It’s feeling pretty good to be the rankings leader and it’s a better pressure to be feeling than the pressure to requalify,” Wilkinson said.

“I’ve been doing some QS events and to win in Newcastle was an amazing start to the year. It’s just got better and better from there — now we’re halfway through the year and it’s still going great. It’s probably time that a goofyfooter won this event and I feel like my surfing really fits here.”

Jordy Smith, John John Florence, Matt Wilkinson and Adriano de Souza

Jordy Smith, John John Florence, Matt Wilkinson and Adriano de Souza present at the JBay Open press conference | © WSL / Kelly Cestari

Reigning WSL Champion Adriano de Souza has made the Quarterfinals at the J-Bay Open six times in the past and is hoping for a Semifinal berth this year.

But first he’ll have to get past Aussie duo Josh Kerr and Kai Otton in the opening round.

“I’ve had so much fun surfing this event over the last ten years,” said De Souza.

“I would really like to move on past the Quarterfinals this year. After the World Title I feel like some of the pressure is off. I was here last week when the swell was cranking and I’m just so happy to be here. This year I feel so free and I’m really hoping for some good waves. I’m sitting in the top five and am very happy with my position at the moment.”

Jordy Smith, two-time winner of the J-Bay Open and the only South African on the CT, will return to the event this season injury free.

Smith’s 2015 campaign was derailed by a significant back injury that saw him finish 25th before withdrawing from competition for most of the year. Smith will face Wiggolly Dantas and Aussie Adam Melling in Round 1 of competition.

“I’m feeling 100 percent better than last year,” said Smith.

“I’ve gathered some of my fondest memories here at Jeffreys Bay so it’s a really special place for me. I’m thankful that the WSL has come back and we get the opportunity to surf this wave. I’ve been surfing in front of friends and family my entire life so I feel like it’s a big bonus for me rather than added pressure.”

Australia’s Owen Wright, Bede Durbidge remain out with injury and have been replaced by Adam Melling and Stuart Kennedy.

Surfline, official forecaster for the World Surf League, are calling for:

Medium size SW swell mix prevails Wednesday along with very strong offshore flow, before trending down Thursday and into Friday morning as wind eases significantly. A potentially larger SW swell could move in for the weekend of the 9th-10th, although wind conditions do look more problematic with at least some periods of onshore flow. At this point the early to middle part of next week looks pretty slow, with some fun to possibly mid size SW swell around the last three days of the waiting period.

J-BAY OPEN ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:

Heat 1: Mick Fanning (AUS), Conner Coffin (USA), Alejo Muniz (BRA)
Heat 2: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Miguel Pupo (BRA), Ryan Callinan (AUS)
Heat 3: John John Florence (HAW), Kanoa Igarashi (USA), Keanu Asing (HAW)
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Josh Kerr (AUS), Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Dusty Payne (HAW), Alex Ribeiro (BRA)
Heat 6: Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Davey Cathels (AUS), Steven Sawyer (ZAF)
Heat 7: Filipe Toledo (BRA), Kelly Slater (USA), Matt Banting (AUS)
Heat 8: Adrian Buchan (AUS), Kolohe Andino (USA), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 9: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 10: Caio Ibelli (BRA), Joel Parkinson (AUS), Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Heat 11: Julian Wilson (AUS), Nat Young (USA), Jack Freestone (USA)
Heat 12: Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Michel Bourez (PYF), Stuart Kennedy (AUS)