After three lay days, competition finally got underway at the J-Bay open in South Africa on Saturday.
Event organisers ran through Round 4 at Jeffreys Bay before being called off and set the stage for an exciting Finals Day later on Sunday.
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The opening heat of Round 4 saw an all-Australian clash between Kai Otton, Julian Wilson and Adrian Buchan.
Otton was first out of the gates and posted a 7.33 to get ahead of the field and held onto the lead through much of the heat.
Buchan’s precision and timing netted him a 6.10 at the end of the bout and he stole the win, earning a place in the Quarterfinals and sending Otton and Wilson to Round 5.
“It feels like there are a lot of waves coming through but you kind of have to sift through all the garbage to find the little gems,” said Buchan.
“I sat for a long time after that first big score I posted. I was confident I was going to get the score and just left it right to the end. It felt good to get the score.”
The remaining three heats saw three Brazilian winners, starting with Jeep ratings leader Adriano de Souza who took on Nat Young and Wiggolly Dantas in Heat 2.
A big tail-high reverse from De Souza earned him the win and a Quarterfinal berth. Dantas, who previously dispatched 2012 World Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS) in Round 3, kept busy through the heat but couldn’t find the score needed and will surf again in Round 5 along with Young.
Heat 3 saw a much-anticipated match-up take to the water.
With 15 World Titles and seven J-Bay Open wins among them Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning and Gabriel Medina battled to skip Round 5 and earn a pass directly to the Quarterfinals.
Only mid-range scores were posted during the opening half of the heat and Slater claimed a narrow lead.
Medina started to pick up momentum through the final ten minutes however, and a 6.73 gave the reigning WSL Champion the advantage while three-time World Champion, Fanning, struggled to find a backup score.
A last-minute attempt from the 11-time World Champion wasn’t enough and the young Brazilian took the win. Fanning and Slater will surf again in Round 4.
Hawaiian rookie Keanu Asing took on Michel Bourez and wildcard Alejo Muniz in the final heat of the day.
Both Asing and Muniz got off to a solid start and posted 6 point rides to open their score lines. Muniz earned an 8.17, the highest score of the day for his second ride, and secured the win and his place in the Quarterfinals.
J-Bay Open Round 5 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. Nat Young (USA)
Heat 2: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) vs. Julian Wilson (AUS)
Heat 3: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 4: Keanu Asing (HAW) vs. Mick Fanning (AUS)