The international surfing contingent is currently competing overseas – in Indonesia and Australia – but will be on our shores next month to start competing on the South African professional surfing leg.
The first event is the Qualifying Series (QS) event – the Ballito Pro – has 10,000 points for the win, and will be fiercely contested by surfers from all over the world, hoping to qualify on the Championship Tour (CT).
Then the tour moves to Jeffreys Bay for the Corona JBay Open, the only CT event in the country and by far the biggest surfing tournament in South Africa.
The surfing contest is the anchor for the JBay Winterfest, the sports and cultural festival that takes place every winter in Jeffreys Bay.
For the last two years, the men’s event has been won by a Brazilian phenomenon in Filipe Toledo. He is a surfing prodigy, and there is every chance that he could get a hat trick of wins at the contest, the first time that has ever happened.
Over the last decade the rise of the Brazilian surfer has been incredible and unsurpassed. Including Toledo, there are thirteen Brazilian surfers competing in a space that previously was occupied by Americans, Australians and South Africans.
There have been three Brazilian world title holders, and this ‘Brazilian Storm’ is leading the pack in innovative surfing, hunger, zeal and hard work, all the factors that combine so well with talent to make for a steely competitor.
Current world champion Gabriel Medina is part of the force, and will also be determined for a big result on his backhand at Supers.
The third person in the Brazilian A-Team is a young goofy-footed surfer (right foot forward) Italo Ferreira. He won the first event of the year – the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast in Australia, and also won the Red Bull Airborne session at the same event.
On returning to JBay this year, the Brazilians are not going to find it easy. Durban born surfer Jordy Smith is clearly on a tear at the moment, and has his sight set on a world title in the foreseeable future.
He already has two victories behind him at JBay and will not go down easily. Kelly Slater is in his swansong year, having announced his retirement, and he really would like a win or two in the process of retiring.
He knows how to win at JBay, with a victory under his belt at the Corona JBay Open when he beat three-times world champion the late Andy Irons from Hawaii.
Two-times world champion John John Florence from Hawaii is on the biggest comeback ever, and will be determined on a good result at the Corona JBay Open, as it will set him up for the back half of the year and final push in Hawaii.
Florence has sat out last year and some of the year before as a result of serious injuries, but is looking on-point so far this year.
Californian Kolohe Andino has shown remarkable form and maturity this year as well, and has made it clear from the get-go that he’s in it to win a world title, and he’s not going to fold easily.
Andino has often been on the wrong side of luck at many events around the world, but he has been looking strong and sounding positive, so maybe that’s a behind him now and a world title is beckoning. Either way, the tournament is not going to be a push over for anyone.
This year will also see the return of Tatiana Weston-Webb in the women’s division, representing Brazil.
She has a powerful backhand style at Supertubes, is not scared of the bigger waves, and is due a big result sometime soon.
This might be the year that she adds her impetus to the Brazilian Storm and gets her first win in JBay.
The JBay Winterfest takes place from 6 – 22 July 2019, and the Corona Open JBay will be held from 9 – 22 July at Supertubes in Jeffreys Bay.
Photo: Stan Blumberg