2017 Corona Open J-Bay Event Forecast & Breakdown

11 Jul 2017 7

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

J-Bay at it's best, Photo by WSL/Cestari

J-Bay at it's best, Photo by WSL/Cestari

COASTALWATCH | 2017 CORONA OPEN J-BAY

JEFFREYS BAY, SOUTH AFRICA: JULY 12-23

Wooo OK, event number six on the 2017 men’s tour, and to my mind, likely to be the decisive turning point in the year.

J-Bay is gonna be a bit up and down surf-wise, but there will be several days of serious volume through the middle of the waiting period — waves with enough grunt to make this the kind of skills test we saw at Margaret River and Bells, and only occasionally in Fiji. This is a men-only event, which sucks in one way; J-Bay in today’s surfing world might be as good a venue for the best women as anywhere on Earth. But it does mean that the event will have plenty of time to pick and choose the conditions through its time span, adding to its potential impact on the title race.

SOME FACTS AND FIGURES

Here’s why we think J-Bay will tell us the tale of the year: because for the past three years, that’s exactly what it’s done. It’s been the most accurate predictor of the final CT top eight in the WSL era. At least 50% of J-Bay’s quarter-finalists have ended up in that top eight, every year. And the eventual world champ has ALWAYS made the J-Bay quarters.

Why is this? We think maybe it’s because J-Bay’s wave type and quality tends to bring out the underlying form. There are a few surfers who have unexpected streaks here, but generally, the wave rewards people whose physical strength and skills stand up to repeated examination under similar conditions, who can consistently find a bit more in the tank.

In those three years, for instance, Mick Fanning has won two finals and made the third (yeah, that one). Anywhere Mick does that well, you know it’s about 90% and above, every heat, no flukes.

2016 event won by Mick Fanning after his gallant return to J-Bay, Photo by WSL/Tostee

2016 event won by Mick Fanning after his gallant return to J-Bay, Photo by WSL/Tostee

THUS, IF WE WERE FANTASY SURFERS…

…which we are so not, by the way. I plan to annoy even more pro surfers with my free surfing antics at Jeffreys than Doherty did in Fiji. It will be the opposite of their fantasies. But! Anyone who’s going down the Fantasy route and hasn’t called in Fanning, Jordy Smith, Matt Wilkinson and Adriano de Souza for top end support will, I feel, be struggling to make their own personal top 10,000. All these surfers repeatedly make semis at J-Bay and the last three are already pretty much locks on the CT final eight.

I guess the sneakers are Johnny Florence and Julian Wilson. JW has a sixth sense about the location. JJF has had a very odd second quarter of 2017; after a blinding Aussie leg he’s had a couple of unconvincing round three exits and has slipped off the peak. We personally feel this is temporary and we don’t think J-Bay is likely to host another Round Three Seed Massacre such as the one we witnessed in Fiji.

OLD SCHOOL HEROES MAY FLY ONCE MORE

Who knows what Kelly will do. I am pretty sure what Joel Parkinson will do. The key to Parko’s current state of mind is mainly surf stoke, he is very connected to this location and it’s probably going to pump for real during the event in a way it hasn’t since 2014. This would be the 20th year since he freakishly won as a supergrommet in 1998. If he doesn’t make the quarters it’ll be a sick and perverted travesty.

Bede, Michel Bourez, Kolohe, Seabass, Caio Ibelli, Jeremy Flores, all in with a shot. Jeremy hasn’t been fully rewarded for his form this year, maybe this event will be nice to him.

Anyone who ripped Bells. You may have forgotten Zeke Lau did that and also Filipe. Zeke and Conner Coffin might not be a bad way to round out that Fantasia team.

Dawn over the Bay, Photo by WSL/Scholtz

Dawn over the Bay, Photo by WSL/Scholtz

THE WILD UNTAMED OCEAN

The world’s biggest known calving iceberg is about to break off the Larsen 3 Ice Shelf about 2400 nautical miles SW of J-Bay. The world is warming, but the Southern Ocean is still very bloody cold and giving rise to some great southern African surf this year. Thus a short burst of perhaps slightly too west-angled swell and dicey devil wind early in the period should give way to the full bottle from Sunday the 16th, when a crapload of more suitably south-angled swell should begin to pour forth from a broad, substantial fetch located directly below the continent. There should be three days in the swell, with some tail off the back. Winds will flex from light west to cold blustery SSW, pretty much ideal for the very protected J-Bay.

Beyond that, forecast charts are a bit hazy, but another perhaps slightly smaller storm looks like to pull into line for a swell beginning on the second-last day of the period. We’ll keep an eye on that one — forecast charts in this zone have had a habit of improving surf-wise as they move from forecast to reality in 2017. Wait and see.

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