JEFFREYS BAY, South Africa (Wednesday, July 8, 2009) – The Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay is one day away from commencing its waiting period, and the world's best surfers have descended upon South Africa's jewel of a pointbreak, preparing to battle for qualification points, the prestige of etching their names alongside past winners as well as the hunt for the ever-elusive ASP World Title.
Event No. 5 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay comes hot off the heals of the ASP Dream Tour South American leg, with the frontrunners all looking to consolidate on already-stellar seasons in South Africa.
Joel Parkinson (AUS), 28, current ASP World No. 1, was victorious at the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay as an 18-year-old wildcard in 1999. Now, 10 years down the track and with the ASP World Title on the line, the phenomenal natural-footer will look to recapture the magic of his inaugural stint in the prestigious event."
"That was my first time here and I fell in love with it then and I'm still in love with it now," Parkinson said. "I don't think anyone ever really figures out the wave at J-Bay. You just have to play with it and get used to the speed and adjust. I'm just happy to be back – it feels so good to go fast."
Having already posted successful results in the opening four events of the year (1st, 1st, 9th and 3rd), and widely considered one of the best pointbreak surfers on the planet, Parkinson is far and away one of the event favorites at this year's Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay.
"I'm here hoping for the best and trying my hardest," Parkinson said. "J-Bay is probably a wave that suits my surfing pretty well, but everyone on tour is dangerous. Everyone's here to win and I'm no different. I'm ready."
Parkinson will face 2009 ASP Dream Tour rookie Kekoa Bacalso (HAW), 23, and one of the wildcards in Round 1 of the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay.
Mick Fanning (AUS), 28, former ASP World Champion and current ASP World No. 5, is no stranger to the long walls of Jeffreys Bay, utilizing his pointbreak-honed style to collect two past titles at the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay (2002, 2006).
"I think other than home Jeffreys Bay is my favorite on tour," Fanning said. "I've met so many cool people here and have so many great memories in South Africa. I love being back and I love the wave. It can be difficult to surf as you're going really, really fast so you should make a plan when you take off, but that doesn't always work so you just have to get out there and dance sometimes."
Fanning will battle compatriots Kai Otton (AUS), 29, and Philip MacDonald (AUS), 30, in his opening round heat at the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay.
Taj Burrow (AUS), 31, past winner at the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay (2007) and current ASP World No. 4, has long been heralded as one deserving of the prestigious ASP World Title, but has so far fallen short, finishing Runner-Up in 1999 and 2007. In addition to his long-standing run on the ASP Dream Tour, Burrow has also captured the imagination of the surfing world through his profile videos, but asserts that an ASP World Title is his priority.
"It takes a lot of energy to make a good video segment these days to keep up with all the kids doing crazy things," Burrow said. "I also think it takes a phenomenal amount of time and energy to win an ASP World Title as well. I get excited about nailing a good video clip as well as competing against the best in the world, and I don't think it has taken too much attention away from my aspirations of an ASP World Title. I'm still hungry though and I'm focused on doing well in J-Bay."
Largely responsible for ushering in the new school's progressive aerial approach, Burrow is just as lethal when it comes to laying it on rail, and believes a diverse repertoire is capable at the roping righthanders of Jeffreys Bay.
"I think you can definitely pull off airs out here," Burrow said. "I saw Josh Kerr pull a pretty amazing air this afternoon. I think you can do anything on this wave. The sand is pretty much perfect at the moment, and I even saw Dean (Morrison) get one of the best barrels I've ever seen out there this afternoon. J-Bay is one of my favorite waves in the world and I get excited every time I come over that hill."
Burrow will take on Tim Reyes (USA), 27, and one of the wildcards when Round 1 of the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay commences.
Parkinson, Fanning and Burrow will battle the rest of the ASP Top 45 including current ASP World No. 2 Adriano de Souza (BRA), 22, former ASP World Champion (2001) and current ASP World No. 3, C.J. Hobgood (USA), 30, and reigning nine-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA), 37, when the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay commences.
Two wildcards have been awarded to Shaun Holmes (ZAF), 31, and Ryan Payne (ZAF), 26, with the remaining three wildcards decided through the 12-man VonZipper Trials.
Luke Stedman (AUS), 32, has pulled out of his fifth consecutive ASP Dream Tour event due to injury, and will be once again replaced by current ASP World No. 18, Jay Thompson (AUS), 26. Gabe Kling (USA), 28, and Adrian Buchan (AUS), 26, have also withdrawn from the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay due to injury – both will be replaced by surfers from the VonZipper Trials.
The Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay will have the option to run either the traditional or new competition formats, as well as utilizing the overlapping heats system for either. Event organizers will determine which format they will use in accordance with the conditions.
Surfline, official surf forecaster for the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay, are calling for the current SW groundswell to dissipate throughout the following days before a smaller scale WSW to SW swell settles in later this week.
The waiting period for the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay begins tomorrow, Thursday, July 9, 2009, and runs through July 19, 2009.
Event organizers will meet tomorrow morning at 7am to assess conditions for a possible 7:30am start.
The Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay will be webcast LIVE via www.billabongpro.com
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com
BILLABONG PRO JEFFREYS BAY ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Tim Boal (FRA), Michael Picon (FRA)
Heat 2: Tom Whitaker (AUS), Jay Thompson (AUS), Nathaniel Curran (USA)
Heat 3: Bobby Martinez (USA), Josh Kerr (AUS), Nic Muscroft (AUS)
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS), Kai Otton (AUS), Phillip MacDonald (AUS)
Heat 5: Bede Durbidge (AUS), Dean Morrison (AUS), Marlon Lipke (DEU)
Heat 6: C.J. Hobgood (USA), Chris Ward (USA), TBA
Heat 7: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Dustin Barca (HAW), TBA
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Kekoa Bacalso (HAW), TBA
Heat 9: Taj Burrow (AUS), Tim Reyes (USA), TBA
Heat 10: Kelly Slater (USA), Dayyan Neve (AUS), TBA
Heat 11: Damien Hobgood (USA), Heitor Alves (BRA), Greg Emslie (ZAF)
Heat 12: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW), Chris Davidson (AUS), David Weare (ZAF)
Heat 13: Jeremy Flores (FRA), Aritz Aranburu (EUK), Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 14: Taylor Knox (USA), Jihad Khodr (BRA), Roy Powers (HAW)
Heat 15: Mick Campbell (AUS), Tiago Pires (PRT), Ben Dunn (AUS)
Heat 16: Kieren Perrow (AUS), Dane Reynolds (USA), Drew Courtney (AUS)