J-Bay is a very special place to me. On my very first trip there—I was just out of high school—I got off the plane and was greeted by some of the best waves I'd ever seen or surfed.
First impressions often shape the way you feel about a place the rest of your life, and I hold J-Bay right up there near the top of my list of enjoyable places to visit…and surf.
My best memory of South Africa was while traveling around the country with my new wife, experiencing the incredible safaris through wildlife reserves, and competing in the Africa leg, where I finished second (Cory finished third) at the Mr. Price Pro. A few days later at J-Bay, I rode my best tube yet at Supers. The ride was deemed a perfect 10—my only one ever in competition—which was made even sweeter due to my wife being on the beach to share the joy with me.
As long as I can remember, I've always bored easily with waves that break as almost perfect carbon copies of one another—even Macaronis gets old after a few repetitive sessions. That's why J-Bay is so much fun. The point at J-Bay must be over a mile long, with Supers as the crown jewel—similar to the Speedies section of G-Land (another of my favorite waves). To win here you need a very well-rounded approach, because during the course of an event (or even a single day) the surf can go from epic to challenging, and from tube rides to turns. This is why surfers like Kelly, Mick, Parko, Taj, AI, and last year Jordy, take the top spot with their nearly unmatched abilities in waves offering such limitless opportunity.
And that's why, if at all possible, you must get as many of those 5 (R.I.P. forever A.I.) surfers on your Fantasy Surfer team.
But, don't forget about the bubble boys and cellar dwellers either. With only one more Prime and three more World Tour events remaining, they have a great opportunity to gain points and knock down all those Prime competitors currently on the cusp of WT qualification.
Who's coming in hot in need of an epic performance/result?
First and foremost is Bobby Martinez: This ULTRA HOT and SPICY Mexican is long overdue to come out of his slump—for Bobby that means a return to winning events. Now back to riding his trusty CI's, if the conditions get solid (evening the playing field for goofies) a victory here is very possible, as he is the best backside surfer (out on the face) bar none.
Kai Otton is always a determined individual, and lately he has been surfing with a spark and desperation like I haven't seen from him before. Ever since his win in Brazil, Kai has been surfing at a Top 16 caliber, as the best goofyfooter at each event. Some of his Ballito rides were astonishing.
The Brazilians have been generally bulldozing the competition this year. Yet one of their most talented hasn't been receiving the results, or attention, of others. Raoni Monteiro went crazy in Hawaii on the right walls of Haleiwa and Sunset, earning him the win at Sunset. With those performances and a few of his previous J-Bay rides to draw from, Raoni is just a few waves and a good rhythm away from exploding all over the expansive lineup.
The best of the rest:
Pat Gudauskas: ''The King of Froth" is up to his ears in the white foamy mess right now. Winning at Ballito in massive pits with his friends and family there most likely has him on the verge of an over-froth. Lucky for Pat, brother Dane is there and brought plenty of extra in case he's running low by the time J-Bay begins on the 15th. Ever seen the floats Pat hangs out when the opportunity presents itself? They are legendary.
Dane Reynolds: He was pretty rusty a month ago, but still his dynamic self, and now he may be surfing better than before. His boards have improved, his mind is rested from the drain of constant travel and competition since his early teens, and the pressure to be World Champ or Jordy's sparring partner is long gone. We now just look forward to any opportunity to watch him perform his magic. Remember Parko's return from injury at Haleiwa? Now think of Dane in a similar position.(Dane has withdrawn from the event)
Michel Bourez: Is the man, period.
Julian Wilson: Behind the perfect picture is a determined, competitive monster. I get the feeling from watching him since his success during the Triple Crown last winter that Julian has his eyes firmly set on winning events while battling for the World Title over the years to come. He has the skills to make that happen as well.
Then there is the wildcard.
Sean Holmes: His surfing at Ballito was near perfection, and that was before he ever even did a turn. This guy, in his conditions—solid rights with a combo of pit and turn sections—has no superiors, only equals, of which there are few.
Those are 13 lucky surfers I've highlighted for a possible FS team during J-Bay. The event waiting period doesn't begin until the 15th, giving a few more days for everyone to watch the swell charts and adjust teams accordingly. For instance: Bombing surf means it's time to grab Slater no matter what, while small and on the bricks (the uneven rock/reef the wave breaks over until the swell gets solid) you had better put Taj on your team. As of this moment, this is my team for J-Bay: