The Corona Open J-Bay concluded a couple of weeks ago, but the surfing that transpired on the walls of Jeffreys Bay has been seared into our memory banks. It was no doubt one of the best events of the year, if not in the top 5 of the past decade. At the behest of the fans, the top 34 put on one hell of a performance (as did the sharks). But an equally jaw-dropping show happened during the freesurfs, when the jerseys were hung and drying.
Luckily, staff photographer Todd Glaser was there to capture the action when the webcast cameras weren’t rolling. “I originally went down to there to work on a documentary with Kelly,” says Glaser. “That was my primary focus, but I was up every morning at sunrise to shoot and watch the waves. From a photo perspective, it's a tricky wave to shoot. The wave is so long–you can pull back, you can show the length of the wall, you can shoot it really tight, or you can focus on the details. I tried to mix it up as much as I could, mixing up the angles as much as I could without swimming in the water. Normally I love swimming, but I was pretty freaked out about the sharks.”
“This is near the top of the point,” says Glaser. “This was probably John Florence’s first turn on the wave. John was one of the first guys out every morning. The day the contest ended, he probably surfed for 7 hours straight. Every morning he'd test out a selection of boards and just surfed beautifully. He's always really fun to watch. What I like about J-Bay is that the sun rises in the east over there. In the mornings, I tried to shoot as many as I could in the early light because it really highlights the figure and the shape the surfer is in, more so than your standard lighting. John's form is near perfection. Here it looks as if the spray of the wave is almost like a halo around him.”
“This is Owen Wright, on the same wave that John was riding [above]. I really feel like he was taking in J-Bay for all it's worth, both in and out of the water. When Owen wasn't surfing, he was down near the rocks with his family. He looked as sharp as ever. Whenever I'm shooting in these conditions, I shoot them underexposed, so I can get all the beautiful colors of the lip and show all the lines.”
“This was a typical morning at J-Bay. I was trying to show the beauty of J-Bay, not only with the tight action but with a pulled back view. You can see how long the line stretches and you can see that it's low tide, with all the rocks exposed. If you look to the right, you can see the keyhole where everyone paddles out. You can see all the footsteps on the beach. In the morning, locals go down there and walk their dogs.”
“This was shot from the grandstand of the contest site on the day of the finals. I woke up early and the waves were phenomenal. You can see the waves wrapping all the way down the point. This probably only shows a third of the overall point. The flowers in the foreground are native to Jeffreys Bay.”
“This was taken during one of the mornings where the WSL put the contest on hold to wait for the winds to straighten up a bit. Kanoa was out with Leo Fioravanti and Zeke Lau. I think those guys put in more water time than anyone. I love how Kanoa was able to control his speed and set himself up for the tube even though the wave was extremely fast.”
“I'm not sure who this is, but after I had been shooting all afternoon I walked up to the grandstands and started to play around with speed blurs. I think this was the last wave I shot that day. I love the reflection of the lip on this wave. Something that's unique to J-Bay is when the sun sets, it's front lit, but when the sun goes down, there's this 45-minute window where the backlit light is a beautiful purple hue.”
“This was shot of Parko, during the first round. I was shooting at the next point up, at Magnatubes, and I had a 500 mil lens with an extender. I was trying to shoot as many backlit images as I could, and I looked over, and Parko had gotten this wave. I just love the compression that a long lens makes. His shape is so identifiable and his front-hand carves are made for this wave.”
“Every morning before the contest, most of the 'CT guys would go out surfing. From my observation, Conner Coffin was one of the standout surfers. Growing up at Rincon, his surfing is made for J-Bay and he's taken a lot of freesurf trips here, as well. You can see the jet skis in the background, the shark patrol getting ready, so this was one of the last waves ridden before the contest started. What was so great about watching Conner surf out there was his ability to mix up his turns. Every time he'd get on a wave, he’d lay down a different turn.”
“That's Mick paddling over the wave with Conner doing a bottom turn. Those two are close friends. Even without Mick, you can see the long line that Conner is drawing. J-Bay is such a long wave, so you really have to draw out lines. When the right surfer is at J-Bay, it really enhances their surfing. When a surfer isn't used to drawing out these longer lines, it can expose a lot of their flaws.”
“Mick's history at J-Bay is undeniable. He's won four events there, he had the altercation with the shark. This year he looked really relaxed and I think his surfing showed that.”
“There are a lot of different ways to surf J-Bay, and this turn by Sebastian Zietz was brilliantly done. I love how his back leg is extended and his front arm is guiding his whole turn. When Conner surfs, he guides his turns more with his back arm. But Seabass is using his front arm and doing these driving turns.”
“This is Jeremy Flores on a slightly bigger wave. If you were to compare 10 different photos, each surfer has their own approach to the lines they draw, depending on where they are. You can see in Jeremy's arms that he was really able to open up and give a variety of turns.”
“Kelly went down to J-Bay with quite a few boards. He was so excited to be surfing, especially since he didn't surf Brazil and because the forecast was looking so good. He was surfing more than I've seen him surf in a long time. Trying out boards, trying out fins, and surfing the perfect J-Bay walls. You could see it in his body language: He was doing these classic highlines and mixing in beautiful carves, as well. A lot of people do highlines as a style thing, but Kelly uses highlines to generate speed, to go into his next turn. This was shot with a little bit slower of a shutter.
I was shooting the wave where Kelly got hurt. It was weird because, on that wave, he took off and did two big highlines. He was going super fast, and then he pulled into a closeout. The next wave, he had to duck dive and he was floating on his board. We weren't sure whether he was coming in or going out. When he got to the rocks and he couldn't get up, we knew something was wrong. He was in good spirits afterward, though.”
“Not sure who this is, but I was just walking down the beach at the sunrise. Having so many surfers out there gave me a lot of opportunities to take some really nice images.”
“Michel Bourez, early morning, way before the sun came up. Michel's surfing was looking very sharp when he was down there.
Speed blurs are pretty high-risk shots, as far as shooting something that looks decent. I love the speed coming off the bottom; you just see the whole line ahead of him. This was shot probably close to a quarter of a second. With these speed blurs, you only really get to shoot one frame. From a photo standpoint, it's a lot trickier to shoot. You're trying to pan with the surfer.”
[All images: Todd Glaser]