Surf: lumpy 4-6 foot with a gentle cross shore bump
Events held: Von Zipper Wildcard Trials. Billabong Pro J-Bay, Round One
Nature’s call: You aint seen nothing yet . . .
Predicted: moderate surf; mindblowing surfing.

The wave sometimes known as Supertubes woke up this morning with a hangover, belching a broken 4-6 feet swell onto that famous Supers ledge and rolling it down the line into a gentle sideshore wind. Not exactly all time J-Bay. Today it was a fast, tricksy little wave, but the underlying shape of the reef still worked its magic and groomed the lurching sea into some connecting faces.

At a chilly 7:30 in the am, while this lazy hack was still curled up in his board bag dreaming of Indo with the Hilton sisters, J-Bay Billabong Pro contest director Mike Parsons called the start of the Von Zipper trials. By 8am the wild card trialists were in the water, and said hack was trying to warm up a wet bench overlooking the grumpy break. Sean Holmes, the South African surfer who has eliminated Andy Irons in two consecutive J-Bay WCT events stated his intention early and cruised over, around and under enough lumpy Jeffreys sections to get into the event, setting up a round one heat against arch-nemesis Andy Irons and Lee Winkler. Meanwhile, young South African ripper snapper, Ricky Basnett snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the last twenty seconds of his heat with a double shack on one wave, ejecting the other name-to-remember, Jordy Smith.

And then the real competition began. The usual J Bay suspects of Mick Lowe, Joel Parkinson, Mark Occhilupo and Jake Paterson waltzed straight into the third round, making the sloppy conditions look playful. Damien Hobgood outdid Shane Beschen and Richie Lovett in the most exciting see-saw heat of the day, the lead changed four times before Damien clinched both the heat and the crowd’s collective butt cheeks with a smoking 8.85 point wave. And Aussie Shane Powell kicked off his campaign in the most positive manner, relegating both Sonny Garcia and Taylor Knox to repercharge.

“Yeah it was a pretty slow heat,” says Shane thoughtfully. “I only really had one good wave, at the start. 6.8, high for the heat. It was just really tricky, disjointed and all crumbly on the lip. You’d take off and look down the line and it would be starting to crumble, so you’d have to race down the line and you can’t get too many good turns in. More or less just trying to get beyond the next section.”

But more than any other ‘CT, J-Bay’s focus is less on the top 44 and more about the wildcareds. Well, one in particularly: Sean Holmes, who’s dispatched world champion Andy Irons two years in a row. But their long awaited, much hyped 1st round showdown between world number one Andy Irons and South African mullet Sean Holmes (with a bit of Lee Winkler making up the three man heat), it was not a case of history repeating. Irons ruled the heat, carving precise and powerful turns and easily outscoring the other two contestants. A disappointed but determined Sean Holmes explains.

‘Well firstly, the conditions were really difficult and second of all I just couldn’t put anything together. I couldn’t do a proper bottom turn, couldn’t do an off the top… I just had a really bad heat. One of those you just have to put behind you.”

On the other hand, the next heat was a veritable deja vu as Kelly Slater put on an educational programming of how to surf J-Bay in any conditions against SA wildcard Ricky Basnett and Brazilian Victor Ribas. On arrival, Slater, like Hollywood A-list, bigger than Charlize Theron (in J-Bay only), has the undivided attention of the entire J-Bay crowd. People point and stare, photographers follow him to the waters edge. Girls fawn and flutter their eyelashes, guys try and get him to sign their boards, shirts, undies, posters. And the Slater machine justifies it all. As soon as he gets into the water, he just blows it open. A visible step up from any of the surfing we’ve seen today, reckons this jaded hack. The judges didn’t seem to concur. Slater’s routine was polished, giving us a glimpse of the form that saw him go all the way in J-Bay last year. He connected hard carves with the biggest floater of the day, surfed up the white water and repeatedly pulled floaters until the next section opened itself up. Sketchy J-Bay is his playground.

As the first day of J-Bay’s carnival of surfing progressed the crowds rolled in, not just from Jeffreys Bay but also St Francis, Humansdorp and Port Elizabeth. Surly locals with arms folded tightly over their chests watched with disdain at what had become of their sacred break. Groms scrambled for autographs and to get close enough to their heroes to score a sticker. Middle aged suburban families, Moms cradling poodles, Dads in bicycle helmets and lugging cushions and picnic baskets, tried in vain to keep a watchful eye over their teenage daughters who pranced and flirted openly with the dirty surfer boys on the beach. The smell of braai permeated the air as the sun started to slide towards the horizon as J-Bar rolled out its finest. At this time of year even the aloes are in bloom.

To be honest, predictions for tomorrow don’t look great. The meteorologists and other weather pundits suggest that the waves will moderate and the wind will turn onshore, the skunks. But don’t get dejected, there still might be a chance to surf a couple of the second round heats in the morning. If that happens Sean Holmes will be meeting Taylor Knox for dawny in the first heat of the day. Followed by Taj Burrow and Ricky Basnett and the abuse of Supertubes curling walls continues throughout the day.

Naughty Beau Emmerton tries to give us a bit of perspective on the day’s activities, after bombing out of the last heat of the day and straight into round two. “It’s good to win that first one,” says Beau sagely. “But it’s great if you have a shitty heat like I just did, that you do get a second chance. I mean someone like Shane Powell can relax a bit now. He can go to Rick’s and try and pick up some girls, whereas I got to stay home tonight. It sucks. So that’s why I try and win.” Andy Davis

Billabong Pro Round One Heats (1st>Rnd3; 2nd, 3rd>Rnd2)
{{{H1}}}: Michael Lowe (AUS) 12.17; Chris Davidson (AUS) 10.0; Michael Campbell (AUS) 7.4
{{{H2}}}: Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 13.0; Luke Egan (AUS) 8.33; Eric Rebiere (FRA) 7.9
{{{H3}}}: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 14.37; Neco Padaratz (BRA) 13.0; Greg Emslie (ZAF) 7.9
H4: Luke Hitchings (AUS) 11.67; Taj Burrow (AUS) 11.67; Tim Curran (USA) 6.4
H5: Damien Hobgood (USA) 14.16; Shane Beschen (USA) 11.0; Richard Lovett (AUS) 10.47
H6: Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 12.67; Armando Daltro (BRA) 8.54; Peterson Rosa (BRA) 8.26
H7: Shane Powell (AUS) 11.76; Sunny Garcia (HAW) 11.33; Taylor Knox (USA) 10.74
H8: Andy Irons (HAW) 16.6; Lee Winkler (AUS) 9.2; Sean Holmes (ZAF) 8.6
H9: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.33; Ricky Basnett (ZAF) 11.33; Victor Ribas (BRA) 8.5
H10: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 13.67; Bede Durbidge (AUS) 10.93; Pat O’Connell (USA) 10.34
H11: Dean Morrison (AUS) 14.6; Tom Whitaker (AUS) 14.33; Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 12.5
H12: Nathan Hedge (AUS) 15.67; Trent Munro (AUS) 8.6; Bruce Irons (HAW) 5.86
H13: Nathan Webster (AUS) 11.53; Daniel Wills (AUS) 11.06; Marcelo Nunes (BRA) 8.03
H14: Jake Paterson (AUS) 14.84; Cory Lopez (USA) 12.5; Darren O’Rafferty (AUS) 8.53
H15: Troy Brooks (AUS) 14.1; Kalani Robb (HAW) 11.44; Guilherme Herdy (BRA) 11.0
H16: Toby Martin (AUS) 12.24; Paulo Moura (BRA) 9.34; Beau Emerton (AUS) 4.67
Von Zipper Trials (1st & Highest 2nd>Billabong Pro)H1: Sean Holmes (ZAF) 15.66; Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.54; Norimasa Ohno (JPN) 10.4; Damien Fahrenfort (ZAF) 6.9; Warwick Wright (ZAF) 5.0
H2: Ricky Basnett (ZAF) 12.67; Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.33; Tiago Pires (PRT) 10.56; Ryan Payne (ZAF) 9.16; TJ Barron (HAW) 8.56