Surf: 4 to 6 feet, howling offshore and cooking, bru
Events Held: Round Three (minus the Phil MacDonald walk-through)
Nature's Call: Screw the forecasters; let me do the talking
Predicted: Long hot showers and no more skinny-dipping

One hundred and seventy six waves. About 15,000 yards of open face. At least two minutes of tube time. Four clear event leaders and three major upsets. When Jeffreys Bay is 4 to 6 feet, howling offshore and doing its thing, the numbers quickly add up. And that's what happened today during Round Three, held a full week after our last day of competition.

The extended lay period can be a dangerous thing to our WCT globetrotters. One day off means catch-up time on email and ESPN. Two days off means playing tourist and afternoon naps. A week off? Well, when the going gets tough, the tough go partying. And with an extended weekend of Donavon concerts and no swell, JBay hosted several nights of beer-soaked revelry and late-night, frost-bitten skinny-dips.

How did the shrinkage factor affect the world's best when the swell finally made its way around the Cape? Not much at all.

Today, by all local accounts, was "firing" Supers. A solid 6 feet off Boneyards, unloading 50-yard sections before moving into the magic alley known as Supertubes, right where two surfers sat, freaking out of their minds. The one with priority would take off, toying with the endless wall of possibilities ahead of him. The name of the winning game for the judges? Be in there, or be square. All day long, the five wise men went huge on tunnel time (sometimes even to a fault). And man, was there a lot of it. At one point in the afternoon, you could look up during any given set and see both competitors, up and riding, locked in and loaded. Local artist Steven Bibb is famous in these parts for his airbrushed lineups of perfectly symmetrical Supers, with offshore tubes stacked to the horizon, fire red sunrises and humpback whales breeching in the distance. Today, add a couple jerseyed surfers to the canvas, and those paintings came to life.

Andy Irons slashed his way through to Round 4

But enough of the cosmic talk. This is still a surf contest, dammit, and some guys shredded a lot harder than the others. Four, in particular, are sure bets to go far. First, the obvious: Kelly Slater, the best surfer at JBay next to Mark Occhilupo (who somehow lost, but more on that later), put in another white knight performance on his 6'1", round-pin Simon. Surfing against poor, young Cape Townian Damien Fahrenfort (who said before his heat he only hoped he wouldn't be comboed), Kelly ended it early with a series of his hyper-rotated snaps and tube combo for a 9.67, then followed up for another five seconds of shack-land for an 8.83.


Toward the end of the heat, Kelly even did his own version of an end-zone dance by taking off switchfoot, laying into a couple of backside hacks, then getting barreled, pigdog, across the inside.

Worse than comboed.

"His switchfoot wave was better than my rides combined," said Fahrenfort, giddy with awe. "Oh well, it was an experience. Hopefully I have another shot at him about 30 years from now, when he can barely crawl to his feet."

With Kelly in the top seed position (Heat 8), Andy now has to follow. And he was ready for battle today, sporting a camouflage jacket. "I'm full combat weird today," he said. He meant it: Brazilian Bernardo Pigmeu never had a chance, even before he injured his foot on the inside bricks. Cruise control for Irons with plenty of room to grow.

Parko had a magic 6'2" DHD thumbtail last year, so in honor of it, he got one with the same red airbrush for this contest. "The thing is, I think this one's even better," he claimed. Parko backed that up with one of the highest heat scores of the days and — if he were a running back — the day's Heisman Trophy for the most yardage. His wave from Boneyards all the way past Salad Bowl had to burn.

And then there's East Londoner Greg Emslie, who dismantled Taj Burrow with some precision turns and turning the Impossibles section into "Somehow Makeables." On his 9.8 tube, your correspondent even turned his head, thinking there was no chance.

Impossibles also may have applied to the outcome of the most anticipated heat of the day, Bruce Irons vs. Mark Occhilupo. Surfing's Future vs. Surfing {{{Legend}}}, Regular vs. Goofy, Roommate vs. Roommate. However you wanted to spin it, it had the makings of a classic heat. Occy's regarded as the best backside surfer ever at JBay, and he only seems to be getting better, stronger, more precise. Bruce, on the other hand, has yet to really figure out the tricky, superfast almond tubes of Supers. Slater even noted during an earlier live webcast that JBay didn't suit Bruce's surfing, and that he had a way to go before really wiring it. Bruce heard through his girlfriend what Kelly said, and took note of it.

As if admitting there was no way he was going to compete with Occy power carve for power carve, Bruce set out on a tube hunt, stringing together some of the longest, deepest pits of the event. Despite Oc's manic turns and combos, Bruce stitched together two 9s during a lull, all based on tunnel vision. Oc, on the other hand, took his snaps to a whole new degree, making every other goofyfoot look soft in {{{comparison}}}. Occy's household went through a power outage last night, setting off alarms and causing havoc for about an hour and a half. We think we know where all that voltage now went.

Occy was eliminated in perhaps his last event at J-Bay

But the judges just weren't plugged in. They failed to throw a 10 on arguably the best-surfed wave of the contest, and left him needing another big score to surpass Bruce's 9s. The scores had the competitor's area steaming. "We all know who they want to win this one," fumed Phil MacDonald.

Kelly then broke it down: "You can't do any more critical turns than what Occy did. Plus, he completed his waves. Bruce had some great tuberides, but that's all they were. They had this heat backwards."

Bruce, indifferent to all the grumbling, let out a sly smile and looked to the task ahead: another clash with his brother in Round Four. When asked what he thought of Andy saying he'd rather surf against him over Occy in the next round, Bruce didn't flinch. "I'm not going to bite," he said. "We'll see."

What else did Supers do today? It put Mick Fanning out of rhythm, broke his board and handed him a 17th when his two main title-chasers, Kelly and Andy, are hungrier than ever. Mick didn't seem too distraught by his shock loss to Luke Stedman, though, and even came back by the contest to cheer his mates on. "I had me cry already," he said. "Shit happens."

It also disposed of brief ratings-leader Trent Munro (courtesy of stoked-out-of-his-mind JBay first-timer Timmy Reyes) and Damien Hobgood (by order Gold Coast pointbreak assassin Bede Durbidge.)

The painting-perfect conditions just kept on giving, right up to the very last second. Taylor Knox, trailing against Danny Wills in the last heat of the day, sat out the back alone needing an 8.5. "One minute remaining!" boomed the announcer as a pack of hungry freesurfers closed in on the lineup from below.

Then, out at Boneyards, it happened: the big folding section, the long, beautiful wall growing brick by brick across the point. And Taylor, sitting dead still, waiting for his ticket to the next round.

"Thirty seconds!"

The wall jacked up, bending and unfolding and screaming: "Have your way with me!" And Taylor did, in the form of three big power hacks, a tube tuck plus claim (he'd seen how the judges responded to barrels) plus another sleepy hollow on the inside. Score: 9.0.

Taylor, freshly mohawked and wild-eyed after a long week of non-surf activity, knew what a good day at JBay would finally do: "I think it's safe to say that I'll be sleeping good tonight."

Luke Stedman def. Mick Fanning
Heat # 2
Luke Egan def. Marcelo Nunes
Heat # 3
Fred Patacchia def. Michael Lowe
Heat # 4
Tim Reyes def. Trent Munro
Heat # 5
Lee Winkler def. Cory Lopez
Heat # 6
Bede Durbidge def. Damien Hobgood
Heat # 7
Jake Paterson def. Tom Whitaker
Heat # 8
Kelly Slater def. Damien Fahrenfort
Heat # 9
Andy Irons def. Bernardo Pigmeu
Heat #10
Bruce Irons def. Mark Occhilupo
Heat #11
Raoni Monteiro def. Nathan Hedge
Heat #12
Phil MacDonald advances – Neco Padaratz disqualified
Heat #13
Joel Parkinson def. Toby Martin
Heat #14
Dean Morrison def. Richie Lovett
Heat #15
Greg Emslie def. Taj Burrow
Heat #16
Taylor Knox def. Daniel Wills

Luke Stedman v. Luke Egan
Heat # 2
Fred Patacchia v. Tim Reyes
Heat # 3
Lee Winkler v. Bede Durbidge
Heat # 4
Jake Paterson v. Kelly Slater
Heat # 5
Andy Irons v. Bruce Irons
Heat # 6
Raoni Monteiro v. Phil MacDonald
Heat # 7
Joel Parkinson v. Dean Morrison
Heat # 8
Greg Emslie v. Taylor Knox