Conner Coffin is about to take on Joel Parkinson and Jordy Smith at Jeffreys Bay. If this heat were any better, I'd pass out. Photo: WSL/Cestari

Three Heats Worth Dropping Everything To Watch Tonight At J-Bay

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The Corona J-Bay Open has already been a hell of an interesting and entertaining event. In just two days of competition we’ve had two beloved superstar World Champs announce their retirements, the online outrage of a landmark broadcasting partnership with the world’s biggest social media and, somehow lost in all the hullabaloo, a freaking shark strolled through the line-up and had the comp called off!

A shark! After sharks had an event moved three months and 2792 kilometres away from the original CT site just a couple months ago, this one slides through and barely has us looking up from our phones.

We’ve also failed to mention that this Friday the Women’s CT returns to this famed South African point break for the first time since 2000 . Huge!

And this is all without talking about the waves, nor the surfing, which has been as sublime as you’d expect from Jeffreys. Which bring us to tonight, where a bunch of heat draws are waiting for us with a kind of juicy heavyweight billing more akin to an MMA fight card. Despite not even being the finals yet, here are three cracker heat match-ups worth dropping everything for once surfing gets back underway at J-Bay, most likely tonight:

1. Griffin Colapinto v Mikey Wright

Round 3, Heat 11 – Hoooooo boy! In the red corner we have Californian rookie Griffin Colapinto… the most exciting, dynamic and loveable rookie since John John, Kolohe and Gabby jumped on tour in 2012. Remember what Colapinto did at the Quiksilver Pro Snapper at the beginning of the year, going all the way to the semi-finals and locking in the most memorable tube of the event at pumping Kirra along the way? Kid is a star. And in the Blue corner, Mikey Wright, the most electrifying, enigmatic competition surfer since Dane Reynolds, currently seventh in the world despite not even being on tour. Power-mullet, full wrapping tattooed arm rail grabbing carves taking on a Californian wunderkind. This heat, if nothing else, proves pro surfing’s future is in a wonderful place despite the exits and coming exits of traditional stars Taj, Mick, Parko and Kelly. Can. Not. Wait.

2. Gabriel Medina v Connor O’Leary

Round 3, Heat 12: – Have a read of this paragraph from Sean Doherty’s report of Round 2 overnight:

“It’s going to be almost impossible for a goofy-footer to win this contest. History and hydrodynamics say so. The wave is too quick and drawn for anything but the most metronomic of backhand reps. Lack of variety and the exponentially quick Impossibles tube section provide natural disadvantage for the screwfoot. But watching Connor O’Leary, you could almost, for just a second, imagine it happening. He’s got the heft and he’s got the flow, what he needs is some of what Occy (and, to a degree, even Wilko) had. He needs to come unhinged. Just slightly. Shake the predictability. It’s not Connor’s nature, he’s a sensible lad, but if he just occasionally kept us a little on edge, he’d be deadly.”

Our celebrated, understated, underdog, Connor O’Leary – 2017 rookie of the year – is coming up against the greatest goofy-footed surfer since the aforementioned Occy, and the only goofy-footed World Champ since that legend too. O’Leary has looked strong this event, going down in Round 1 to Jeremy Flores by less than a point before disposing of favoured powerhouse Ezekial Lau in Round 2. On the other side, Medina cruised through his all Brazillian Round 1 heat to get to now, but it’s worth remembering that Medina went all the way to the semis at J-Bay last year, combo-ing the king of the comp Mick Fanning along the way, so he’s no J-Bay slouch. And now fourth in the rankings,  Medina won’t be taking this heat lightly with a pending title race on the line. It’s fire vs ice in this all goofy clash.

3. Joel Parkinson v Conner Coffin v Jordy Smith

Round 4, Heat 1 – This is the big dance. The blue ribbon bout. If you were given the task of going through the roster of surfers here for Jeffreys Bay and carving out the three surfers that best represent different generations of iconic, traditional Jeffreys Bay surfing, these are the guys. You’ve got two two-time winners, and a kid due for his first CT win who’d be desperate to make sure it’s J-Bay where that eventually happens. There is going to be so much style, so much power, so much beautiful, soulful rail surfing in this heat that the only way it could be improved is if we could magically force Tom Curren out there to join them. Remember, these Round 4 three-man heats are no longer non-elimination. One of these guys will be going home come the end of that 35 minutes.

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Mike Jennings