J-Bay Fantasy Preview
Last updated July 11, 2023 by Balyn McDonald
J-Bay now sits front and center of the qualification drama. While the 2024 tour may be locked in pending some Challenger events, the final 5 places for the Trestles finals, as well as a few Olympic places, are still well and truly up for grabs. Will Filipe run away with the #1 seed? Will Gabe get to surf Chopes as an Olympian? Can Ewing go back-to-back? Will Griff stop the rot and lock a finals spot before the WSL moves it away from Trestles (I mean, it has to eventually, right?)?
With the regularly poor surf this season, the slim prospect of reeling JBay lines will have many fans of pro surfing foaming at the mouth. Add qualification pressure, and this year’s JBay starts resembling a highly anticipated stop.
As one of the most famous breaks in the world, there has been plenty written about Jeffreys Bay. For those who want details, Surfline’s Mechanics of J-Bay is pretty comprehensive, with swell, wind and bathymetry all analysed. Alternatively, the WSL gives a detailed look at the wave and its history via local legend Shaun Tomson’s insights and Mick Fanning’s Go Pro footage. Maybe you’d prefer to listen to Kelly, Conner and Wade describe it, or even just watch a whole bunch of 10-point rides from J-Bay events past. No matter how you like to research, the trainspotters out there have plenty of options for this event.
For those with less time or concern for minutiae, the quick version goes like this:
- J-Bay is a long, cold-water, right-hand point-break that requires excellent speed management and adaptability when reading the wave. Drawn out turns that fluidly transition into the next are like ambrosia for the judging panel. 2022 champion Ethan Ewing is a good reference point.
- Barrels can squeeze on surfers quickly. Depending on the swell angle and the section of the point that they’re surfing, they could be a possibility. Proper barrels can score well due to their rarity and difficulty to negotiate, especially for goofy-footers.
- Goofy footers have traditionally struggled for success out here, but Gabe and Italo made a break-through for an all-goofy the final in 2019, and Tati won last year, so maybe there’s hope?
- There is room in the judging criteria for progression, with massive alley-oops scoring reasonably well.
- You can’t talk about J-Bay and NOT mention the whole shark thing. There’s the 2015 final that saw Mick’s infamous slap alongside Julian’s heroic paddle towards the danger. You may also recall a few heats being put on hold in recent years, showing tentative competitors on jetskis while sharks patrolled the event site. Any surfer can probably relate to the constant, sphincter-tightening sense of shark contacts, and South Africa offers that in spades. So, yeah, they don’t impact the quality of waves, but sharks can sure as hell change the outcome of the event.
For the purposes of our event metrics, we will be running data averages for right-hand point breaks with waves in the ‘average’ wave height of 4-6′.
The WSL have been pretty lax regarding forecast posts this season. Maybe it’s because they keep getting skunked for waves and don’t want people to realise how bleak things are looking. Regardless, we’ve had to cast a wider net in looking for some clues as to the conditions.
From the opening day on Thursday, there looks to be clean, but admittedly small surf. There is a big pulse in swell from Sunday the 16th, but the winds may not be favourable. A few long–range hopes for waves in the second week of the event window keep things interesting as well. Keep a close eye on the changing forecasts, as there is the potential to run a fantasy team to match bigger waves if the winds come good.
Kelly Slater – seems to have once again recovered from an injury that kept him out of Brazil just in time for the next tour event. What is that, 10 times now? Obviously, he can do what he wants, but he’s not fooling anyone.
Adin Masencamp – a competitive Cape Town local making his CT debut after a little success on the CS. Adin has a strong competitive drive and will be pushing himself to make the most of this chance. There is a video bio here, for anyone interested in learning more about him.
Sarah Baum – Originally from Durban, Sarah started competing quite young, and nearly qualified for the tour via the QS in 2011. After a few years away from the qualification race, the goofy-footer moved to Australia’s Newcastle and decided to give it another crack. She’s currently ranked 8th on the CS, and enjoying her first shot at a CT event.
JBAY Fantasy Metrics*Key:
JB = metrics specific to events at J-Bay
Win % = percentage of heats won
AHS = average heat score
Right = data from events held in right-hand breaking conditions
Point = data from events held in point break conditions
4-6' = data from heats run in 4-6' wave height conditions
Avg Place = average finishing place for event (lower place is better, as 1st is an event win)
*data taken from every event on the 2013-2023 WCT tours
|Surfer Name||Season Win %||Season AHS||JB Avg Place||JB Win %||JB AHS||Right win %||Right hand AHS||Point win %||Point AHS||4-6' win%||4-6' AHS|
|John John Florence||62.96||13.57||6.67||64.29||15.63||65.09||14.91||63.41||14.82||66.94||14.44|
Pick ’em – fantasy suggestions
Filipe Toledo – the reigning world champ and current yellow jersey leader hardly seems like a big call, especially given the fact that he’s won here twice before.
John John – with a 7th seed, John needs a result at JBay. Luckily, his metrics for all relevant conditions place him just short of Filipe as a must-pick surfer for the event. In fact, he has a better average place here than Toledo, which hints at his superior consistency.
Ethan Ewing – Ewing’s surfing is perfectly matched to JBay; efficiency of movement, committed top-to-bottom turns, effortless style. All of which are subjective measurements. Thankfully, after his first career CT win last year, some of the data is beginning to swing his way. Add the momentum of a win at Bells (another wave subjectively matched to Ewing’s surfing), and a Rio final, and Ethan’s favouritism is beginning to look much more objective.
Gabriel Medina – Check the metrics. Gabe is pretty much top-5 for every data set that matters.
Flick ’em – be wary of these surfers
Wildcards – No offense to Adin and Sarah, but wildcards haven’t really set this event alight since the days of Sean Holmes. Add the facts that the CT field has been narrowed to the top 67%, and the format requires a first place to progress in R1, and it becomes an uphill battle for debutantes.
Jack Robinson – Jack was actually eligible for a spot among the pick-em suggestions above, what with a 2nd place in his only appearance at JBay. The issue is more to do with form: since coming into Bells with the Yellow Jersey, Jack hasn’t managed to better a 17th place. Since the cut, that has also meant LAST PLACE. Now, Jack’s sitting outside the top 5 and needing very much to draw on that inner zen at the core of his success.
Griffin Colapinto – Griff was on fire for a while there, but faded big time at Rio. The same thing happened in 2022, when he won two events, yet finished 17th, 9th, 9th to miss the finals cut. I’m not saying he’s beyond redemption, but I’m just giving you a historical caveat.
Rio Waida – the tour rookie’s data isn’t great generally, but there’s one metric that stuck out: a 33.33% season heat win rate puts him below Kelly, who missed the mid-season cut. Having only won two heats since Portugal, Rio’s not a convincing pick for JBay.
Here’s the thing about data-driven fantasy selections: they almost always guarantee you a safe score, i.e., they usually stop you from sucking completely. What they don’t earn you is a winning score, a score that is only gained through defying the popular choices with an against-the odds Sleeper.
Here are some options that we have our eyes on:
Top Tier – Leonardo Fioravanti. I don’t know what it is exactly, but Leo’s been looking a little extra spicy this season. He’s been posting great heats on the reg, but not quite converting it through entire events. Still, he’s top 10, and I’m juicing him for a big JBay event this season.
Mid Tier – Liam O’Brien surfs fast. He’s been capable of some big heats already this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing him style out some JBay walls. Recommending rookies is always dicey, but Liam is going to be on my personal fantasy team.
Low Tier – Ian Gentil is another rookie who represents equal parts risk and potential reward, but his 3rd at El Salvador, as well as a few key heats through the year, have him placed as a cheap ‘maybe’ for my team.
Fantasy Surf Sessions
As usual, we’ll be offering prizes for this event; the JBay fantasy champion wins a $100 (AUD) SurfStitch voucher and a shout-out in Surfing Life Magazine.
All you need to do is make sure your team is saved before the event starts.
Best of luck,