19 July 2010
Jordy Smith was crowned Billabong Pro J-Bay 2010 champion at Jeffreys Bay on Sunday after beating Australia’s Adam Melling in the final to become the first South African surfer to win an ASP World Tour event since the legendary Shaun Tomson back in the 1980s.
The victory cemented the 22-year-old Durbanite’s position at the top of the ASP World Tour rankings.
Smith’s maiden ASP World Tour win and ascension to the rankings lead in home waters could not have been scripted better, coming as it did on master statesman Nelson Mandela’s birthday. It added further momentum to the tremendous outpouring of South African sporting pride following the successful hosting of the Fifa World Cup.
Ranked number two in the world heading into the event, Smith was the form surfer throughout the competition.
Stamped his authority
He stamped his authority on the final from the outset, locking in excellent scores of 8.90 and 9.03 in the first five minutes to leave his opponent in a combination situation and needing to improve on both his scores throughout the 35 minute match-up.
“This is the best day of my life,” a beaming Smith said on the podium afterwards.
“The crowd on the beach has been supporting me the last few days and hearing the cheers and the Vuvuzelas just get me fired up to perform. It feels like they’re pushing me along. I couldn’t have done it without them.
“I knew the swell was dying and I had to take advantage of every wave that came through,” Smith said of the final.
“Adam is such a dangerous surfer. He’s been in form all day and I knew that if he got the waves, he would get the scores. I went out there knowing I had to open up strong.”
Route to the final
On his way to the final Smith defeated Nate Yeomans (USA), Owen Wright (Aus) and Adriano De Souza (Bra) before facing his biggest test in the semi-finals against Bede Durbidge (Aus).
The experienced Australian seemingly had a berth in the final sewn up with the swell dropping and less than three minutes remaining. However, urged to catch a hip-high wave by his advisers on the dunes, Smith raced down the line and punted a high-risk ‘Superman’ aerial that he landed successfully and performed a couple more moves before the ride ended.
In a classic never-say-die effort, before the scores for the ride were even in, Smith then paddled into what was to be the last wave of the heat. It opened up and allowed him to execute a series of progressive manoeuvres.
Needing 7.41 to advance, his score of 7.93 resulted in rapturous applause and a cacophony of vuvuzelas and cheering from the packed partisan crowd basking in the mid-winter sunshine.
‘It’s all a blur’
“I’m still not too sure what happened – it’s all a blur,” Smith said of his nail-biting semifinal victory.
“I got that first one where I did the little grab air that I didn’t think was good, but the judges scored the whole wave pretty well. Then I backed it up and put everything I had into it.”
Melling’s Cinderella-like climb to the finals was nothing short of sensational. Rated a lowly 41st on the ASP World Title Race rankings heading into Jeffreys Bay, the 2010 ASP Dream Tour rookie, who had not won a single heat in the first three events of the year, powered his way through five rounds of competition, including defeating compatriot and 2007 Billabong Pro J-Bay winner Taj Burrow in the semifinals.
His runner-up finish sees the Australian bumped up to ASP World number 19, well inside the safety zone for the dreaded mid-year reduction in the field from 45 to 32.
‘I couldn’t be happier’
“The ocean didn’t cooperate with me in the final so that’s a shame, but I couldn’t be happier,” Melling said.
“We had amazing waves and to get the best result of my career is huge. I came into Jeffreys with a long road ahead if I was to make the mid-year cut-off, and now that I’m 19th, I feel like I have a bit of a buffer heading into Tahiti. I worked really hard to get here and I want to stay here.”
Durbidge suffered one of the hardest losses of the event, having victory snatched from him by Smith’s last-minute heroics. Despite the bitter loss, Durbidge’s equal third place finish vaults him from tenth to seventh on the ASP World Tour rankings heading into the fifth event of the year.
“I had him combo-ed with only four minutes to go,” Durbidge said of the semifinal against Smith. “He took off on that one-footer and pulled a ‘Superman’ air and finished off well, then came out and got another one. I think he got two waves in a minute or something.
“It’s a hard way to lose, but a semifinal is my best result of the year and it’s something to build on. The focus is on Tahiti now.”
Highest heat total
Burrow consistently wowed audiences with his performance from round one onwards, collecting the event’s highest heat total of 18.87 out of 20 in round four to win the Nixon WTA award of a US $10 000 custom-built Nixon timepiece.
Despite the semifinal loss at the hands of Melling, Burrow moves up to the ASP world number two ranking heading into Tahiti.
Sean Holmes’ rampaging run through the event was finally ended by Durbidge in the quarterfinals.
The 32-year-old wildcard from Cape Town, who eliminated former ASP world champions Kelly Slater (USA) and Andy Irons (Haw), came within half-a-point of upsetting Durbidge too, but fell just short in small wind-affected waves.
“The way these guys train and their ability to perform in conditions like this is so good,” Holmes commented after his loss. “On top of his ability, I think Bede (Durbidge) is one of the hardest guys in the world to beat. He’s smart and he’s powerful.”
‘A very special day for me’
Looking back on his wins over Slater and Irons, Holmes said: “Yesterday was a very special day for me. Not so much in terms of my surfing as I’ve definitely surfed better, but more so from a tactical perspective.
Kelly and Andy are the best guys on their days, but I feel like I surfed smart and anticipated what both of them would do in their situations. It paid off and it was a great day for me.”
The superb surf produced at Supertubes for the first three days of the event, and the smaller but still contestable waves on Sunday, saw the Billabong Pro J-Bay 2010 completed in the first four days of the 11-day waiting period for the first time since it became an ASP World Tour rated event in 1996.
All the action from the Billabong Pro J-Bay can be viewed live at Billabong Pro and where the “video on demand” and ground-breaking “waves on demand” facilities enable every wave surfed in the event to be re-played.
ASP World Title Race
- Jordy Smith (RSA) 28 500 pts
- Taj Burrow (Aus) 24 750 pts
- Kelly Slater (USA) 23 500 pts
- Dane Reynolds (USA) 20 000 pts
- Adriano de Souza (Bra) 19 500 pts
- Mick Fanning (Aus) 19 250 pts
- Bede Durbidge (Aus) 18 750 pts
- Bobby Martinez (USA) 16 500 pts
- Jadson Andre (Bra) 16 000 pts
- Joel Parkinson (Aus) 14 750 pts
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