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Contest Preview – JBay Open 2017

Image: Gabe attempting some mid-heat spray intimidation against Slater in 2015 (Kelly won the quarter-final)

Fiji feels like a season ago, no? JBay is a world away from tropical Fiji, a fact which the the stats reflect quite clearly. Let's don the neoprene, stretch the quads and test our mettle against the wild southern point-break.


The WSL's long-range forecasting (at this point) calls for 'fun size SSW swells for the opening days of the waiting period'. Surfline seems to match, with some waist-to-shoulder surf on the opening days and the possibility of a new swell a few days later. The winds at this stage look fairly good too.

*Update - the details of the forecast have become clearer, with a few overhead days predicted on the first weekend and into the second week. Check the sortable data and make sure your team is ready for some decent swell.

As for the break itself,  you can expect long, right-hand point-break conditions that require excellent speed management and the ability to read the wave well. Barrels are definitely an option, but they can squeeze on surfers quickly depending on the swell angle and the section of the point that you're surfing. Goofy footers have traditionally struggled for success out here, and long, drawn-out turns at speed seem to be the best-scored options with the judges.

That said, here are our hits and misses for JBay, based on conditions averages and former results.

Mick Fanning

Let's get this out of the way early, shall we? Since JBay was reintroduced to the tour in 2014, Mick has lost 2 heats, both of them non-elimination (the shark heat wasn't a loss). In elimination rounds, he hasn't lost here since the final in 2011. Add to that the fact that his stats place him 1st in AHS for this event, in rights, in points-breaks & in 1-4' conditions, and you have what can only be described as a fantasy must-have. Just stop reading this and select him.

Jordy Smith

Jordy loves JBay; it's his big home event, it suits his surfing and he's won it twice. It must shit him that Mick has become more synonymous with it's classic lines lately, but make no mistake; JBay belongs to Jordy. He shouldn't have competed here in 2015, when his injury made him look like an ageing local rather than the heir apparent, but otherwise he's suffered few poor results. Jordy has solid stats across most relevant conditions fields. Tier A is stacked with options, but Jordy stands above most.

Joel Parkinson

Joel is consistently solid across all relevant conditions for this event: he's a past winner, he's 3rd for EAHS and right-handers, 4th for both 1-4' and 4-6' conditions, and 5th in point-breaks. Joel's been sneakily grabbing some decent results this year and currently sits at 6th in the world. Even Jordy is inspired by him. We're hardly in a position to argue with Jordy when it comes to surfing Supers.

Conditions Warnings

Miguel Pupo

Poor Miguel. He is a super-likeable guy, but that doesn't mean I'm going to be putting him on my fantasy team. Pupo sits only behind Stu Kennedy (only one prior event) and Nat Young (not in the draw) for worst EAHS. On top of that he boasts a far from enviable historical record, with two thirteenths and a 25th in his 3 appearances.

Jadson Andre

Speaking of likeable, Jadson's profile piece this week reminded everyone exactly why he's so universally liked on tour. If only the JBay judges shared the love; Jaddy has made one heat in his past 5 visits to this event. Jadson also scores poorly in AHS values for rights and points. Ouch.

Jeremy Flores

You'd think that Flores would devour a wave like this, but he's yet to click. He scores poorly for EAHS, and has only won one heat in his past 4 events here. Tier C is always tough, but Jeremy's experience here won't be much of a plus when comparing him against others. That said, his AHS for this season is solid.


Jordy Smith

Now I'm not going to even pretend that Ballito's 2-move-wonder conditions are comparable to JBay's speeding walls, but this category is about FORM dammit, not conditions. Jordy has a real sniff at the title this year, and he's surfing like a man who wants it. A QS 10000 is a pretty big deal at any venue and, given that it was at 'home' and less than a week before a tour event, his dominance at Ballito shouldn't be ignored.

Matt Wilkinson

Since the start of the 2016 season, no surfer has won more contests than Wilko. Sure, John has the same number (3 events), and he has a world title, but he doesn't have more. Wilko looks like someone who believes that he deserves to be wearing the Yellow Jersey this year, and not someone who finds himself surprised to be holding it. Last year was amazing for Wilko, but I get the feeling that this year will be even better.

Connor O'Leary

Are you kidding me? Is this guy really a rookie? We recommended Connor based on form at the very first event of the year, but even so we've been happily surprised by his impressive season. Connor looks like a seasoned campaigner, and I'm yet to see any flaws in his game. Watch this space.

Michael February

Mikey has been en fuego across the Zaffa leg of the QS this year, winning the Nelson Mandella Bay Surf Pro, the Corona Durban Surf Pro, and the Vans Surf Pro Classic before getting a crucial 3rd pace at Ballito this week. That's impressive form. He knows the wave, and he should be full of confidence. The name Sean Holmes still strikes fear into some surfers' hearts at this event, and the pros all know that any local could use their knowledge of this difficult break to their advantage. Sure, Steven Sawyer and others haven't done too well in recent years, but guys like Dale and Mikey are always a risk out here.


Form Warnings

Gabriel Medina

13th at Fiji? The head of the Brazilian storm has morphed into more of a mild, mid-afternoon onshore breeze lately. Where's the killer instinct that nearly cut the GOAT in half in 2015 (see above image)? Where will Gabs'next victory even appear? With a 2017 AHS of 13.2, he sits at 12th for the season and in desperate need of some big, statement-making heats.

John John Florence

Wait, wasn't John meant to have sewn up the title by now? Where did the double 13ths come from? The momentum has shifted for John, and we're all waiting to see how he picks himself up after Fiji. That said, he still holds the highest AHS for this season at 15.4, which indicates that his form is still pretty good even when he's losing.

Ethan Ewing

After Leo's Fiji success (5th), Ethan now sits alone in the winless circle for 2017. It's a tough spot in which to be, as seeding makes every win from this point even harder. Ethan has shown flashes, but we need a whole heat. That said, I'm looking forward he seeing him out at JBay as he has a great style to match the wave.


Heat Draw

While only a minor consideration when compared to conditions and form, the draw should still be a partial influence. Having 3 surfers in a R1 heat, or worse 2 surfers facing off in R2, is bad form. If you want to play around with heat win and R2 possibilities, we recommend as a fun way of predicting possible result match-ups. Be aware though that a single change from your projections can alter the following round entirely.

Filipe is still back, as is Caio. Nat Young is out as a replacement. Trials winner Dale Staples and event wildcard Michael February have been confirmed, and are now included in the draw. As predicted, Mikey has the better seeding, so faces Jordy (again) in R1, with Dale surfing against JJF.

Our R1 “heat of death” nomination for this contest is the Aussie-fest in H2: Wright / Durbidge / Kerr

Sleeper Picks

We like to offer a few suggestions that may not be on everyone’s radar. Any success that involves deviating from the popular vote will provide a huge advantage for players willing to take the risk.

Top Tier

Connor will be too much risk for most fantasy players, especially against the likes of JJF, Jordy, Julian and Joel (what's with all the Js, anyway?). Several betting agencies have him at >$50 for the win; are you willing to bet against the house?

Mid Tier

There are world champions and past winners in this group, so it takes some cojones to run with a dark horse. Caio Ibelli's hot run at Bells should not be soon forgotten. He will be off most players' radars, but he could go far if he's 100% healed. If he's not, then we like fellow Bells ripper Freddy M as a contrary option.

Low Tier

How risky do you want to go in this group? Kerr, Conner and Leo will most likely be the most popular options in a fairly thin-on-confidence group, but we tip Kanoa to beat the stats and earn his keep this year.


Jordy Smith

Jordy's lower projections here are impacted by his injury-affected performance in 2015 (where he finished 25th and averaged 6.6 across two heats). Our projections give extra weight to previous venue data, so he was kinda screwed by that result a little. Look instead at his AHS for rights (4th), 4-6' waves (4th), points (6th) or the 2017 season (6th) and you will see a more telling picture.

Matt Wilkinson

Wilko doesn't have the greatest stats for JBay. Even last year, when he was seemingly on fire, the event let him down. Things are changing for Wilko though, and past results are no longer a clear indicator for future success. I like Wilko for the event, I'm just not sure if I'm brave enough to take him.

Kelly Slater

The perpetual outlier these days. On paper, Kelly seems solid as a mid-range option at JBay. The truth is that most would be surprised if he won. The biggest talking points that I've had regarding fantasy selections have been 'Are you taking Slater?', followed by 'Jordy, John, or both?'. I will be leaving Kelly off both my teams (WSL and FS) for JBay before picking him up again for Tahiti.

Conner Coffin

Connor has lost a few close heats this season and is low on momentum. He is one of the top 5 guys in the world as far as style/ability out at JBay. Can he forget his 2016 result and convert?


Here are our “numbers” teams: a selection overview based purely on our projections. They rarely suck, but they don't predict the dark-horses either. join our leagues and see if you can wax them:

WSL team

A well-balanced team with no friendly fire and plenty of experience mixed with new potential. No Jordy.


FS team

A few differences, with Kelly, Conner and Jack making way for Joan, Zeke and Wiggolly. No Jordy.



Surf-stats Clubhouses

Now that you know the team break-downs, it’s time for you to create a team that will hold our selections to account. Sign up to our WSL Surf-Stats group (password - SS) or the Fantasy Surfer Surf-Stats clubhouse and challenge yourself against us and our readers. We will give a shout-out to each winner and analyse their team.

As always, feel free to comment or leave your own team selections below.

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Lastly, a big thanks to all of our readers who have donated via the PayPal button. Surf-Stats is completely run in my spare time and funded at my own expense; those donations keep my domain and hosting fees paid and also help me justify the nights spent on spreadsheets. Plus any donation, however small, will help me convince my wife that people actually read this shit.

Balyn McDonald
Balyn grew up on the east coast of Australia, nourishing his passion for surfing through a diet of empty beach breaks, Taylor Steele VHS cassettes and poor amateur competition results. As one of the head writers/analysts for Surf-Stats, he is as comfortable tearing through spreadsheets as he is 6' left-handers.