Caption: South African Jordy Smith (Durban) remains in contention for a third title at Jeffreys Bay after a narrow Round 2 win at the Corona Open J-Bay on Sunday • Photo: WSL / Cestari

World No. 1 Matt Wilkinson (AUS) Survives Tight Heat • South African Wildcards Staples and February Eliminated

The Corona Open J-Bay, stop No. 6 on the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), ran through the opening two heats of elimination Round 2 before competition was put on hold and eventually called off after the inconsistent one metre waves and crosswind conditions at Jeffreys Bay failed to improve.

Two-time event winner Jordy Smith (ZAF) survived a tough Round 2 clash against fellow South African and trials winner Dale Staples (ZAF), avoiding early elimination by the narrowest of margins and advancing on to Round 3.

After posting the highest single-wave score of the match-up, Staples needed just a 4.17 to claim the heat win and a berth in Round 3. As time wound down he had the chance to cause a major upset on a small but perfectly shaped wave.

However the 26-year-old from nearby St Francis Bay looked undecided on whether to attack the wave and go for a big score or ride it conservatively and try to get the moderate score required. The result was an unconvincing 3.77 from the judges and Smith benefitted from the boxing adage that the challenger needs to knock the champion out rather than trying to rely on a points decision.

“It was definitely stressful out there and to be honest he (Staples) is probably the deadliest guy in the whole draw,” Smith said. “I was just really lucky because he didn’t quite get the score. I just wanted to get two waves out there. We didn’t have many sets but I’m just happy to get the job done. Even though we’re great friends, everyone wants to win. It sucks to come up against Dale in a heat but I’m sure he’ll get more opportunities.”

Staples, known for his hard-charging style, won the JBU Supertrials in booming overhead waves at Supertubes in June and was disappointed that the expected larger surf did not materialise.

“It’s always hard coming up against Jordy (Smith), one of my favourite surfers,” said Staples. “It would have been nice to have some better waves and put on a show for everyone. I just came a bit short at the end which is a bit of a bummer. It’s great to surf in good waves against the best surfers in the world - that’s the difference between the CT and QS. This just makes me more hungry to win.”

Current No. 1 on the Jeep Leaderboard Matt Wilkinson (AUS) faced South African wildcard Michael February (Kommetjie) in Heat 2. February came out firing and held the advantage after the opening exchange with 7.00 to Wilkinson’s 6.17.

However, the Australian locked in a 6.93 for his second score while February’s second wave petered out in the Carpark section for a 4.67. With Wilkinson holding priority, the ocean went flat for the remaining eight minutes of the encounter.

“Mikey (February) has been surfing really good the past few days so I’m stoked to get the win,” Wilkinson said. “When the tide’s this high you’re so close to the reef so I’m happy to finish the heat intact and ready for Round 3.

“This event would be unbelievable to win. I got a third out here when the waves were pumping (2014) so I know I can get big scores here when the waves are good. I guess I just have to beat Mick (Fanning) out here - he seems to be the one that takes the goofys out. The speed of the wave here makes it tricky to get points on your backhand, so you have to find a balance between speed and turns.”

As always, February was pragmatic about the defeat and the current No. 4 on the WSL Qualifying Series (QS) rankings is looking ahead to the challenge of maintaining his position in the Top 10 and trying to qualify for a place on the 2018 Championship Tour (CT).

“It was really fun surfing against Matt (Wilkinson), but he’s number one for a reason,” said February. “Our heat was really fun at the beginning but then there weren’t too many sets. I’m still happy and I enjoyed it.

“This has been my best start to a year and that builds a lot of confidence. This wildcard was just a bonus, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. It’s really cool to have this event in South Africa and it really gives us the determination to try and qualify for the CT.”

WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow put the event on hold after Heat 2, before calling competition off for the day when conditions did not improve.

"Unfortunately that swell just hasn't materialized and it's still really inconsistent out there so we won't run any more heats today," said Perrow. "We'll come back tomorrow morning and things are still look really promising. We're excited to see what the next few days will bring for J-Bay."

Event organisers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. local time to assess conditions and make the next call.

Surfline, official forecaster for the Corona Open J-Bay, are calling for:

Surf will come up a notch on Sunday as another mid size SW to SSW swell fills in and breezy side to offshore wind prevails. Monday will see a temporary decreasing trend for the first half of the day as offshore flow likely continues. New SW to SSW swell looks likely to build over the later afternoon and evening hours Monday before peaking on Tuesday with solid surf. Wednesday will see a decreasing trend through the day. Favourable wind looks likely both Tuesday and Wednesday. There is potential for more SW swell for the end of next week.

The event will be broadcast LIVE via, the WSL App and on Facebook LIVE via the WSL's Facebook page.

For more information, check out

Corona Open J-Bay Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 10.67 def. Dale Staples (ZAF) 10.27
Heat 2: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.10 def. Michael February (ZAF) 11.67

Corona Open J-Bay Round 2 Upcoming Match-Ups:
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Ethan Ewing (AUS)
Heat 4: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 5: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Josh Kerr (AUS)
Heat 6: Connor O’Leary (AUS) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 7: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 8: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (USA)
Heat 9: Caio Ibelli (BRA) vs. Stuart Kennedy (AUS)
Heat 10: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 11: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 12: Frederico Morais (PRT) vs. Ian Gouveia (BRA)

The Corona Open J-Bay is the showcase event at the J-Bay Winterfest, a multi-sport and cultural festival in Jeffreys Bay from July 12-23. More details at .

About the World Surf League
The World Surf League (WSL), formerly the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), is dedicated to celebrating the world’s best surfing on the world’s best waves through a variety of best-in-class audience platforms. The League, headquartered in Santa Monica, is a truly global sport with regional offices in Australasia, Africa, North America, South America, Hawaii, Japan and Europe.

The WSL has been championing the world's best surfing since 1976, running in excess of 180 global events across the Men's and Women's Championship Tours, the Big Wave Tour, Qualifying Series, Junior and Longboard Championships, as well as the WSL Big Wave Awards. The League possesses a deep appreciation for the sport's rich heritage while promoting progression, innovation and performance at the highest levels, and in doing so crowns the undisputed world champions in Men’s, Women’s across all divisions within the tour.

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