Kommetjie surfer Michael February was eliminated from the Corona Open J-Bay on Sunday after being beaten in the second round by world number one Matt Wilkinson.
February, who received a wildcard entry to the competition, booked his spot against the world’s top-ranked surfer following an impressive showing in the first round, finishing well among the top 24 of the 36 competitors.
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.
As always, February was pragmatic about the defeat. The current number 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 next year’s championship tour.
“It was really fun surfing against Matt, 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 championship tour,” says February.
Wilkinson was full of praise in the wake of his contest with February.
“Mikey has been surfing really good the past few days, so I’m stoked to get the win,” says Wilkinson.
“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,” said Wilkinson.
Jordy Smith remains in contention after a second round win, surviving a tough clash against fellow South African and trials winner Dale Staples, avoiding early elimination by the narrowest of margins.
After posting the highest single-wave score of the match-up, Staples needed just a 4.17 to claim the heat and a spot in the third round. 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 needed. The result was an unconvincing 3.77 from the judges.
“It was definitely stressful out there and to be honest he is probably the deadliest guy in the whole draw,” Smith said of Staples.
Staples, known for his hard-charging style, won the JBU Supertrials in June and was disappointed that the expected larger surf did not materialise.
“It’s always hard coming up against Jordy, one of my favourite surfers,” he said.