J bay in the rear view mirror
I’ll start with a disclaimer.
Let it be known that I don’t really like surf contests. The Egos. The segregation. In my formative years in the surf press corps attached to the WSL brigade I laconically poked fun at the mollycoddling of the WSL and their attitude to media drinking beers. I promptly received a firm (albeit badly written) email from my tormentors, and a brand that I won’t name that starts with Q and ends in Silver telling me if I didn’t like it, not to return. To which I reply, you can keep your shit in a tray served at lunch purporting to be a Chocolate moose. And I also have an ace in my sleeve but you’ll find out about that in August.
Arrival in Africa is often an overwhelming experience. Ours was met with a VW vivo masquerading as an Uber XL to carry camera bags, coffin bags and the like. Logistically what’s known as a fucking nightmare, a couple of Octopus leashes (hello advertorial!) later we’re strapped in and ready to roll. Apart from we’re not, as our driver insists on pulling over and punching his phone, presumably at the reliability of the WSL’s live stream.
However now we’re far from the usual run of the mill WSL bashing which we all do enjoy with a strong garnish of Schadenfreude - As the WSL Africa do a sublime job!
Case in point the Ballito Prime - the primest of primes with the world’s best blowing up under the warm African sun whilst the surf media “journalists” guzzle beers with quite frankly astonishingly aplomb with Astroturf under foot!
And J Bay? Fantasische! I can honestly say that if all towns and event sites where built like J Bay then the WSL would be the most popular organisation in the world. The US Open is dusty and the people are très déclassé. It is also illegal to drink until your 35 and then only in your own home. France is sandy and the event site is dire. J Bay rules supreme. A double story bar serving the freshest and cheapest Coronas, and open to all, no stupid wristbands. There’s parking. There’s restaurants. There’s a grand stand. I mean come on! At night the event site stays open and shows the football. (actual football, not soccer). We learnt that Ace Buchan is an England fan and this was met with wide approval.
By day surf journalism is conducted with due diligence. It is of the upmost importance to keep up appearances. Despite surfing around the event being surprising easy and uncrowded, we attempted to wet our whistles and where told by a polite, but firm man on a Jet Ski that “There’s a 3 meter white proper, headed your way right now, and if you want to live. Get out” Needless to say surfing is off the menu and we’re back into the usual cycle of Coronas and surf Journalism. A delightful mix served with a slice of lime.
By night surf journalism is also conducted. We dine on Ostriches and watch football and drink even more Coronas as once you’ve had a taste it’s hard to go elsewhere. England by this point is doing fantastically. Brazil is out and this makes Yago sad so we divert conversation elsewhere. There is a place called the Mexican and it is one of those joints who’s identity crisis runs deeps, lunch is served but you can also shimmy until 4am. We do both.
At this point I feel it is important to mention the contest, or what was possibly the shortest contest ever. By the time we arrived and had a customary night out, it was time for finals day and another night out. M Feb was knocked out which was annoying, so hometown hero focus shifted to Jordy, who was outed by an inform Wade C, but you know this already so I won’t dive further. It’s worth noting that Filipe is still the best in the world and is unlikely to go anywhere. He also provided the most insightful quote of the season:
“I’m excited, I like Yellow”
The lay days following a contest are a bizarre affair. With only homeward flights to look forward to, we spend days surfing small J Bay, hunting for Octopus with Yago and Jesse Mendes and searching for all important WIFI which might take this very article 6 hours to upload.
Apart from us. We are not going home. Not just yet. Until the skilled guidance of Beyrick De Vries who we have only thus far seen at night we are informed the 4x4s are being loaded tomorrow morning and we are off. Where to we are not sure but we’ve heard tales of clement winds, swell and weather combined with all time sandbars. We’ll see you on the other side...