Jeffreys Bay local Shaun Payne from nearby St Francis Bay earned a coveted wildcard into the R3 million Billabong Pro J-Bay by defeating a world-class quartet of up-and-coming junior surf stars in the VonZipper Superheat at Jeffreys Bay today.
Payne, 26, waited patiently for the best waves during the hard fought 40 minute heat run in marginal 0.6 to one metre glassy waves at Supertubes. Posting a score of 5.83 out of 10 on his opening ride, it wasn’t until the last 10 minutes that he moved into the lead with 6.60 point ride and a heat tally of 12.43 out of 20.
“I am just so happy to have made it into the Billabong Pro J-Bay – words can’t express how I feel right now,” exclaimed an elated Payne in the post heat interview. “Even when I took the lead I knew the other guys could easily get the score required. It was the longest seven minutes of my life and I was just over the moon when the siren sounded.”
Payne’s wildcard sees him take on top seed and 10-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) and red hot rookie Alejo Muniz (BRA) when Round 1 of the Billabong Pro J-Bay gets underway, probably at first light tomorrow (Friday) morning. At time of writing it is unknown whether Slater will be in Jeffreys Bay in time for his Round 1 heat as he has been enjoying an outstanding swell in Fiji while the unseasonal sunny and warm conditions in South Africa have resulted in small waves at Jeffreys Bay.
Under World Tour event format nobody is eliminated from the event in Round 1 where the winner of each of the 12 heats advances directly to Round 3. Those placing second and third in the heat then contest Round 2 which comprises 12 man-on-man heats with the winner progressing to Round 3 and loser ousted from the event in equal 25th place overall.
Payne has an excellent record in the wildcard trials for the Billabong Pro J-Bay, earning a wildcard three times in five attempts. His best result to date in the ASP World Tour event was equal 17th in 2007 when he overcoming then ASP World No. 2 Damien Hobgood (USA) in Round 2 before being himself eliminated in Round 3 by Mick Fanning (AUS). The 26 year-old former SA champion won the locals-only Xcel Pro Showdown at Supertubes in June to earn a place in the VonZipper Superheat and he fully justified the confidence of his local supporters who wore T-Shirts printed with ‘Team Billy’, Payne’s nickname, and ‘6312’, the postal code for St Francis Bay, which will doubtless become collector’s items.
Shaun Joubert (Mossel Bay), 20, currently No. 67 on the ASP World Tour rankings, finished runner-up to Payne in the winner-takes-all VZ Superheat, posting the highest single ride score of 7.70 out of 10 and needed just 4.66 for victory. Reigning ASP World Junior Champion Jack Freestone (AUS) was third, highly touted Hawaiian Pro Junior Granger Larsen finished fourth and ASP No. 3 ranked Pro Junior Dale Staples (St Francis Bay) placed fifth.
Sean Holmes (Cape Town), who was allocated a wildcard directly into Round 1 of the Billabong Pro J-Bay 2011, will be up against fellow South Africa and defending champion Jordy Smith. Smith recently relocated from Durban to Cape Town, buying a house in the upmarket beach suburb of Llandudno where he now spends up to seven months of year when not competing on the Dream Tour or attending to sponsorship commitments.
The two South Africans will have to contend with 2010 event runner-up, Adam Melling (AUS), the surfer Smith beat to clinch his maiden ASP World Tour event title at Jeffreys Bay last year, in their three-man Round 1 encounter.
A steady rise in surf size during the day and predictions of shoulder to head-high and bigger waves tomorrow (Friday) have the organisers confident that Round 1 of the event will get underway at first light. Contest director Eric Stedman, head judge Richie Porta and surfer’s representative Kieren Perrow will meet at 7am to make the decision on when to get proceedings underway.
The first heat in the water will see Bede Durbidge (AUS) take on Tiago Pires (POR) and Cory Lopez (USA). Lopez is the replacement for Dane Reynolds (USA) who withdrew from the event 48 hours ago due to an ongoing injury that has already seen him miss the first three events of the year.
All the action at the Billabong Pro J-Bay 2011 is covered live via webcasts on www.billabongpro.com featuring real-time scoring, expert commentary and interviews, video footage with multiple camera angles, slow-motion replays, video on demand highlights of previous heats and online competitions with valuable prizes.
Further information on the event can be found at the Facebook fan page Billabong South Africa or on twitter @BillabongSA. The results of each heat can be accessed via twitter on @billabongpro. A basic summary of the event status, updated at 8am and 1pm daily, can be obtained from the Hotline at 0860 22 2011.
A daily 15 minute TV highlights package from the event will be broadcast on the channels of SuperSport with the premiere at 19h45 daily and multiple repeats. Most of the shows are on SS5 with others on SS6 and SS7. Check your TV schedule for updated broadcasts.
The Billabong Pro J-Bay 2011 is proudly presented by South Africa’s adventure province Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency and further supported by Carling Black Label, Monster Energy, Coca Cola, Amarok, Vida e Caffe, Tavcor, VonZipper and Nixon.
BILLABONG PRO J-BAY – ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:
H1: Bede Durbidge (AUS), Tiago Pires (PRT), Cory Lopez (USA)
H2: Jeremy Flores (FRA), C.J. Hobgood (USA), Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)
H3: Taj Burrow (AUS), Jadson Andre (BRA), Gabe Kling (USA)
H4: Mick Fanning (AUS), Heitor Alves (BRA), Bobby Martinez (USA)
H5: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Adam Melling (AUS), Sean Holmes (ZAF)
H6: Kelly Slater (USA), Alejo Muniz (BRA), Shaun Payne (ZAF)
H7: Adriano De Souza (BRA), Chris Davidson (AUS), Kai Otton (AUS)
H8: Owen Wright (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Josh Kerr (AUS)
H9: Adrian Buchan (AUS), Kieren Perrow (AUS), Daniel Ross (AUS)
H10: Damien Hobgood (USA), Julian Wilson (AUS), Taylor Knox (USA)
H11: Michel Bourez (PYF), Patrick Gudauskas (USA), Dusty Payne (HAW)
H12: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Brett Simpson (USA), Raoni Monteiro (BRA)