Sean Holmes

Round 1 and the opening two heats of Round 2 of the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay were completed today in clean three-to-five foot (1.5 metre) waves at the legendary South African pointbreak, with the world’s best surfers reveling in the opening day of competition.

Event No. 5 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay opted to make the most of the conditions on offer today, opting to run the new competition format of man-on-man elimination matches from the outset, completing 18 heats of competition, highlighted with some incendiary performances.

Sean Holmes (ZAF), 31, wildcard at the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay, has a storied history at the event, competing seven times prior, finishing as high as 5th (2002) and as low as 33rd (2005). Although Holmes, once considered the Jeffreys Bay nemesis of former-three-time ASP World Champion Andy Irons (HAW), 30, hasn’t competed for the past two years, the powerful natural-footer posted an emphatic win this morning in front of an ecstatic hometown crowd.

“I was so nervous out there for the first ten minutes of my heat that I felt like I had stones for legs,” Holmes said. “About halfway through the heat, I loosened up and was able to collect some pretty good scores. For a natural-footer, the wave here at J-Bay is such a pleasure to ride. Although I haven’t competed in this event for a couple of years, I feel comfortable out here and I’ll look to get through a few more rounds before I’m done here.”

Holmes not only announced his return to the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay this morning, but collected the highest heat total of the day, a 15.93 out of a possible 20, in his Round 1 win over 2009 ASP Dream Tour rookie Dustin Barca (HAW), 27. The South African’s navigation of the Jeffreys Bay lineup, uting everything from fully-committed forehand hacks to deftly-maneuvered barrels, went unmatched by the world’s best surfers throughout the remainder of the day.

“I’ve got a really good board under my feet at the moment – it’s from my local shaper Geraghty,” Holmes said. “It’s a 6’1” by 18 3/8”, and it goes really, really well out there. There’s definitely more sand out there at the moment than I can ever remember in the past and it’s making it break a bit more hollow than normal. I think the guys who have been surfing out here a lot recently will have the upper hand for sure.”

Holmes will take on current ASP World No. 4, Taj Burrow (AUS), 31, in Round 2 when the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay continues.

The only other wildcard (out of five) to survive Round 1 of competition was VonZipper Trials winner Heath Joske (AUS), 20, who defeated current ASP World No. 24, Dayyan Neve (AUS), 31, in a close opening round heat. Joske will take on current ASP World No. 1, Joel Parkinson (AUS), 28, in Round 2 when competition resumes.

Kekoa Bacalso (HAW), 23, former ASP World Junior Champion (2005) and current ASP World No. 16, took down local favorite and wildcard Ryan Payne (ZAF), 26, in his Round 1 heat, the Hawaiian powerbroker accumulating an 8.33 and a 7.50 en route to his morning victory.

“Oh man it is not easy out there with the cold and the paddle,” Bacalso said. “No jet-ski assist, massive paddle, freezing, but man, the waves are insane! Dream Tour for sure today. You lock into one and all you can see is this big wall down the line for you to tee off on. So much fun and hopefully the waves stay around for the next couple of days.”

With his current ASP World No. 16 rating, Bacalso leads the rookie charge this season on the ASP World Tour, and will look to consolidate his already-impressive year with a big result at the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay.

“I’m having an okay year so far and have had some ups and downs definitely,” Bacalso said. “I’m not really thinking about ‘Rookie of the Year’ of anything like that. For sure, I’d be stoked if I got it, but I’m just focused on requalifying this year and concentrating on each heat. Maybe not the cold or the paddle, but I think the wave here at J-Bay suits my surfing pretty well and hopefully I can get through a few more heats.”

Bacalso will face Kieren Perrow (AUS), 32, in Round 2 when competition resumes.

Nic Muscroft (AUS), 26, another 2009 ASP World Tour rookie, excelled in the rifling righthanders of Jeffreys Bay today, eliminating compatriot Josh Kerr (AUS), 25, in their Round 1 bout. Muscroft looked supremely comfortable in today’s conditions, even netting one of the day’s highest single-wave score of an 8.67 out of a possible 10.

“I’ve been surfing Winkipop at lot at home in preparation for this event,” Muscroft said. “It’s still a pretty challenging wave here though, especially with the sand build-up at the moment. It’s really fast, but I felt like I got into a good rhythm out there and hopefully the waves stick around.”

Muscroft will next battle reigning nine-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA), 37, when Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay action recommences.

Michel Bourez (PYF), 23, 2009 ASP Dream Tour rookie, punctuated the day’s high-performance action with a last-minute victory over current ASP World No. 26, Aritz Aranburu (EUK), 23, (who had the day’s highest single-wave score of a 8.83 out of a possible 10) in their Round 1 match. Bourez, who trailed for the majority of the heat, paddled into a wide set within the last minute of the bout, hacking his way through several forehand maneuvers before finishing with a high-risk extended floater.

“I was really frustrated out there because I was hunting for a score and just couldn’t find a good barrel,” Bourez said. “I kept getting clipped and I needed a good score at the end. I saw the wide one come in and I told myself not to go for the barrel, focused on turns and then finished with a big floater. I am stoked to get through and looking to get a good result here.”

Bourez will take on former ASP World Champion (2007) and two-time past winner of the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay (2002, 2006), Mick Fanning (AUS), 28, in Round 2 when competition resumes.

Surfline, official foreers for the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay, are calling for the current pulse to increase slightly before tomorrow when the top seeds will hit the water for Round 2 of the event.

When competition continues, first up will be current ASP World No. 15, Jeremy Flores (FRA), 21, against Dean Morrison (AUS), 28, in Heat 3 of Round 2.

Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7:00am for a possible 7:30am start.

Highlights from today’s Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay will be available via www.billabongpro.com

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BILLABONG PRO JEFFREYS BAY ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Michael Picon (FRA) 11.83 def. Tim Boal (FRA) 10.83
Heat 2: Nathaniel Curran (USA) 12.84 def. Jay Thompson (AUS) 9.33
Heat 3: Nic Muscroft (AUS) 15.17 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 9.37
Heat 4: Kai Otton (AUS) 10.40 def. Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 8.33
Heat 5: Dean Morrison (AUS) 10.83 def. Marlon Lipke (DEU) 8.67
Heat 6: Chris Ward (USA) 12.67 def. Torrey Meister (HAW) 10.16
Heat 7: Sean Holmes (ZAF) 15.93 def. Dustin Barca (HAW) 14.50
Heat 8: Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 15.83 def. Ryan Payne (ZAF) 11.00
Heat 9: Tim Reyes (USA) 14.33 def. Devyn Mattheys (ZAF) 4.73
Heat 10: Heath Joske (AUS) 8.87 def. Dayyan Neve (AUS) 8.03
Heat 11: Greg Emslie (ZAF) 13.34 def. Heitor Alves (BRA) 9.50
Heat 12: Chris Davidson (AUS) 11.00 def. David Weare (ZAF) 8.83
Heat 13: Michel Bourez (PYF) 14.33 def. Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 13.83
Heat 14: Roy Powers (HAW) 8.16 def. Jihad Khodr (BRA) 5.46
Heat 15: Ben Dunn (AUS) 8.50 def. Tiago Pires (PRT) 5.80
Heat 16: Dane Reynolds (USA) 12.00 def. Drew Courtney (AUS) 5.77

BILLABONG PRO JEFFREYS BAY ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Heat 1: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 13.17 def. Michael Picon (FRA) 13.10
Heat 2: Kai Otton (AUS) 12.90 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 11.23

REMAINING BILLABONG PRO JEFFREYS BAY ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Dean Morrison (AUS)
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Nathaniel Curran (USA)
Heat 5: Bobby Martinez (USA) vs. Roy Powers (HAW)
Heat 6: Tom Whitaker (AUS) vs. Ben Dunn (AUS)
Heat 7: Kieren Perrow (AUS) vs. Kekoa Bacalso (HAW)
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Heath Joske (AUS)
Heat 9: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Sean Holmes (ZAF)
Heat 10: Mick Campbell (AUS) vs. Tim Reyes (USA)
Heat 11: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 12: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Dane Reynolds (USA)
Heat 13: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Nic Muscroft (AUS)
Heat 14: Taylor Knox (USA) vs. Chris Ward (USA)
Heat 15: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Greg Emslie (ZAF)
Heat 16: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Chris Davidson (AUS)


SOURCE: ASP World Tour