The 96-man field of the world's best surfers in the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong was reduced to 24 when Round 2 of the QS 10,000 rated event was completed in one meter waves at the backup venue of Bathers Beach in Ballito on Wednesday.
Once again it was Michael Rodrigues (BRA) that shone, delivering the day's highest single ride score - 9.00 out of 10 - and the highest heat total - 17.40 out of 20 - combining carves and above-the-lip maneuvers that perfectly matched the criteria for high performance surfing.
Rodrigues was joined by six compatriots, the aptly named Brazilian Storm, in Round 3 with top seed and current World No. 8 Italo Ferreira, Alejo Muniz, and Heitor Alves also winning their respective Round of 48 encounters.
Ferreira produced a particularly impressive performance, upping his game to claim the second highest heat total of the day - 16.70 - and was happy with his showing.
"That heat was great and I got good lefts and I did some airs," Ferreira said. "My board is amazing and I'm super confident for the next round. I hope to keep it going and my focus is to get a good result in the event."
Marc Lacomare (FRA) produced a surprise when he and veteran Gony Zubizarreta (ESP) ended the chances of former elite Top 34 competitors Dion Atkinson and fellow Australian Yadin Nicol. The Frenchman earned the heat's highest score, a 7.67, clinching the win with a 6.77 backup score.
"The conditions looked difficult so I knew I wouldn't get many opportunities and I tried to wait for the right wave and not fall," Lacomare said. "After a really slow start I got the scores I needed, it was kind of nerve racking but I'm stoked. This contest means a lot but I'm try to not think about it. I just take it heat by heat and will see at the end of the week where that takes me."
Other Frenchmen to advance included Joan Duru (FRA), Maxime Huscenot (FRA) and Medi Veminardi from the French province of Reunion Island, who all won their respective Round 2 encounters, with Veminardi posting an excellent 16.30 heat tally.
Mitch Crews, who spent a year on the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour (CT), was today's top performer among the strong Australian contingent in the world's longest running professional surfing event. He earned a pair of scores in the excellent range (8.00 or more out of 10) to progress along with second placed compatriot Stu Kennedy.
"It was a really tough heat, everyone was ripping, so I was stoked to progress over all the boys," Crews said. "I was thinking just catch waves because it was pretty slow as the tide changed and the heats before everyone was getting through with 4's and 5's. It's a pretty important event and I love coming here and am in a good mindset."
South Africa's participation in the event ended when David Van Zyl (ZAF) from Glenashley placed third in Heat 8 and exited in 25th place overall, taking home US $1900 (approx. R20,000) and 1100 rankings points.
After studying the predicted wave and weather predictions for the remainder of the contest window, the organizers have called for a lay day on Thursday and will reconvene at 7.00am on Friday morning to make a call on when to restart the competition.
When action resumes, first up will be Alejo Muniz, Kanoa Igarashi (USA), the last mainland American in contention, and Keanu Asing (HAW) in a three-man clash where the top two advance to man-on-man encounters in the Round of 16.
The window period for the Ballito Pro runs until Sunday 5 July and all the action can be watched live while the contest is running at www.worldsurfleague.com and www.theballitopro.com.
Ballito Pro Round 2 Results
H1: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 14.80, Billy Stairmand (NZL) 14.00, Matt Banting (AUS) 12.73, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 11.76
H2: Medi Veminardi (REU) 16.40, Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 14.10, Marco Fernandez (BRA) 12.17, Griffin Colapinto (USA) 11.14
H3: Joan Duru (FRA) 15.00, Keanu Asing (HAW) 14.94, Tanner Hendrickson (HAW) 10.80, Tomas Fernandes (PRT) 10.74
H4: Brent Dorrington (AUS) 13.70, David do Carmo (BRA) 13.10, Tomas Hermes (BRA) 11.60, Noe Mar McGonagle (CRI) 11.23
H5: Maxime Huscenot (FRA) 15.33, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 15.16, Hiroto Arai (JPN) 11.40, Flavio Nakagima (BRA) 3.50
H6: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.50, Lau Ezekiel (HAW) 9.80, Perth Standlick (AUS) 9.66, Glenn Hall (IRL) 9.17
H7: Marc Lacomare (FRA) 14.44, Gony Zubizarreta (ESP) 13.33, Dion Atkinson (AUS) 10.76, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 9.60
H8: Santiago Muniz (ARG) 14.34, Mitch Coleborn (AUS) 12.86, David Van Zyl (ZAF) 11.00, Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.80
H9: Mitch Crews (AUS) 16.20, Stu Kennedy (AUS) 15.87, Cooper Chapman (AUS) 12.67, Jose Ferreira (PRT) 8.60
H10: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 17.40, Soli Bailey (AUS) 14.10, Alex Smith (HAW) 12.43, Nathan Hedge (AUS) 11.10
H11: Connor O'Leary (AUS) 14.37, Jadson Andre (BRA) 14.23, Lucas Silveira (BRA) 13.17, Michael Dunphy (USA) 12.40
H12: Davey Cathels (AUS) 15.00, Nathan Yeomans (USA) 14.53, Thomas Woods (AUS) 14.06, Heitor Alves (BRA) 5.97