Ballito Pro

Muniz Crowned Ballito Pro Champion

Alejo Muniz (BRA) With his win in Ballito, Alejo Muniz now sits solidly at the top of the men's Qualifying Series rankings. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

Alejo Muniz (BRA) won the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong at Surfer's Beach in KwaDukuza on Sunday to consolidate his lead at the top of the World Surf League Qualifying Series (QS) rankings.

Muniz, age 25, defeated Davey Cathels (AUS) in the 40-minute Final held in pristine 1-1.5 meter (3-to-5 feet) beachbreak waves, dropping a near-perfect score of 9.33 out of 10 and adding a 7.83 to leave the 24-year-old Australian in a combination situation -- in which he needed to replace both of his top-scoring rides with two new scores.

The Brazilian had his name etched on the brand-new trophy for the Ballito Pro. He was elated to hear that his points tally now exceed the projected cutoff to qualify for the elite Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour (CT) in 2016. Muniz was a Tour surfer previously, but did not requalify for 2015.

"It's been amazing and I would like to thank everyone that came down to the beach," Muniz said. "I want to dedicate this trophy to my brother because he's the one that is pushing me and he's an amazing person, so I just try to be like him, a good person and really focus on surfing. Thanks all the Brazilians that came down to support me too, and I love Ballito."

"That's amazing news," he added on hearing of the qualification scenario. "I've been there [on the CT] for four years and it's a dream come true for us from Brazil to be able to surf against the best, against our idols. There is a lot work to do still but if you're saying I'm in I believe you and thanks."

Muniz dominated his Quarterfinal matchup against 17-year-old Kanoa Igarashi (USA), posting a pair of eight-point rides, before easing past fellow Brazilian Caio Ibelli in their Semifinal clash with a pair of sevens to reach the Final.

After picking up 8,000 points for his runner-up finish in Ballito, Cathels has rocketed from No. 39 to No 6. on the QS rankings.

"It's been great, I always love it here in Ballito," Cathels said. "Everyone's so nice and the waves were so good and I had a great time with my girlfriend, Mattie. I'd like to say great thanks to team Fletcher and his family, they always look after me every time I come here, and Julie and Beyrick de Vries and their family too. South Africans, you guys are always such welcoming people and thanks for having us in your home country."

His route to the Final saw Cathels secure narrow victories in duels with fellow Aussies Soli Bailey in the Quarters and the Mitch Coleborn in the Semis.

Ibelli moved up eight places to No. 3 on the QS rankings following his third place finish today and is determined to maintain his challenge for a place on the CT for 2016.

"The waves were really fun and I think I fell on my first wave that could have been the wave that would count at the end," Ibelli said. "I couldn't find the best wave to get the better score I needed but I'm happy with third, it's a really good result. The third spot on the QS's are huge for me and I'm going to keep training and surfing so I can hold that spot until the end of the year."

Coleborn said he felt like he missed out in his Semifinal loss to Cathels, but was happy to move into The top 10 in the rankings after finishing third overall in Ballito.

"It was really a shaky start and then I couldn't come back in the end," Coleborn said. "I'm still stoked to make it to the Semifinal, but I feel like I missed a couple opportunities there so I'm a little bit rattled but it's all good. I've got to stay in the Top 10 now and just keep chipping away for the rest of the year."

The Monster Energy Expression Session presented by Zigzag, run between the Semifinals and Final, saw 10 of South Africa's most progressive surfers cut loose in the epic conditions with 17-year-old Matt McGillivray from Jeffreys Bay taking home R20,000 for the most impressive performance during the 30-minute session.

The R25,000 for the Monster Energy Wave of the Week presented by Zigzag was awarded to Michael Rodrigues (BRA) who recorded the only perfect 10-point ride during Round 2 of the Ballito Pro.

The Ballito Pro presented by Billabong was proudly supported by the KwaDukuza Municipality, Billabong, 5FM, Monster Energy, Zigzag Surfing Magazine, World Surf League (WSL) and Surfing South Africa (SSA).

See full results for the 2015 Ballito Pro, the world's longest-running professional surfing event, here and here.