Monday was technically opening day of the Ballito Pro 2016. But Ballito has been busy with the pre-events for days, including the Billabong Junior Series, and the SSA Ballito Trails. Both events are linked to the main WQS 10,000, with the winner of the Junior Series getting a slot into the Trials, and the winner of the Trials getting a slot into the Main Event.
Adin Masencamp won the Junior Series event, while Casey Grant won the Trails event to get a slot into the Main Event. Grant, some may recall, got 2nd place in the Ballito Pro in 2010 against a rampant Jordy Smith.
On Monday, Day 1 dawned with balmy conditions and light winds, which is the norm in this part of the world. Three-foot surf greeted the competitors as the Ballito Pro Women's event headed out, with the high tide giving the conditions a wobble at Bathers Beach. Australian Skye Burgess from Wollongong showed some great form in the small waves, blasting a few right-handers and picking up an 8.17 along the way to win her round 3 heat with ease.
When conditions improved with the tide we finally kicked into the QS 10,000, where all the eyes in South Africa are firmly on Jordy. Smith won't surf until Round Two, but is already on site and looking primed for this event. After a decent start to the year, he's back home and surfing strong.
"I'm just stoked to be home," said Jordy this morning at the contest site. "I'm also stoked to be injury-free." Jordy suffered a big injury last year in Australia and was far from in his prime through the 2015 South African leg.
Trials winner Casey Grant was in the first heat of the main event. The fast, dynamic natural-footer was hoping to capture some of that 2010 magic, but surfing in the first heat of the day, he never found his rhythm and became one of the event's first victims.
Ian Crane looked sharp in the second heat. "I was pretty nervous out there, being the first prime event of the year," said Crane. The San Clemente standout beat Nic Von Rupp, Mason Ho and Brian Toth into the minor slots. This was a popular heat, and Mason and Tothy were going at full speed, but the goofy-footed Crane picked up good lefts to advance along with Von Rupp.
Kalani David was a surprise no-show in Round One, and local kid David Van Zyl was given a last-minute slot. Van Zyl started out strong but slowly lost his lead, and this multi-cultural heat was eventually won by Lucas Silveira from Brazil, with Argentina's Leandro Usuna in second. Van Zyl came in third and Hiroto Arai from Japan came in fourth.
With an excellent swell forecast looming, everyone just wanted to get through their first round heats and set up for some real surf possibilities tomorrow. "It's really tricky out there, but at least I got the first heat out of the way," said Hawaiian Seth Moniz, the winner of heat five. "I'm stoked to get through the first day, and tomorrow looks like it's going to be really fun, so I'm looking forward to it."