The top seeds dominated proceedings in today's opening rounds of the Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro presented by Billabong, the first of eight events on the South African Qualifying Series (QS) leg that will crown the 2017 WSL Africa champions in September.
Organisers completed Round 1 and four of eight heats of Round 2 in the QS1,000 rated men's event which was held in lumpy, wind affected but highly contestable waves that saw the 64-man field reduced to just 32.
Top seed Michael February (Kommetjie) got his campaign underway with a hard fought second place in the first heat of the day, but made amends in Round 2 where he posted the day'shighest scores for a single ride (9.33 out of 10) and for his heat total of 16.0 out of 20.
"That first heat was a bit sketchy, but it woke me up," said February. "In the second heat I found that proper wave at the start and was happy with a couple of my backup rides. It's great to back at Pipe where I competed in five Grommet Games about 10 years ago."
Beyrick de Vries (uMhlanga), the 2016 WSL Africa champion and No. 2 seed, was wearing the Skullcandy WSL Africa rankings leader's zebra striped vest in the first event of the year. De Vries made no mistakes in his opener, racking up an excellent 8.0 and a 6.33 to advance and he will be in the first heat when Round 2 of the Men's event recommences.
Only one of the seven internationally ranked surfers is still in the event. Tyler James (USA) is yet to surf his Round 2 heat while his compatriots Braden Jones and Austin Neumann progressed to Round 2 but were eliminated there.
Other standouts on the opening day included Jason Harris (Durban) and Kommetjie residents Jordy Maree and Jarred Veldhuis, all three of whom won their Round 2 match-ups to reach the last 16.
The men's QS1,000 rated Nelson Mandela Surf Pro presented by Billabong offers a total prize-purse of R30,000 and coveted points on the regional and international rankings lists.
Saturday's second day will see action in the QS1,000 women's event plus the JQS1,000 men's and women's events for surfers aged 18 and under. Organisers will meet at Pollock Beach at 7.15 am local time to make a call on when to get the contest underway, with a 7.30 am start anticipated.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro presented by Billabong is supported by Volkswagen, Corona, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, Yesman, Tsogo Sun, Skullcandy, El Jimador and Accelerate Sport.