Michael February (Kommetjie), Sophia Fulton (AUS) and Jake Elkington (Kommetjie) claimed the men's, women's and junior men's titles respectively in the Vans Surf Pro Classic held in pumping 1.5 metre waves at Yo-Yo's in Lamberts Bay on Sunday.
The World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) events was run at a break similar to the high performance waves at Lower Trestles in California and attracted South Africa's top competitors and dozens of emerging international stars.
February was the standout performer throughout the three day men's event, capitalizing on meticulous heat strategies and earning excellent scores for his stylish manoeuvres, particularly on his backhand in the reeling left-breaking waves, while also shredding on the rights.
Taking on good friend David Van Zyl (Glenashley) in the final, February had a slow start but grew in confidence after an excellent 8.17 on a right. He then sealed his third win in four events in South Africa this year on a long-running left that came in at 7.50.
"The final went pretty well. I was up against one of my best mates and I was happy getting into the final with him," said February. "Being here at Lamberts Bay you know you're going to get good waves. I felt a bit shaky on my first rides but managed to put it together on a good right and that calmed the nerves a bit. Then I got a good backup on my backhand, so I'm really happy."
"These QS1,000 event here at home have been really great for building momentum for the QS3,000 and QS10,000 events coming up this month. It's nice that Beyrick De Vries and I are pushing each other on the rankings and this win will really help me."
In the man-on-man semifinals Van Zyl dropped two excellent rides to leave Renan Peres (BRA) ) in a combination situation and needing to replace both his rides to get into contention.
February was on fire in his semi, posting scores of 9.33 and 8.0 that left his Brazilian opponent Wesley Leite comboed. February caught his last wave in the final seconds and punted back-to-back aerials, an enormous air reverse followed by alley-oop, to earn the only perfect 10 point score of the event and the highest heat total of 19.33 out of 20.
Fulton, who had delivered at least one excellent range score in every heat in the QS1,000 women's event, opened her account in the final with a 9.17 on a long lefthander. Zoe McDougall (HAW) mounted a great comeback with 7.50 in the final minute, but Fulton added an 8.50 going left on the same wave to secure the victory.
"The final was pretty tricky but I was really excited to get some waves, even though every time a good one came I didn't have priority, so it was really difficult," said Fulton. "I was definitely nervous on that last ride, but it felt pretty good when I finished it. South Africa is a really nice place and I'm looking forward to going to Durban, Cape Town and Ballito for the next events."
McDougall, ranked No. 12 on the QS leaderboard coming into the event, finished runner-up with Nicole Pallet (La Lucia), who has shown the benefit of regular international competition in home waters, grabbed third place while former Championship Tour (CT) surfer Nikita Robb (East London) ended fourth.
In the JQS1,000 junior men's event, Elkington won every heat he contested, including the final where he added an 8.23 to the 8.50 he had earned earlier to overtake arch-rival Adin Masencamp (Strand) who had taken the lead with a 9.0 with just minutes remaining.
"It was a really great final with amazing waves and I started off with a great ride, but then didn't get another for a long time while everybody else was shredding," said Elkington. "Adin went into the lead near the end and thought that was it, but then my last score dropped in, and it was just an amazing feeling."
"Lamberts Bay is one of the best waves in the world, it's such a high performance wave, really fun and really consistent and one of my favourites in South Africa. This result is another keeper in my campaign to qualify for the WSL Junior Champs in Australia in January. I just want to keep this rhythm going and take this confidence into the next event."
The Vans Surf Pro Classic is proudly supported by Zigzag Surfing Magazine, Cedarberg Aqua, Surfing South Africa and the World Surf League.