Many of South Africa's top-ranked junior surfers tumbled out of contention on Day 2 of the Billabong Junior Series pres. by All Aboard Travel as the inconsistent, peaky head-high waves at Willard Beach in Ballito wreaked havoc on their heat strategies and led to major upsets.
A total of six of the top eight WSL Africa ranked junior men have been eliminated from the event going into the final day, while only one of the top 10 junior women has reached the last four.
Both the defending event champions, Adin Masencamp and Zoe McDougall, squeaked through to the final day in second position in their respective Round of 8 heats today. And they face the same opponents who relegated them to runner-up finishes in the one-on-one format for the Semifinals.
Masencamp produced a great comeback to grab second spot from Luke Malherbe with a ride that connected all the way to the beach in the dying seconds of their heat. He will be up against red-hot Brazilian Samuel Pupo who has posted the highest scores in the event so far with his huge range of high-risk aerial manoeuvres.
The other junior men's Semi will see current No. 8-ranked Angelo Faulkner get the chance to force his way into contention for a spot in the four man squad to represent the Africa region at the World Surf League (WSL) World Junior Championships in Australia in January, if he can get past former SA U16 champion Ethan Fletcher.
Fletcher eliminated rankings leader and fellow Kommetjie resident Jake Elkington to earn his place in the Semis for the first time this year.
"This break can be difficult and the tide was quite high so there weren't a lot of waves coming though. I made one or two mistakes and didn't get the waves I needed but I've learnt from what happened in that heat and will work on making sure it doesn't happen again," Elkington explained.
"After three wins I'll still stay at the top of the rankings after this event, so it will be really cool to go to Australia at the end of the year again. Hopefully I can do well in the next Billabong Junior Series event at Seal Point. This one has been unfortunate, but I'm looking forward to Seal's and a good result there will solidify my rankings lead."
McDougall has won four events in South Africa since April but faces a tricky Semifinal encounter against rising Durban star S'Nenhlanhla Makubu who has been training under coach Jason Ribbink at the High Performance Surfing Academy (HPSA) and has also reached the final of the U16 girls.
"That heat was hectic, my first score was a 0.6 and I was panicking," commented Makhubu . "But I calmed down and sat where my coaches told me to and then I got the waves. So I'm happy, I'm in the final of theU16's, which I'm hoping to win, and the semis of the U18 and where I'm hoping to make the Final tomorrow. I've been training really hard and I hope it pays off."
The second Semi pits No. 16 ranked Australian junior Pacha Luque-Light against unranked Zoë Steyn. The young East Londoner is competing in her first WSL junior women's event and will also be contesting the U14 semis.
"My strategy was to get a quick start and then build on my scores so I'm pretty stoked that I did that," said Steyn. "I tried to stay busy and it worked out for me. I'm also into the Semis of the U14 event even though I didn't surf my best, but I made it through and that's what counts. I'm looking forward to the next rounds and hopefully it will go as well as today's heats did."
The 20th edition of the Billabong Junior Series pres. by All Aboard travel is the opening event in the Ballito Pro Surf Festival that runs until 9 July and includes the SSA Ballito Trials pres. by Billabong, the QS1,000 Ballito Pro pres. by Billabong and the QS10,000 Ballito Pro pres. by Billabong.
The Billabong Junior Series is supported by All Aboard Travel, BOS, VonZipper and Zigzag.
The U18 events are sanctioned by the World Surf League (WSL) with the U16, U14 and U12 events sanctioned by Surfing South Africa (SSA), the governing body for the sport of surfing in South Africa.