Richard Kidd secured the most prestigious win of his career when he defeated three of South Africa's top surfers in the final of the SSA Ballito Trials pres. by Billabong at his home break of Willard Beach on Friday.
The victory earned the 20-year-old Ballito local a coveted wildcard into the WSL QS10,000 Ballito Pro pres. by Billabong where he will take his place among 112 of the world's best surfers when the week-long, US $260,000 (about R3.3 million) event gets underway on Monday 3 July.
"I was lucky with that one wave where I got an 8, it linked up right through to the inside," said an elated Kidd after being carried up the beach on his friends' shoulders. "The boys were ripping, it was a long day and the whole event I've been trying to push aside the pressure."
Starting in Round 2, Kidd finished runner-up in three consecutive heats before going for broke in the final, taking to the air at every opportunity and attempting some outrageous manoeuvres in his quest for victory.
"I'm a local here so I surf this spot pretty much every day. My girlfriend told me just to go out there and free surf like I usually do, and that kind of worked. I'm definitely going into the main event with the same strategy! I'm stoked on my boards, stoked on the vibe, just stoked in general!"
Slade Prestwich, Shane Sykes and Jordy Maree ended second to fourth respectively and were rewarded with a spot in the Monster Energy Expression Session on the final day of the Ballito Pro pres. by Billabong where the surfer completing the most radical manoeuvre earns R30,000.
The 13-day Ballito Pro Surf Festival started on Tuesday with the Billabong Junior Series pres. by All Aboard Travel for surfers aged 18-and-under. The QS1,000 Ballito Pro women's event runs on Saturday and Sunday with 14 international competitors among the 32 entries.
The field for the Ballito Pro pres. by Billabong, the first of just five QS10,000 rated events in 2017, is headed by South Africa's Jordy Smith, the 2010 Ballito champion and currently ranked No. 3 on the Jeep leaderboard. He faces 17 of the world's elite Top 34 ranked surfers on the CT and 29 of the top 32 on the current QS rankings.
Along with Kidd and Smith, South Africans Michael February, Beyrick De Vries and Matthew McGillivray qualified for the main event through their 2016 QS rankings while Dylan Lightfoot and David Van Zyl were awarded the WSL Africa wildcards.
Alongside the surfing, visitors will be spoiled for choice with non-stop activities providing even more entertainment throughout the Ballito festival site. South Africa's hottest musical acts appealing to all tastes - rock, pop, hip hop, kwaito, electro and dance - will be performing live on Salt Rock Beach over the last weekend. Beach and extreme sports, culinary contests as well as quality retail and food stalls will captivate visitors to this coastal holiday highlight.
The Ballito Pro pres. by Billabong is proudly supported by the KwaDukuza Municipality, Billabong, 5FM, Capitec Bank, Casio, North Coast Courier, Monster Energy, Zigzag Surfing Magazine, World Surf League (WSL) and Surfing South Africa (SSA).