Sophia Fulton claimed the title at the Ballito Pro pres. by Billabong at Willard Beach today, defeating Zoe McDougall in an all-international final held in inconsistent shoulder-high waves and a stiff cross-wind.
The World Surf League (WSL) QS1,000-rated event with a field of 32 local and international competitors was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday but was completed today as small surf is expected tomorrow.
McDougall started the final faster, opening her account with a 6.33 and following that up with a 4.50 before Fulton had anything substantial on her scorecard. But the Australian started her comeback with a 3.83 for a great opening turn before the wave petered out.
After another lull in the action, Fulton found a wave that enabled her to string together a series of maneuvers as she rode all the way to beach, earning a 7.50 that took her into the lead. Needing 5.01 for victory with seven minutes remaining, McDougall stayed patient at first, but as time wound down she caught two further waves without managing to get the required score.
"It was pretty slow in the start but then I got that 7 and spent the rest of the heat looking for a second good score," said Fulton. "This morning it was really high tide and flat, but then it started to peel off and the waves got more hollow. It was a long day of competition and I've surfed so many heats!"
The teenager, who is No 3 in the WSL Australia junior women's rankings, has spent a month in South Africa, starting her first overseas trip with a win on the West Coast and ended it in style with another victory at Ballito.
"It's been great in South Africa, I won the Van Surf Pro Classic in Lambert's Bay and I'm going home on Monday, so it was good to finish it off with a win," Fulton said.
McDougall, whose runner-up finish bumped her up to No. 14 of Women's QS rankings, won the Billabong Junior Series pres. by All Aboard Travel JQS1,000 event in Ballito on Thursday and had her heart set on another victory, but was gracious in defeat.
"It was really tough, I only got the one good wave and then fell on the next one. It was a bit frustrating," she said. McDougall has won four events in South Africa since late April.
"I'm really happy for Sophia though, she was surfing really well. It was a long day, we surfed 5 heats so it was an endurance test. The conditions got really tricky out there with the wind. I'm happy to just relax now and support Matt [McGillivray] in the Ballito Pro, then back to J-Bay for a week before heading to California for the Supergirl Pro."
McDougall surged past Reika Noro in their Semifinal matchup, staying busy and posting a heat total of 12.34.
"It was so hard to catch the waves, I got only one wave and then I didn't get another one," said Noro. "Third place, I'm happy, but I wanted to get first place! But yeah I'm so happy to be here. I'm going back to Japan and then I'm going to the Supergirl Pro in California."
Fulton's semifinal win over fellow Australian Pacha Luque-Light was a tighter duel with the eventual champion prevailing by 10.16 vs. 9.50.
"That was so much fun! Sophia is such a good surfer so it's nice to compete with her. I'm so happy, it's just been amazing to be able to get this far in a QS1,000, which I only started to enter this year, so it was an amazing experience," said Luque-Light.
"It's been so much fun in South Africa, just meeting new people and staying with great friends, so it's been a blast! I'm on the waiting list for the QS1,500 in France, so I'll travel there and then spend some time in the US. Lots of traveling but I'm so excited."
Full results, news, photos and are at the WSL website and app.
The Ballito Women's Pro pres. by Billabong was part of the 13-day Ballito Pro Surf Festival which started on Tuesday with the Billabong Junior Series pres. by All Aboard Travel for surfers aged 18-and-under. The SSA Ballito Trials pres. by Billabong was completed on Thursday
The QS10,000 Ballito Pro pres. by Billabong starts on Monday and runs until 9 July with 112 of the world's best surfers competing for a R3.3 million prize purse and precious Qualifying Series ranking points.