There have been two completely different days of competition today at the Ballito Pro pres. By Billabong. Round Four resumed in firing surf early this morning with inspiring performances made of barrels, airs and massive turns.
one-on-one matchups started in Round Five, a strong side-onshore wind came up and radically changed the vibe. Here's a heat-by-heat breakdown of all the action.
Africa's Got Talent
Griffin Colapinto takes on Michael February as the onshore wind starts to make things a) interesting, b) difficult, your choice. Mikey pulls the trigger first but the pressure seems to finally hit the South African who falls on his first turn (we will later learn he simply had his leash wrapped around and under his foot), back to square one, except now Griffin has priority.
Half the heat goes by with no wave surfed, then a set comes in. Griffin starts on the first wave, some leftover white water makes the ride a little wobbly but the Californian still gets in three decent turns. Behind him, Mikey has a slightly bigger, cleaner wave, he hits the lip twice and gets stuck on the final turn, but the verticality and power gives him the edge, 6.17 over Griffin's 5.83.
Griffin continues to surf a couple of waves but nothing substantial and while he goes into the lead briefly, Mikey's next effort is way more convincing. Four turns on a good right get the whole beach erupting and with a 7.50 Mikey seals the deal on his first-ever Quarterfinal at this level of competition.
"There weren't that many good waves out there anymore and I just tried to find those little corners that don't close out," he said. "Making this many heats in a 10,000 really helps a lot for confidence, and points obviously. I've been doing this for a while, so it's nice to get a result and hopefully I can keep going."
Mendes' Domination Continues
Jesse Mendes and Keanu Asing hit the lineup in the second heat. Jesse, who's pretty much already qualified for next year's Championship Tour with practically 22,000 QS points (including today's result), gets a quick start with two average waves to open his heat.
Midway through the heat both surfers get a much better wave each, and both go big and critical on the powerful rights of Ballito. Jesse on his backhand seems to get more vertical under the lip and gets the higher score with an excellent 9.10 over Keanu's 8.33. The battle for a backup goes Mendes' way as well and eventually the current rankings leader walks away with another massive result to add to his season tally.
"The last few events have been a blessing, I made three Finals and won two, and now this," he said. "It's been a lot of work for the past five years to make this happen and I don't think I even realize. I've been so close before, like literally one heat away. I wanted to try to make it early and I'm super stoked to have made that many points already."
Youth vs. Experience
World No. 3 Jordy Smith heads out to battle with young Hawaiian Joshua Moniz in Heat 3. Conditions continue to get trickier as the side-onshore winds reinforces and both surfers struggle to find the good waves. Josh stays a little bit busier and puts two average scores on the board to apply pressure on Jordy.
Maybe it's the pressure of performing on home soil, or maybe the frustration of not being able to show what he's really capable of, but Jordy seems a little anxious and falls multiple times as he tries to get back in the heat. Josh plays well and keeps the priority for most of the heat.
Experience speaks loudly when Jordy picks up a small wave on the inside, surfs it just right and drops a mid-range 6 to get back in the lead. Josh now needs a 7.27 and gets a golden opportunity in the form of a big, perfect ramp. The Hawaiian launches in the air, rotates, everything goes fine, everyone thinks it's in the bag, but he somehow loses his feet after the landing, and his hopes of at least a Quarterfinal in Ballito vanish.
"It's always great to do this event, there's nothing like the QS guys to keep you on your toes, they're the hungriest competitors," Jordy said. "I saw Josh's last air and told him if he made that it would have been in the nines, but apparently he slipped off his back foot right at the end, so fortunate for me. He's a great surfer and I'm sure he's going to have some big results this year."
A Brilliant Goofyfoot Battle
The other remaining CT athlete Miguel Pupo takes on one of the form surfers all week, Ramzi Boukhiam. Ramzi continues to find the right sections and opens his account with a 7.83. As he probably watched the previous heats and knows opportunities can be scarce, he continues and surfs a smaller wave well for a 6 to really build a strong lead and apply pressure to Miguel.
Miguel chips away and builds momentum as he drops the hammer on the ten minute mark, with two solid hacks on his backhand for an 8.83 and a lead change. Ramzi was left chasing an attainable 6-plus score but fell on a last-second effort, handing Miguel a Quarterfinal ticket.
"It's been a pretty tough year for me I haven't made many heats," he said. "Ramzi had a great start and it was a tough heat so I knew I had to make a comeback there so I'm pretty stoked to be in the next round. I had a lot of heats against Jordy and he always made me work a lot so it's definitely going to be a good heat and hopefully the waves turn on tomorrow."
Championship Tour Hopefuls Back on Top
Wade Carmichael and Michael Rodrigues were both promising surfers in 2015, finishing the season in 15th and 16th position respectively on the QS, getting just close enough for a little taste of qualification but not quite. Fast-forward two years and it seems the two talented regular footers have another shot at shining on the big stage. Nursing a little injury, Michael still manages to put the first big score of the heat, quickly backed up with an average 5.
Wade comes back with a near-excellent 7.93 to turn the heat, finds another runner to apply his signature carves for another 7.03 and a strong hold on the lead. Of course, Michael has a habit of dropping nines on single maneuvers, so the heat stays wide open. With 30 seconds remaining, Rodriques starts on a medium right, goes to the air and lands a decent rotation but pushes a little too much on the second reverse he tries and comes up short of the needed score, Wade advances to the Quarters.
"It was slow at the start and all came down to the two waves at the end, so it was a tough one," he said. "This is the best start I've had to a year I guess, so hopefully I can keep it going. The waves are still fun but it got quite tricky so hopefully tomorrow is a good day again!"
Mikey Wright surfed the heat of the event this morning, scoring a near-perfect 18.80 for his aerial antics in the perfect Ballito surf. Yago Dora is another one of those surfers you can never expect what they'll throw in the mix as their technical repertoire is so vast and to most of us -- let's be honest -- unfathomable.
Theoretically this matchup is one for the ages, and yet when Mikey and Yago paddle out, somehow no fireworks, no high-flying maneuvers. Yago stays surprisingly quiet while Mikey builds a scoreboard on the wave face, as if he suddenly switched the competitor mode ON. With two solid scores in the pocket, the third Wright, possibly to join his siblings on the Championship Tour soon, starts to have a little fun and launches into a massive air, but just comes unstuck.
In a combo situation, Yago never found a way out and Mikey advanced into the quarters, his career-best result to date on the Qualifying Series.
"I'm stoked on getting this far and the waves are pretty fun out there," he said. "I didn't really get a wave with a proper air section and the waves I caught were perfect for turns, so I just put a lot of power into them, but if the section came I would have gone for it!"
A Former's Matchup
A somewhat uneventful heat unfolds, but the Portuguese surfer capitalizes on one of the best waves of their 30-minute battle to take the nod over Nat. Both surfers exchange the lead multiple times, and eventually a little backup for Vasco does the job as he advances into the quarters of a QS10,000 for the second time of his young career.
"I'm super happy to be in the quarters, Nat is such a great surfer I knew I would need to give everything," he said. "I broke my board in the previous heat and tried one of Ramzi's, I really just surfed it quite safe and tried to be on the best waves."
An All-Brazilian Affair
Willian Cardoso and Heitor Alves round out the day's action in Heat 8 and fight for the very last spot in the Quarterfinals of the Ballito Pro. As waves become even rarer Willian starts early with a decent 6.83 on a bunch of forehand carves and leads away for most of the heat.
A last minute effort from Heitor reduces his requirement but with time running out Willian keeps an edge and walks away with the win.
"I knew this would be a really close one with Heitor, he's a great surfer, has been on the CT and he's been on fire this week," he said. "I'm super excited for tomorrow and happy that everything worked out for me today."
Find out more about all the results, check out photos and highlights right here.