The two naturalfooters faced off, experienced competitor vs. rookie, in the reeling four-foot waves cracking over the shallow, low-tide sandbank with a couple of barrels during the morning. The big scores were definitely being awarded for traditional power surfing, progressive elements and clean finishes in the fast right-handers with any blemishes on the air landings being frowned upon.
Both surfers were on fire, hungry for the win and 10,000 points haul, and the Brasilian surfer strode into the lead with two big scores in the early minutes of the heat, leaving the Australian chasing. Freestone was pumped and emotional, desperately wanting the win and a clear run on possible 2019 Championship Tour (CT) requalification, but couldn't find what he was looking for towards the second half of the heat. He hammered away, but just couldn't secure a long enough wave to string together enough moves to get the scores required to take into the lead.
Crisanto, the 26-year-old from Matinhos, Parana, Brasil, came into the event ranked at No. 42 on the QS. But with his win here, he made a huge jump to No. 1 heading into the second half of the year
"I've been working really hard for this and finally it's my moment," said an elated Crisanto. "It gives me great encouragement for the second half of the year and it is important now for me to keep training."
With his runner-up result and resultant 8,000 points, Freestone skyrocketed from 158th place to 5th place on the men's QS rankings.
"I love coming back to Ballito, it's my favorite event on the QS," said Freestone. "I've never gotten past the Quarterfinals here before, and to now be fifth on the QS ratings, I'll take that all day."
Looking at the action packed Final day, it was the opening Quarterfinal that saw Australian powerhouse Wade Carmichael brutalize two set waves in the early moments of the heat for an early lead over the dynamic Griffin Colapinto from San Clemente. Colapinto, currently ranked 12th on the Championship Tour, was looking the part from the get-go, but Carmichael's better wave selection saw him through to Semifinal 1.
In the second Quarterfinal, it was two former CT surfers who were facing off, with Freestone pitted against the amiable Ricardo Christie from New Zealand. It was a close enough heat, signifying their combined hunger, but it was the Australian who just slipped past the Kiwi to advance to the first Semifinal.
The third Quarterfinal saw young Seth Moniz power his way through to a win over the exciting Brasilian goofyfooter Krystian Kymerson. Using traditional power surfing, combined with radical end-section moves, Moniz got the approval of the judges who were rewarding progressive surfing as well as clean finishes on these moves. He was joined in Semifinal 2 by Crisanto, who had beaten fellow Brasilian Thiago Camarao in the last Quarterfinal.
In the first Semifinal, the all-Australian bout, was a little bit slow as the tide continued to drain out and the swell began to wane. Freestone was the first surfer to put a decent score on the board, and Carmichael was left waiting for a decent-sized set to enable him to get going. It happened, and he whipped up a series of decent linking power moves all the way though to the inside to a welcome score of 6.67 and the lead. Currently placed 14th on the Championship Tour, Carmichael is backing up his campaign with a late QS crusade and seems to be having some fun along the way. But in this situation, it was Freestone who edged into the lead, and secured his spot in the Final.
Moniz looked like he was ready to bash it out in the second Semifinal, taking a no-nonsense approach similar to Ezekiel Lau in his approach to ownership of waves. It was however, the Brazilian dark horse Crisanto who stuck to the guidelines, with speed, power and flow his business card to the judges, combining a lithe and pleasing style in the package. Moniz answered back with a huge forehand air-reverse, the highest air of the day with no grab, to fill out an 8.77 onto the scoreboard and a return to the game. After a late-heat flurry of activity, it was the unsponsored Brasilian, however, who edged ahead to meet Freestone in the Final, and eventually take the well-deserved win at this prestigious South African event.